No Man's Sky Screenshot

No Man’s Sky Review

No Man’s Sky Review, brought to you buy guest content contributor DarkWedge. Originally written back in 2017.

Set in a huge galaxy of over eighteen quintillion planets (18,446,744,073,709,551,616 to be precise) No Man’s Sky is an action adventure and survival game, offering players a mind boggling number of procedurally generated worlds to explore and discover each with its own climate, fauna and flora. To put that number into perspective for you, if every single person on this planet at the time of writing discovered 4 planets an hour, it would take 70710 years to explore the entire game! You can fly seamlessly from space, to planet atmosphere, to ground and quite literally jump out of your ship and head on a mile long hike over the terrain. Quite the technical marvel, but at the same time, this sheer scale is also the game’s own kryptonite.

The game starts you off on your own planet. Completely untarnished by anyone else in the galaxy, it is yours to explore to your hearts content, and yours alone. From the outset your initial objective is to repair your ship in order to get off the planet. You get to make a choice too, you can either follow a collective called “The Atlas” who guide you to the centre of the galaxy, or follow your own path with no help at all. Either way, you first need to head out into the world, collect the resources required, come back to your ship, repair the broken parts, fuel the parts and eventually you’ll be ready to leave. The tutorial, if we can call it that, is quite simple. Prompts can be missed quite easily whilst pottering around the planet, and to be honest it doesn’t give you many hints on what to collect where, which is actually a good thing. This means you need to explore, and learn the hard way about how to survive in No Man’s Sky.

No Man's Review Screenshot, the landscapes are beautiful!
No Man’s Review Screenshot, the landscapes are beautiful!

No Man’s Sky Review – Tools of the Trade

An Exosuit, Multi-tool, nineteen chemical elements and a handful of crafted items are crucial to your survival within the game. Equipped with basic life support, a jetpack and a shield, your Exosuit won’t stand a tonne of punishment initially. But by increasing the inventory space by finding crashed pods and spending in game currency, you can craft and fit boosters to your life support and shield and even construct environment hazard protection modules to defend against the cold, heat and toxicity of planets. Beyond this though, there is little to your suit bar it containing bag space for the materials you collect. Then there is your Multi-Tool. It has two functions, to mine and to kill. Whilst the ability to utilise it for combat is held back until further down the line, the ability to mine is instantaneous and relies on you keeping an eye on the heat levels while you do so. You can upgrade the Multi-tool as well with a number of different modules to aid cooling, mining rate, combat damage and more. Naturally, the more capacity your Multi-tool has, the more efficient it can become.

Frankly, customisation levels on both your Exosuit and Multi-tool are lacking. The variation in items you can craft for each is so sparse that it even makes The Division’s crafting system look advanced, and it doesn’t stop there. The ship you pilot follows the same principle, and whilst you can buy new ships using the in game currency, all they give you is more space. Though ships might look different they all fly the same and come with the same weapons and can have the same upgrades. This effectively means that once you have a ship with reasonable space and equipment, there is literally no incentive to change it.

So the customisation isn’t great or deeply thought out, but No Man’s Sky does at least have one thing going for it and that is its sheer beauty. Just seeing your first sunrise and sunset with two moons rising above the horizon, or a solar eclipse can be quite magical. Couple that with the randomly generated plants and creatures and there is a wonderful feeling that comes from exploring the planet until you’ve seen everything on its surface, caves, sky or seas.

But that beauty is sadly skin deep. Creatures that you discover can sometimes be very pretty to look at, even mystifying to watch, but more often than not you end up seeing something that really just breaks the mould of creation, and not for a good reason. Young creatures wander around with no desire to be near parents, and everything other than carnivorous creatures run in fear from you unless you quickly feed them a certain item. Flying creatures also have a very bad habit of flying in groups of two or three as well as in set patterns across the sky, and all of this together breaks the seamless world that has been generated before you.

The Sky No Man Will Ever Fully Explore

As for the planets themselves, frankly after a dozen or so you will start to see the same things over and over again. Cave formations look exactly the same on every planet and plants and rock formations start to vary only by the colours they use and shapes they take. Then there are the AI races that inhabit those planets. In the entire game, all eighteen quintillion planets, there are only three races that have managed to develop the technology to explore space, which just doesn’t seem right in my opinion. However, these guys do have a bit more depth to them with languages and lore that you can discover throughout your travels by way of ancient Alien Monuments scattered across planet surfaces.

Then finally there is you, the player. Central to the entire game, there is no customisation of your appearance, no story or detail on how you ended up where you are or what race you are. The only opportunities you get to define yourself as a living entity in the galaxy are feint moral choices of friend or foe, and the occasional chance to point at one of the three AI lifeforms as they themselves try to assess your intelligence level. 

So you might be one of the three superior intelligences, or maybe another race exploring the stars, either way the exploration of space has very little to offer. Short of black holes which are quite literally the most exciting thing in space to encounter, there is very little to do in the star littered galaxy. You can land in stations to buy materials or ships, shoot asteroids to get minerals, have a dog fight with an AI pilot and if you are lucky enough, you may even get into a huge space battle, with six other AI ships.

No Man’s Sky Review – Final Thoughts

Having sunk a total of thirty hours into No Man’s Sky I have unfortunately been left feeling somewhat empty. Personally, for the £39.99 asking price on PC, the game doesn’t give you enough for your money. Whilst the concept of the game is excellent, the lack of character depth, story and features leave the game feeling lacklustre. If you enjoy the idea of just exploring planets mindlessly, hunting for all the whacky life on its surface and don’t really care about any story or depth, then No Man’s Sky is probably a good purchase at a reduced price. For those wanting something more detailed, varying and polished with a cracking story to boot then this game is not going to deliver for you.

No Man’s Sky Review written by DarkWedge

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