Value For Money? (No Man’s Sky)

I’ve played a bit more of No Man’s Sky since I last wrote about it and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m not getting a massive urge to play it anymore and when I do I’m only entertained for short bursts at a time (motion sickness and headaches are also a problem forcing me to cut sessions short.) The amount I’ve paid for it keeps playing on my mind. I don’t like to throw in the towel too early as I’ve had experiences in the past where I’ve hated a game, loved it, hated it again and so on. There’s this idea that a game should grip you within the first five minutes, but I think we can make a few exceptions as there have been some titles that I would have regretted giving up on early (Eve, Don’t Starve and Dark Souls.) Some experiences get more exciting as we master the system. My tastes can also change so long as I keep an open mind.

No Man’s Sky has been an interesting release due to how opinions about it seem to be so polarised. Some people love it, others are bitterly disappointed. In my case I didn’t have any hype for the game and hadn’t thought about it much until the week before launch. That’s when I received some birthday vouchers and researched a few options to spend them on. I have to admit I had a few uncertainties about No Man’s Sky as I struggled to find clear information about what the gameplay involved. I kept seeing the same footage that had been revealed years before – a game can change a lot in that time. There was still enough there to convince me to take the risk and my curiosity got the better of me. Even if I’d waited a while I think I would have still gotten curious at some point. I like to experience games first hand so that I can form my own opinions before any hype or hate can colour them.

I don’t think No Man’s Sky is a bad game. In fact, I think it’s an amazing feat considering that it was created by such a small team. There is an excellent foundation there, but the gameplay doesn’t feel polished. This sort of thing can disappoint me more in the sense that I believe it could have been something amazing and it’s a shame that its fallen short. I want to like it, but too many aspects of it don’t feel right. If I’d paid less for No Man’s Sky I’d have been really happy with it. Unfortunately a high price tag can set expectations. I can’t help but compare it to games that I’ve spent a similar amount on, some of which have had larger teams and budgets behind them (such comparisons might not be fair to make, and that’s not to say an Indie game can’t be worth that much.) There is subjectivity behind whether we feel like we’ve had value for money or not. Everybody else I know is enjoying No Man’s Sky and are happy with what they paid. If you’re not enjoying an experience then obviously you’re not going to be happy about the amount you paid for it. The more we pay for something the harder it’s going to be to shrug off the loss.

I find it hard to explain what makes a game good value for money. Ultimately it goes down to what feels right. With No Man’s Sky I expected to still be enjoying the gameplay a week later. This suggests that a game should last us longer the more we pay, but I also believe that quality is more important than quantity. Some games have only lasted me a few days or even one evening and yet I enjoyed them so much I never questioned how much I’d paid for them. As the gameplay in No Man’s Sky doesn’t feel polished it’s not ticking the quality box for me either. I also have expectations from the genre and similar games like Don’t Starve and Minecraft have entertained me for much longer – I also paid much less for them. Perhaps the scale of the game can justify the price; I initially joked that it wasn’t a bad price for an entire universe. I’m only ever going to see a small percentage of that content however, and the parts I am getting are less varied than I hoped for. When we pay for a product we also have to consider the amount of work and research that went into its creation, even if we’re not happy with what we ended up with. There are also the server costs required for running the game. If they offer free updates and new content in the future then in time it could justify its price, although by that point it might have also dropped in price. How well a game runs is also a factor, although I’ve had no problems with No Man’s Sky so far.

I think the main problem here is that the developers weren’t clear enough on what type of game it was going to be. Much of what they said was open to interpretation. For example, placing an emphasize on scale along with the higher price tag can easily lead to the assumption that this is a game we’ll be playing for a long time. The way the animals and factions work don’t match up to what I expected, but I can see why I thought what I did based on the videos I’d watched beforehand. They didn’t focus enough on a target audience and as such many of the negative reviews are written out of disappointment. It’s also possible that misleading information was spread around due to misinterpretation and the hype that carried it. I should also take some responsibility here as I chose to spend that amount in the first place. I need to trust my own gut instinct more and not to get so caught up in the excitement of getting a new game. I could have been patient and waited for the reviews to come in before making my decision. It’s not the first purchase I’ve regretted however, and it probably won’t be the last. In the long run the money we spend evens out and those mistakes feel less important.

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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.

4 responses to “Value For Money? (No Man’s Sky)”

  1. lexacain says :

    I don’t play games much (my laptop’s not powerful enough), but I have the same reaction to TV shows sometimes. I can’t connect for the first few times I watch, but then they grow on me. I hope your motion sickness and headaches go away.

    • wallcat says :

      Thanks. As soon as No Man’s Sky launched the negative reviews flooded in, but I wanted to give it a fair chance before forming my own conclusions. To some, even if things get better, it’s too much of an ask to wade through the bad parts to get to the good bits. I’m a fairly patient and persistent person when it comes to trying out new things. It could also be a stubbornness on my part as I don’t like giving up on things. I’ve forced myself to sit through dull films and difficult books before just so I knew for sure I wasn’t missing anything. sometimes it’s because I’m not use to a genre and I need to adjust to it before I can fully appreciate it.

  2. Lori L MacLaughlin says :

    Sorry the game was disappointing, particularly if you spent a lot of money on it. Maybe you can sell it as a used game and at least get something back from it?

    • wallcat says :

      I managed to find a place that was offering a lot in return for trading it in. A slight loss, but manageable. I’m thinking of it as a rental cost and as I’m interested in game design even not liking something can be fun to analyse. I got another game now that I’m much happier with. It’s silly, but I don’t often return things and I feel bad for the people that worked on it. I won’t be able to afford many new games for a while now though, so I wanted to make sure I got something that I could enjoy for a long time.

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