No Man’s Sky is a difficult game to review because it is different for everyone who plays it. Every player starts on a random procedurally generated planet with little guidance beyond ‘fix your broken ship’. While this can be extremely easy for some it can be extremely difficult for others and the almost complete lack of tutorial only makes it more aggravating. In my case I started on a very cold planet and had to constantly worry about freezing, but resources were plentiful. The game’s focus is on exploration and survival, which isn’t difficult when you learn to manage resources. Survival tends to be more of an annoyance than anything though, like a pointless clock that doesn’t add any real purpose beyond filling up the room. There are many dangers like acid, radiation, heat, cold, predators, pirates but especially sentinels. A true open world game it feels and functions very much like Minecraft with more sci-fi exploring and less building.
While No Man’s Sky has been hyped up like any AAA game by Sony it is actually an indie game from the developer Hello Games. With some quintillion randomly generated planets there is plenty to see but just how random is it? While it is all beautiful and having no way of knowing what the next planet will have is exciting it still gets monotonous real fast. After exploring multiple planets in multiple systems they all look nearly identical, even the animals and plant life tend to look the same. You can only find so many species with nothing but a tentacle for a head before it gets old. Even many resources tend to look exactly the same. Probably the most unique planet was my first one because it was the only one that didn’t look like a barren wasteland. Alien races are also really simple looking and offer little beyond short statements or puzzles. Due to the size No Man’s Sky struggles with rendering, with many landscapes barely appearing before reaching them. Even on foot, multiple times I went after rare resources just to have them render correctly upon reaching them to reveal I had already mined them clean.
No Man’s Sky lacks any kind of direction which can be good or bad depending on the player. The only story element was to follow someone or something called Atlas and it hasn’t come up since the beginning. In true open world fashion the game allows the player to do what they want at their own pace, so it’s important to have some kind of goal in mind when starting. My goal was to catalogue as much of the universe as possible. Kind of like Christopher Columbus, claiming planets in my own name even though people already live there. Since players can upload names of everything they scan, which is nearly anything, it is good incentive so any players who may come across that planet later knows what the score is. With so many planets there is no guarantee anyone else will ever see it though. A primary goal seems to be making it to the center of the universe, a daunting task depending on the starting planet. The sentinels appear to be the main enemy (if anything) but it is not clear why or where they even come from. Just that they’re everywhere and they really don’t like it when the player messes around on other planets.
While the game is literally boundless it can feel like there just isn’t a lot to do sometimes. At the same time however I find it difficult to stop. With no actual conclusion the game just goes on forever. No Man’s Sky may be more interesting if it had actual multiplayer but it wouldn’t matter with the massive scale. I thought I found a new player once when the game announced a new ship wreck nearby but it must have been a glitch because the crash site just kept changing places when I got close to it. It can feel repetitive for a long time and then something random happens or an alien gives you a sweet new multi-tool and things seem interesting again. The unreal size of the game may be a double edged sword.
The sheer scale of No Man’s Sky is something to be awed but it takes so long to do and go anywhere it’s hardly worth the trip. It seems Hello Games has already seen this and plans to add actual buildable items like custom bases and freighters, essentially becoming sci-fi Minecraft. Bases seem meaningless because the entire point is to keep moving forward, but a moving base on a freighter would be awesome. No Man’s Sky is perfect for people who like to explore in open world games, it doesn’t seem to offer much else. So if you like vast open world games with plenty to do or just need a hole to throw your spare time into this is for you. I may have to stop playing for the same reason I can’t play Overwatch, Minecraft and most MMORPG’s anymore… I’m afraid I’ll never be able to stop.