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No Man’s Sky Review

No Man’s Sky

Release: 09/08/2016
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Hello Games
Genre: Adventure, Simulation
PEGI: T
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Nothing on the PS4 has been as hyped as No Man’s Sky; ok fine, a few things have been – Uncharted 4 anyone – but for the most part, No Man’s Sky has been one of the most anticipated games of 2014…2015, and hell, even 2016. Had I quit playing after the first few hours I probably would have scored this a fairly strong 8, but after logging nearly 30 hours, I’m starting to realize I’m playing something that’s more like a 6.

Unbelievable Hype

No Man’s Sky was unbelievably hyped, thanks in part to things said by the developers, but mostly because of the wishes of the fan base. And to be fair, No Man’s Sky has a ton of promise, and if some of the hyped ideas actually comes to game, we might be looking to do a re-review. As it stands now, however, scoring this game any hire than a six would be a problem. It’s not that No Man’s Sky isn’t decently good, but it is so damn shallow; that, in and of itself, is why this title is so disappointing.

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Solid at the Start

When you first load up No Man’s Sky and begin exploring your first planet, everything is great. The environments look cool, using the gun to mine resources is satisfying, and stumbling on that first gold mine is quite exciting. As you mine the gold your mind inevitably wanders: with this resource – and eventual cash when you trade it in – I’m going to upgrade my ship, upgrade my gear, and explore!

That’s a good idea, but once you’ve played a few hours you realize that collecting all that gold to turn into money, to ultimately turn into upgrades isn’t that necessary. Almost everything you need to do your upgrades and move from one planet to the next, and one solar system to the next, is readily available…everywhere.

Falls on its Face

And this is where No Man’s Sky ultimately fumbles. Sure, the idea of billions and billions of unique planets is intriguing, but I’m beginning to think the developers spent way to much time on that, and way to little time on actually making the game fun past the first few hours.

What you quickly realize is that no matter where you land, everything is at your fingertips; even ‘rare’ resources are not that rare. Your ultimately left with a single question: why the hell do I need to leave my first planet. And it’s  question that one player actually did ask, proving you could upgrade your ship and suite completely without actually leaving the first planet.

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I know what the push back will be: If you don’t leave your planet you’ll never get to explore, see new environments, and chronicle / name new planets, flora, and fauna. Fine, those elements are intriguing, but ultimately are only going to grasp your attention for a few more short hours.

While each planet may look distinctly different, the format of what you do when you land remains much the same. The rocks might look different, but they both still provide carbon. Before you know it, it will slowly sink in that you are simply playing a fairly basic game with a rinse-repeat cycle that tries to keep you engaged. Ultimately, it fails to do this.

So much Promised, Very Little Delivered

I originally was wanting to become and apologist for the crew behind No Man’s Sky, arguing that lack of content was a fault of fan hype, rather than developer promises. However, a fairly detailed Reddit page quickly changed my tune: the developers hinted at and spoke about so much, but unfortunately delivered so little.

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Yes, we have billions of planets. Yes, we have nameable animals. Yes, we have the ability to craft items and upgrade equipment. But this just isn’t enough. Interactions with alien life forms was suppose to be bigger and better. As it stands now, it’s fairly lame and not well thought out. I was hoping to see settlements, an engaged alien community. Unfortunately, I got outposts and aliens tied to chairs.

It Can be Better

Ultimately, No Man’s Sky can be better, a lot better. And with constant updates – which the developers are already rolling out – new things can be added to make harvesting resources for hours on end more exciting. Without thinking to hard, I could rattle of numerous new ideas: base building, the ability to see other players, and what they have done on a planet, more alien interactions, space station creation, and so much more.

The Small Upside

Not everything about No Man’s Sky is frustratingly bad. I hit the 30 hours mark for two reasons: 1) since we received this review copy from Sony I have an obligation to review it; playing for a few hours is not enough time to fully understand and appreciate – or not appreciate – this title; and 2) No Man’s Sky has become a huge stress reliever for me.

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Roaming gorgeous planets – and lets face it, the visuals in No Man’s Sky really are top notch – is incredibly calming. Outside of a few roaming sentinels that may or may not attack you, there is not a whole lot to be worried about on the surface of any given planet. This makes No Man’s Sky a very relaxing title. I do enjoy discovering and naming animals, looking for new plants I’ve never seen, and flying through space trying to find a planet that looks interesting from the sky.

When played in this way, No Man’s Sky is incredible, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Unfortunately, most people are not looking for a relaxing, calming video game experience. And that is why No Man’s Sky is failing so badly.

There is potential for upside to this title, but it depends on if the developers really want it. For the record, I think they do.

 

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Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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