OUR universe is immense, to the point where the quantity of things within it is nearly incomprehensible.
This why it is so impressive that a team of around 20 people have managed to create their own.
The galaxies of No Man’s Sky (NMS) contain 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 (18 quintillion) planets.
Each planet has its own unique size, atmosphere, geography, weather, fauna and flora.
On paper this is an impressive technical feat, though as a game it is more like a giant Lego set built with 6 different kinds of brick.
In NMS, you are a traveller who starts out on a random planet with a damaged ship.
Your goal: fix your ship, build an engine that can clock past light-speed and get to the centre of the universe.
These opening moments are the best in NMS, I luckily started on a planet with a safe atmosphere.
Purple grass covered everything, to the South was a dense forest full of weird red trees, the horizon was eclipsed by a mountain range dotted with monoliths and the sky was turquoise with two moons in it.
To fix the ship I needed a combination of certain elements, my recently fixed scanner showed an element I needed was a mile away through the forest.
On this journey I was chased by a dinosaur with two tails, stung by a snake-vine thing and fell down a sink hole; turns out I would die in space.
After finally fixing the ship I managed to take off, that is a moment to remember, breaking through the atmosphere and having a universe at your finger tips is thrilling.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the game seems to poorly replicate these first moments.
NMS is essentially a long quest for fuel to propel yourself towards the universe’s centre.
Each planet is intriguing to land on for the first time, but you quickly notice repeated assets.
This goes for the gameplay too, as you end up doing the same thing on each world.
Gather elements, speak to an alien, scan wildlife and then leave.
You are never given any reason to stick around and explore the vast wilderness because there is little of meaning to find.
There are many upgrades for your ship, multi-tool and space suit, but none of them have an impact on gameplay; they just make it slightly more difficult to die.
This lack of compelling gameplay will cut short how long people stay with NMS.
Aside from upgrades you can uncover translations of alien languages to make trading easier, this is a great touch but it isn’t fully realized.
Conversations with aliens play out as tiny text adventures that start out charming but quickly turn tedious.
You can also scan and rename each plant and animal you find, this data can then be uploaded to a single server.
As nice as this is, the chances of anyone ever seeing your discoveries are almost non-existent.
The universe may be shared online but there is no way of searching for planets, everything is found by chance; this needs to be changed in an update.
So far I may have described NMS as an ecological survey, but there is combat.
On planets, there are sentinel robots that chase you down if you destroy too much and in space there are pirates that try to rob you,
Shooting sentinels feels imprecise and is just not satisfying, especially when you have to open a menu to reload.
In space it is even worse as you end up spinning on the spot, making yourself feel sick just to find the thing that’s killing you.
The game doesn’t even tell you how to turn your gun on, it is as intuitive and user-friendly as a double ended bread knife.
Ignoring the “get to the centre” target and another identical mission, the game offers no real goals.
There is something at the centre, but I found it nothing more than a way to introduce the end credits.
No, if you want to properly enjoy NMS, you must make your own goals.
Ignore the pitiful missions it gives you and just wander.
Discover a single planet’s secrets, scan all its life forms and make your mark on it.
This is the only way to interact with this universe that genuinely feels rewarding, even if you are the only person who will ever see it.
+ first flight
+ making new discoveries
+ occasionally beautiful
+ impressive size.
– no meaningful narrative
– limited ways to interact with anything
– some planets can feel similar
– abysmal combat
Developer: Hello Games
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment, Hello Games
Platforms: PS4, PC
Reviewed on PS4
Try if you like:
Minecraft, Elite Dangerous, Disney Infinity,
Big pieces of toast with very little jam on them