No Man’s Sky has been one of the most anticipated games in a very long time. From the very first footage shown, audiences and gamers alike knew that there was something special about this title from Hello Games. As the months went on, we learned more about it, which only made the wait til release all the more painful. It seemed like just about everyone was talking about, which made pulses pound even a little bit more.
A game that is entirely procedurally-generated and that emulates a full universe is a concept that is worth exploring. The goal of the game is to reach the center of the universe, but the journey that takes you there will be a long one for sure. On the way, you’ll encounter all kinds of wildlife, different climates, traders, and even space pirates. There seemed to be so much to do, and no two players’ adventures will be alike.
Fortunately for those of us looking forward to it, the wait is over. However, for some, the wait was not worth it. No Man’s Sky has been met with mixed reviews (I have yet to find a single overwhelmingly positive review myself). Whether this was due to expectations that were too high, or lack of information from the developers, there is one thing we can agree on: No Man’s Sky does not live up to the hype it inspired. That’s not to say the game isn’t without it strong points though.
Here are 8 reasons to love No Man’s Sky and 8 reasons why it sucks. We’ll begin with the positive. Let’s start with the reasons we loved it.
8. Procedural Generation
Odds are that if you’ve heard anything about No Man’s Sky, this is the one thing that will stick in your mind. Everything in the game, from the 18 quintillion planets, to the creatures, to the various plant life, to the alien species, is all created using a complicated algorithm that is plugged into that universe. No two things are completely alike, and it ensures that no matter where you go, there’s always something new to discover. Even the mating calls of the various animals are all procedurally generated. It’s one of the most innovative and powerful tools that have been used for a game thus far, and there’s no doubt that other companies will want to create their own titles with a similar formula. Perhaps one of the things that will keep No Man’s Sky lasting for a little while after launch are all of the crazy pictures players send in of the strangest animals/dinosaurs they can find, and that’s all thanks to the algorithm. The large universe feels unique and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and no matter how long we end up playing it, we will never have discovered it all.
7. Cruising Among The Stars
One of the many reasons that audiences were so captivated by the original Star Wars was the feeling of traveling through space with a high speed cruiser, exploring all of the different planets and star systems. Hello Games obviously felt the same way about that. A key mechanic in their game is that you can construct a spaceship. With that spaceship, you are able to cruise among the stars, through asteroid belts, and so much more. Once you leave that first planet and get out into space, you know you’re in for something new. There’s no replacing that feeling of seeing a new planet on the horizon as you draw closer to it by the second. Aiding that traveling feature is also an in-game timer that lets you know how long it will take you to reach a certain planet if you maintain your current speed, so you’ll never be guessing if you should use your boosters or not. It won’t blow any minds, but it’s a welcome feature in an exploration game of this magnitude. Regardless of the end result of the game, there’s no denying that it looks amazing and flying around in interstellar space is a sci-fi dream come true.
6. All The Wildlife
Procedural generation does end up offering some unique planets and scenery to discover, but perhaps what it effects the most are the wildlife. Even from the game’s marketing, you never saw the same creature twice, and it seemed to get more pronounced with each trailer revealed. There have been creatures that look like brachiosauruses, and creatures that look like a cross between rabbits and bugs; that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now that the game is out, the wildlife has gotten even crazier. Many websites have taken it upon themselves to document the crazy creatures they find and upload them for all to see, and it leads to some very strange results (a friend of mine once found a red dinosaur with long legs and a curved spine). Just go on YouTube, and you’ll see all of the wacky things some players have found. One could theoretically take on the role of an explorer and go from planet to planet documenting every different animal they find, giving them each a unique name. Despite the limits of the procedural generation, you’ll never stop being surprised with the animals that live among the universe.
5. The Mystery Of The Center
Many have complained of getting bored of No Man’s Sky after having played it for so many hours. They debated quitting much earlier, but there was one thing that kept them going for a long time: the goal of the game. The goal of No Man’s Sky is to reach the center of the universe, which is represented as a bright light on your map. It is unknown how long it takes to get to the center (though it is no short distance). No one knows for sure what exactly is in the center of the universe, as that has been and is being kept securely under wraps so as to not spoil it for the rest of the players who can’t pour as much time into the game. However, the mystery of the endgame makes us curious enough that we’re willing to go beyond the ends of the earth to find out what it is. It encourages us to press on, telling us that the journey to get there will be worth the time. That may depend on who is playing the game, but it’s something I want to discover for myself.
