No Man’s Sky First Impressions

I didn’t understand why there was so much hype around No Man’s Sky. Every video I watched emphasized the scale of it, but offered very little on the actual gameplay. As the release date drew closer I became more intrigued, but was still on the fence about it. When too many promises are made in regards to the scale of a game it makes me wary because  there are limitations in regards to budget and time. Put too much work into one area and usually the project will suffer elsewhere. I much prefer quality over quantity. It’s cool to think that there’s this massive universe to be explored, but the majority of it will go untouched and as such I’d rather have a small and well designed area with the illusion of scale as opposed to lots of similar content that I’ll never see. I also suspected that the game might suffer from that problem of being really exciting to begin with – at the thought of all the potential space can bring – just to quickly lose engagement in its players due to the lack of goal driven things to do. A larger scale usually slows down the pace of a game too, as there could be a lot of travelling from A to B with nothing of interest in-between. Despite my doubts I eventually caved and put in a pre-order as curisosity got the better of me. I love the idea of being able to freely move between planets and while there are lots of space games available to buy, I’m still searching for the right one.

I didn’t find No Man’s Sky to be the easiest game to get started. I’ve not gotten stuck at any point, but the interface doesn’t feel intuitive. The tutorial is also rather light. I don’t find the prompts to be detailed enough to help me. I would suggest sticking with it rather than looking up a guide however, as the exploration and discovery is the main part of this game. It felt awesome figuring out how to fix my ship so that I could fly into space for the first time. It reminds me of other survival games that I have played; The controls are simplistic, but they can be applied in numerous ways depending on what you’re interacting with. Unfortunately, compared to other survival/crafting games I’ve played (Don’t Starve being my favourite) it’s less streamlined. Although it’ll probably take a while to see everything this game has to offer so my opinion of this might change.

The main appeal of No Man’s Sky is exploration. One feature that drew me in was being able to name the animals and star systems. Unfortunately, the planets so far don’t look as good or varied enough as I was hoping for. A large world doesn’t mean it’ll be fun to explore. In fact, the games that have given me the most enjoyment from exploration have been the smaller ones that were designed to be interesting at every moment. With randomly generated worlds you start to notice patterns and they lack unique content. There will be some that do enjoy exploring for the sake of it, but I personally want to feel rewarded for my efforts of doing so, even if it’s just to a unique view that can’t be found anywhere else. Something on this scale couldn’t be designed by hand of course, but I think they needed to focus on creating more pleasures to fall back on rather than just exploration.

So far my doubts about No Man’s Sky seem to be correct, but in that sense I’m also not disappointed as it is what I expected it to be. It’s not groundbreaking like the hype would have led many to believe, but it’s not a bad game either. There are lots of features that I do like about it; such as how you gradually learn new languages to be able to interact with other beings. Despite the scale of the planets it’s also easy to find where the most interesting parts are using a scanner. The icons that appear inform you as to how long it’ll take to reach them. I imagine the feeling of progression will be further enhanced by how you can improve your travel time and reach further distances. So far I’ve found it to be particularly enjoyable searching around alien bases where I might find new technologies or increase my understanding of other languages. No Man’s Sky is suppose to be taken at a leisurely pace. I don’t think it’ll hold me for hours at a time, but will offer a relaxing diversion from the faster paced titles I usually play.

The main drawback for me is the lack of social features. By this I don’t mean I was looking forward to playing it directly alongside others, but I did hope to see more of an impact from other players and for them to see mine as well. It has been claimed that there are so many planets it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever come across another player. As such it takes away from the excitement of being able to discover and name things yourself. I wasn’t sure how it would work in all honesty; Surely you would eventually reach a point where everything was named and you’re bound to end up with some silly ones too. Still, the idea of everybody working together to unearth the secrets of this universe was an appealing one. The rarity of seeing another player along with the grand scale leads to a feeling of isolation, further enhanced when you take flight and look back at where you use to be or when you look out at the stars knowing there are other players that you can’t reach. To some this will be awe-inspiring, but to others such as myself the feeling of being utterly alone is an uncomfortable one – I find it difficult just being in a quiet MMO. I applaud them for taking this route as I haven’t experienced it before, although I prefer to think about the vast emptiness of space in a different way; The warmth of life would burn brighter in contrast to the cold and we’d appreciate each other all the more.

I still haven’t played enough of No Man’s Sky to make up my mind about it. I haven’t felt any strong emotions towards it one way or another yet. I am definitely keen to return to it. Since its release it has gotten a fair few negative reviews, but I think this is due to how the game was promoted and vague information. Even a week before its release I was watching previews unsure of what this game would involve. I don’t think the game will have as much appeal as first thought, but there will definitely be an audience out there that’ll love what it’s offering. If you’re considering getting No Man’s Sky I’d recommend checking out a few reviews first to make sure it is the experience you’re expecting it to be. Make sure you know what you’re buying.

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

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