No Man’s Sky Review : High hopes and minimal returns

 

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When I was given the privilege to review this game, I was ecstatic. I had been waiting for this game since the moment it was announced years ago. It looked beautiful, the concept seemed so in tune with everything I had ever dreamed of being created , in my eyes this was what any video game company could thrive for, infinite and endless, gorgeous and riveting. I apologize for the lateness of this review and forgive me if at times this review dips into a piece of disappointment, but that’s the only feeling No Man’s Sky stirred from me.

 

Upon starting my journey, the stars appeared and sped by my interface in a bombastic and grandstand fashion, the atmospheric soundtrack truly giving me the feeling of the space sim I was about to enter ,and then it began. I woke up on a strange and unfamiliar planet, bird type creatures flying over head , lush plant life all around me. My adventure had just begun and I was thrown headfirst into a land that I had no understanding of .

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The first two hours of the game were spent gathering minerals and oxides so I could rebuild my crashed ship, each time I ventured forth to collect new materials I ended up discovering there was more to it than just repairing my ship.  My life support I found out ran off Isotopes, and my life support was failing a lot quicker than I had anticipated. The survival aspect of the game really hit me the hardest during the first few hours on my new planet that I maturely named ” David’s Big Ass Planet”  or DBAP for short. Gameplay wise the first few hours were pretty stellar, I had learned how to craft, how to shoot, how to jet-pack, and most importantly by the end I had learned how to refuel my ship and take myself into the stars for the very first time. Transitioning from the planet and into the upper atmosphere and then space was almost seamless , there was no loading screen, it was a matter of getting in your ship , pointing to the sky and accelerating.

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Upon entering the black void of space itself the game prompts you into a star map, upon entering it the first time you look at it and say “so what, Mass Effect had a pretty dope star map too”. Then it hits you, each blip among thousands and thousands of other blips are different planet clusters, and each one can be traveled to. The pure scale of this endless galaxy hits you , and you are amazed , no one will ever say “I wasn’t that impressed”, if you have said that you are a liar and you need to take a time out.  The amaze and wonderment of what I saw on that star map and then to what was laying out ahead of me lasted me for a couple hours after that miraculous bowel emptying moment. I had discovered multiple planets, visited many space stations, warped light years away from that planet I held so dear the first few hours and most importantly, I discovered that a game built off of numbers and mathematical algorithms can be empty and cold .

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Reviewing the story of the game will be easy, there isn’t any story outside of “get to the center of the galaxy”. this premise was exciting at first but it quickly lost that excitement. At first it appears as a ” The only story is what you bring yourself” aspect, which is phenomenal , but the game never gives enough to do or explore to truly help you craft your own story on an interstellar level .

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The concepts behind No Man’s Sky were groundbreaking, it was fresh and it was new, but it failed in the execution. Not to say there isn’t anything notable in the game, if you read up until now you can understand how amazing entering this game felt. The choices you make and the names you give planets and life forms though seem all for naught as you never will go back to a planet you have discovered even if you tried, because after warping away there is almost no chance that you would be able to return. The NPCs you encounter are lifeless and most encounters with them play out like a text based adventure , leaving your imagination to fill in the imagery.  The interactions themselves seemed to be well written so there is that to give credit to. Out of the three distinct races I discovered in the game, each of them had their own fully fleshed out language, and the only way to understand them was to learn it. I don’t mean go to the nearest space station and buy a version of Rosetta Stone Space,but to learn the language you had to find the words themselves on ruins or monoliths.  Learning more of each language allowed you to better navigate these text based interactions and further your upgrades with new schematics or even improve your standing with one of the other races.

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The gameplay at first seems a tad stiff but it’s one of those systems that you can find yourself getting used to. Wandering around and exploring a new planet is fun for a while, especially if it has an environment that won’t poison you or burn you to death. Exploring caves, mining plutonium , fighting off sentinels for mining plutonium are all things you can find yourself doing until it runs a bit dry in amusement. The game even gives you the ability to customize a boltcaster attachment for those moments where you know you will need a super rad laser gun , but guess what, there are none of those moments at all. The weapon system seems to be a wasted opportunity outside of shooting sentinels, you never truly feel the need to blow something up , ever. Space combat was something that might have made the game a bit more exiting, but sadly that too fell short due to overly difficult enemies, wonky ship and weapon controls and not enough reason to engage in space combat ( Only to die ).

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Visually this game is stunning, it doesn’t live up the the original tech demo but for that I can forgive , seeing how this was made by a small team. Going into warp perfectly emulates any warp speed portion of any piece of sci fi, the stars turn into colorful lines going past your ship and you truly feel like you are traveling faster than light itself. The most terrifying moment visually was upon approaching a black hole, everything around it appears to be just fine, until you get closer and you see this mass of nothing in the center of it all reflecting the light from around it. I entered this mass hole of nothing and it stated that it pulled me through to a part of the galaxy 500 LIGHT YEARS AWAY FROM MY STARTING POINT, holy shmow. The downside to this being that everything was the same as what I saw before entering, planets with not much on it, one space station and some cargo ships.

 

The soundtrack for the game was very good at giving off the sci-fi vibe , which was appreciated but after a while it seemed a bit too minecraft-like in the atmosphere it created and I usually ended up putting on the soundtrack for Firefly. The audio for the blaster /mining laser sounded authentic and felt good, the same can be said for the space combat as well with the pulse laser humming as it fires a concentrated blast.

 

Time to get real though,

I am going to put my professionalism ( or the ruse of it ) aside for the ending of this article, what was started as a review will be ended with a personal excerpt of a potential article written by me.

 

I go into games not just to pick apart technical flaws or to give hell to the story if it’s sub par , I go into a game for an escape from my reality , not saying my reality is bad , but time away helps.  When No man’s Sky first hit at E3 I was blown away, and as time went on the details were slowly leaked to us like a break in a gas line .  The details enthralled me, I was thinking how “it’s too good to be true” but after awhile I let it sink in and allowed myself to be excited. I don’t often get excited for games anymore , since I use them to escape reality, work, problems and general anxieties (which I have a lot of ), and to be disappointed by one such thing I was excited for is almost soul crushing.  When No Man’s Sky got me on the hype train  I set myself up for such a big fall , but I ignored all the warning signs that this could be just the hype train taking its usual route, and I ended up burnt.

Anyone who knew me knew very well how excited I was for this, and how at any negative comment made towards this game I would jump and fight for Hello Games and Sean Murray,

so why couldn’t they do the same for me?

Why couldn’t they fight to give me what was promised years ago? I know I may be one fan among many but to me they were the studio to give me what I envisioned the goal of immersive fiction to be , and what they gave me was a full priced indie title that wasn’t worth the price attached.

I don’t mean any of this in a mean way , but I just feel that what was promised and what was delivered differed greatly, and as a person who put faith in this small team I feel insulted. For the first time in years, I had a game hurt me on an emotional level, and that is unforgivable to me. A bright future may be ahead for Hello Games due to what they showcased they can create, but whether or not it hits the full potential is up in the air, much like my faith in them .

 

 

On a lighter note, this is a funny to counteract the sad.

 

 

*This review is based off of a retail physical copy of the game No Man’s Sky, available now for $79.99

 

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