4. It Doesn’t Take Much Space
The huge downside to having either an Xbox One or PS4 is that the games themselves, even if you buy them on the disc, must be installed onto your console. Coming from a Nintendo Wii U ‘verse, this was not a concept that I was aware of until I got a PS4. It was one of the most frustrating experiences to get a game then have to wait for it to download before I could finally play the darn thing. Some games took much longer than others, and I’m just glad I didn’t download the full game from the Playstation Store. So you would think that a game like No Man’s Sky, with its massive world, would take up a large chunk of your storage, right? Wrong! Because of the way the universe is loaded as you play the game, a very small fraction of it is downloaded to your console- most of it just sits on the server. This results in the game only taking but a few gigs, space which I’m sure most of us have free on our Playstation 4. It’s a welcome relief to not have to sit through a brutal download time.
3. Different Climates
Adaptation has been one of the biggest aspects of human and animal life on earth, and for Hello Games to incorporate that into No Man’s Sky was a smart decision. With the massive amount of planets, there are many different climates to deal with, and many that will end up hurting you if you stay there too long or don’t have the proper equipment. From deserts to frozen tundras, you must always make sure you are prepared for any situation. As you progress in the game and get closer to the center of the universe, the various climates will get more difficult to live in. This is where adapting becomes key. Upgrading your suit is a must in No Man’s Sky, as it will allow you to survive even the harshest of climates, but you must have the proper resources to maintain the life support systems of the suit. Or you could dig underground in hopes of finding shelter. It puts an interesting spin on survival when the climate becomes one of your worst enemies, but if it does get too difficult, you could just hop in your ship and be on your merry way.
2. Building And Upgrading Everything
Having creation and upgrade systems in games can either be a really good thing or a really bad thing. For example, it can be so realistic and lifelike that with each progression, it feels like you are never really making any progress, and that you still have a long ways to go before you can actually upgrade to where you want to be. Or the upgrade system could be well-designed enough that with each purchase, you feel as if you notably become stronger and better equipped for the journey that lies ahead. Luckily, No Man’s Sky takes the latter route, and has an upgrade and crafting system that makes you feel more in control. Each purchase ensures that you’ve spent your money wisely as you fit your ship with a hyperdrive or refill your life support systems. While it may not go beyond your suit and your ship for now, it’s refreshing to know that it at least helps you for your quest. In future updates, rumour has it that building your own base on a planet will also be possible, but we’ll just have to see where that goes and how Hello Games responds to the incoming reviews.
1. Engaging In Space Battles
Much of what is great about No Man’s Sky is its atmosphere (no pun intended): the feeling that it gives you as you sail among the stars, discovering each and every new planet you can find, and there’s much to be said for that accomplishment alone. The space battles are no different. While the combat itself may not be as good as it could be, flying in a high speed chase to help out an ally faction gives a sense of euphoria that cannot be replicated. This was something Hello Games showed off in one of their many trailers, as the player chased a ship down onto a planet surface with allying cruisers at his sides like he was Darth Vader hunting down Luke Skywalker. Space battles may be few and far between, but that makes it all the more welcome once it comes into view. There’s even a reward for engaging in these battles, as you will increase your standing with the faction you helped, and sometimes you can even gain resources from it. Then it makes it much easier to haggle with some traders to try and get yourself a shiny new spaceship.
8. Lackluster Combat
While the argument could be made that No Man’s Sky isn’t a game that needs excellent combat, nor does it require it, the result remains the same (I would count this against the likes of Minecraft as well). The game prides itself in having a wanted system that results in some of the biggest and baddest robots ready to remove you from the surface of the planet. The fights that ensue unfortunately are neither interesting nor are they engaging, if not incredibly easy. To make matters worse, this lackluster combat carries over when you’re taking enemy ships down from outer space. Sometimes space pirates will tail you in search of more resources, so like any good pilot, you turn around to fight them- but you’ll hardly feel engaged. Like I stated, the atmosphere is spot on, the combat itself, however, could use some work. Everything you fight on the ground you fight the same way- keep your distance but still fire your laser. In space, it’s more of the same, except you aren’t working with a constant beam of energy.
7. Planets Are Predictable
Remember what I said about the procedural generation in No Man’s Sky having its limits? This shows its ugly face once you spend a long enough time in the game. While no two planets are alike, that would be like juxtaposing Mario and Dr. Mario and calling them separate characters. There are subtle differences, but at their core, they’re still the same. It’s really disappointing when comparing it to what exactly was promised leading up to launch. We were promised endless variety, and that’s not quite what we were given. Many of the planets in No Man’s Sky function and behave the same way with similar features and topography about them. You may stumble on the occasional abandoned building, but that’s really as diverse as it gets to shake up the gameplay. You’ll find yourself performing the same actions throughout your spacial quest despite being on a new planet, which will begin to weigh you down after so long. It has become so repetitive that some have even given up on the game entirely. While I wouldn’t tell anyone to give up on a game just because there are some features that aren’t likable, it is something to consider before dropping $60.
