When I first saw the trailer for No Man’s Sky I was a little more than intrigued. I’d been a gamer for years, I’ve played shooters, platformers, simulations, RPGs and MMOs. I was always drawn to RPGs because I love a great story. However good those stories were, as years went by and games became more sophisticated, so did my desire to be in control of the stories themselves.This brought in the era of “open world” games. Like them to RPGs or MMOs, the open world aspect even brought RPG elements to actions games. To truly immerse yourself in a fantasy world, be that robbing banks and stealing cars in GTA, or scrounging for bottle caps and blowing the heads off of raiders in Fallout, you need the control to do so at your own pace.
A Primer For Procedural
So what was the next step? What more can you add to an open world game to give players a sense of awe and wonder? It so happens to be an open galaxy. A game so remarkably big that it pushes our own perceptions to it’s limits. See, most open games have invisible walls or barriers. Skyrim has impassible mountain ranges and oceans for example that define the edges of the playable world. When you run up against those boundaries, it’s like someone waltzed in on your holo-deck program and shut it off, revealing the 20×20 box you were actually standing in. With No Man’s Sky however, there are no walls. There are no limits that you, or anyone, has the time to put to the test. Our own sun will burn out before someone could possibly visit every planet or moon in a game like this.
The Cost of Giving a Computer, Creative License
One aspect of procedural generation, even at this level of sophistication, is that no matter how much variation you tell a computer to generate, there will always be a pattern that we will see. Is that much different than the real world? One might say the creatures and flora look too similar from planet to planet. If someone asked me however to observe a frog and a toad, I’d note the similarities in the basic shape and then be quick to point out that one has warts and one has webbed feet. The real world is full of this kind of kinship. Not every creature can boast uniqueness like a platypus. The same goes for geography. There are deserts in Africa and there are deserts in the United States. Both of these biomes are the same with subtle differences. Now think for a moment that these examples I speak of are on just one planet, and not spread over 18 quintillion worlds. The challenge soon becomes much more forgiving.
Playing No Man’s Sky has been an emotional rollercoaster. The first few moments I was as wide eyed as any child on Christmas morn. I was bewildered and anxious of what to do first. There was no hand holding. There was nothing but an alien world and my wits. Granted there was a few prompts but this was to get me at least a few kilometres from my ship. In those first few hours I was in open galaxy bliss. I had nothing but curiosity edging me forward. Then with a few solar systems at my back I had some tough admissions to make. Making your way in the galaxy is like hearing the same playlist of songs, over and over again with the occasional new track added to surprise you. No Man’s Sky is repetitious because no matter how big the playlist, our brains are prone to detect patterns in everything. Was I bored? No. When the patterns started to ware, I just shot to orbit and pressed on. There was an ever pressing drive to discover the next planet because it may be the next one that is that unexpected song in the playlist that makes the experience new again. This is what sets No Man’s Sky apart.
No DLC? No Problem
Sean Murray has stated that there will be no DLC for the game, but rather just patches indefinitely. There was quite a negative reaction to this in the media. However I feel this was the best way to commit to fans of the game. What this means is free content and new features as they make the game better. Base building and large playable freighters have already been announced. So forgive me if I am too quick to forgive some first week hurdles. You see I am hoping one day we will all me talking about “Vanilla No Man’s Sky”. One far off day when the game is so different that we will barely remember the first time we landed in a space station.
This Is Not Your Other Games
Explore, Fight, Trade and Survive. These are the things you do in No Man’s Sky. You don’t however, explore with a script to follow, fight with the fidelity of Destiny, trade with the complexity of Civilization, or survive with the tension of The Last of Us. No this is a game where you loose yourself and forget your earthly troubles. You journey for the journey itself, leaving your name on a planet for someone to find one day. You leave your legacy behind you with every hyperspace jump.
The Nitty Gritty
Now the numbers. As fond and philosophical as I am about No Man’s Sky, there are some play aspects that get frustrating. More crashes than I would normally think were par for the course. If I am honest I am not entirely keen on the inventory system for all it’s constant management and slow button timers. There are the usual basket of bugs. More than I’d expect from a game so long in development. Like I said, Sean Murray himself is taking to twitter on addressing the post PC launch issues and has made it clear that the team at Hello Games is hard at work on patches. That said, and with a rocky start for the procedurally generated epic, this reviewer gives this game…
A Launch Day rating of 8 of 10
So from all of us here at The Galactic Observer, who without No Man’s Sky would not be here, we look forward to keeping you informed of the journey and the updates as No Man’s Sky grows and continues to give us a desire to explore the galaxy.
Be sure to head on over to our FORUMS to check out the latest patch notes and join the discussion.