6. Wanted Level System
When it was revealed that there would be a wanted system in No Man’s Sky, there was a ton of speculation on what that would mean for you as the player. While the resulting wanted system works well for what it was intended to be, like the combat, it is a missed opportunity. The wanted system does render you infamous on a particular planet, but as you travel away among the stars, it doesn’t carry over. Imagine what a true, fleshed-out wanted system could have been like. You could have been a space pirate, roaming the galaxy, where as you committed infamous acts, various races would begin to know your name and attack you the moment they caught your scent. It would be a way to offer everyone their own experience, but No Man’s Sky is sadly a bit linear despite its massive world and premise (that in tandem with its lack of variety). I can’t knock it off the game entirely for not including an ideal wanted system, because what is there does function, but it just seems like the bigger picture was missed. For a game as hyped as No Man’s Sky, that turns into an issue.
5. Enemy Behavior
Going hand in hand with lackluster combat and a barebones wanted system are the enemies themselves. First, let’s start off with the Sentinels, which are the bulk of what you’ll be fighting throughout your adventure. The Sentinels, if not dealt with quickly, will call for backup. However, killing them is not a hard task to complete, and you get some resources for your efforts. It destroys the whole concept of a wanted system if there aren’t dire consequences to deal with. Second are the enemy ships in the game. Their maneuvering patterns and armor levels are so laughable that you’ll have no trouble defeating a squadron single-handed. Last are the animals. With the unique wildlife all over the universe (arguably the only things in the game that have true variety), you would expect that their behavior would be a bit different. Sadly, that isn’t true, as the animals largely behave the same way. The docile animals will avoid you until you attack them. The aggressive animals will charge you if you get too close. Once you figure out what kind of creature you’re dealing with, it’s very easy to come up with a plan to deal with it.
4. Little Consequence For Death
What good is a wanted system, a good space battle, or even risking it out in harsh climates, if there is not a punishing death penalty? No Man’s Sky is the kind of game that you would expect would have a good punishment for being too careless while mining or choosing to engage an alien that you should have been better prepared for. But what really exists in No Man’s Sky is just a scolding parent slapping your wrist for touching something you weren’t supposed to. If you die on a planet, you will lose all of the items that you were carrying on your suit, but when you respawn, you simply walk over to your grave site (which will be easy to find) then pick up everything you lost. If you die in space, the same thing will happen, except you just have to fly over to your grave site instead. Because of this, taking risks is pointless, because there really aren’t any risks to take. It’s like the whole universe has been set to easy mode to encourage you to fly through and get to the center as soon as possible.
3. No Multiplayer
Please understand that I am aware that No Man’s Sky is a single player game and not a co-op or MMO game, and when I make this point, those kind of games are not what I’m talking about. The world of No Man’s Sky exists on a single server where everybody can explore and gather resources to their heart’s content, but if they exists in the same universe, shouldn’t they be able to accidentally bump into one another? While the odds of that are very slim, it would seem logical that it would be the case. However, some players beat the odds and have actively tried to meet each other and even ended up on the same planet to do so. What they found instead of each other was practically nothing. They couldn’t see or interact with each other, further filling you with a sense of loneliness. No Man’s Sky would be an amazing game if played with a buddy, and would be part of the unique experience if you managed to bump into another player. Sadly, this was never part of the game, and may be introduced in the future, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high.
2. The Journey Is VERY Long
With a universe as vast as No Man’s Sky’s, it’s natural that the journey would be long. The center of the universe isn’t exactly a hop, skip, and jump away. That being said, the journey to the center is incredibly long. It takes at the very least about 60 hours of playtime to get from the starting point to the center of the universe. While having a long game isn’t bad on its own (I for one enjoy some longer games like Xenoblade), the addition of lackluster features and missing variety make the journey feel much longer and not very fun when all is said and done. The mysteries of the Atlas and the real meaning behind No Man’s Sky may tempt you enough to keep going in search of the center, but many have felt discouraged enough to give up on their quest. I feel sad for those people, as they will never be able to find out what lies at the end of the game, but with such a long and grueling adventure to embark on, I can’t really blame them. If answering your questions about the game are big enough that you’ll keep on going however, then more power to you.
1. It Gets Boring
Every negative point on this list comes together to form this truth about the entire experience. No Man’s Sky gets boring. Based on everything that was promised and the potential adventures we could have had, nobody really expected it to turn out this way. Everyone was too excited to tear through the plastic and put the disc in on day one, but as they traveled from planet to planet, a mundane rhythm began to set in. A lack of variety leads to you doing the same activities from planet to planet. A small death penalty makes you feel like you could get away with anything without ever paying any consequences for it. Then the long journey toward the center made it feel that much more grind-like. Seeing the gorgeous sights and new creatures loses its charm after some time spent doing it, and you’re left with the core gameplay of No Man’s Sky. Is it enough to keep you going back to it? Most would say not. If it’s a game you enjoy and love though, that’s perfectly fine. Keep playing by all means. However, No Man’s Sky is a game burdened by its own success, and that’s when expectations get shattered.
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