Developer Hello Games’ impossibly large space-exploration game is out now on PlayStation 4, and I’ve put around 8 hours into it after staying up until dawn this morning. I couldn’t pull myself away. While my review is still a long ways off, I want to give you my early thoughts about one of 2016’s biggest releases. I’m loving what I’ve played. It has a strong forward momentum. You can’t help but perpetually working at the next task on your to-do list, and the sense of scale is mesmerizing.
But I also see a game that could potentially lose my interest or fail to enthrall others in the first place.
No Man’s Sky is a game about discovery, crafting, and survival. You begin as a marooned astronaut with a damaged ship that requires repairs. To fix your craft, and to get back into space, you’ll need to grab certain elements and materials while crafting others. This loop, as far as I can tell, will continue throughout the game with you needing to build bigger and better upgrades for your ship — as well as your multitool gun and exosuit — to aid in your mission.
What do you do?
Oh, yes. You do have a mission. The goal is to reach the center of the galaxy. This serves as a vague motivation to keep you moving forward, but you’ll also come across other quests. For example, right now I’m trying to build hyperdrive fuel to reunite a sentient alien friend I’ve met with other members of his tribe. I’m prioritizing that over my main mission.
But while I’m not charging directly toward the end of the main ending, I’m still engaging in similar tasks. I still need to find technologies and then find the materials to craft them. This involves traveling to planets and scanning them for important elements as well as trading with space stations and the other explorers. I’ve occasionally entered combat with roaming, police-like sentinels that maintain order and don’t like it when you destroy local fauna, and I’ve even had to escape a pirate attack that I was woefully underpowered for.
If No Man’s Sky has more to do, I haven’t seen it yet. But I think that’s highly likely considering the scope of this universe. At the very least, I’m looking forward to stumbling across a planet abundant in valuable resources. I’m desperate to upgrade my ship, exosuit, and multitool. I especially want a to save up enough credits to outright purchase a larger ship from one of the Gek aliens in my region of the universe.
Those personal goals combined with the missions are keeping me laser focused on No Man’s Sky. While I intended to go to sleep at around 1 a.m., I kept pushing toward the next discover, the next resource, and the next trading outpost.
Wait — that doesn’t sound like fun
I am enjoying No Man’s Sky. I appreciate any game with the kind of pacing that makes it easy to do “just one more thing” until you’ve accidentally missed an entire night’s sleep. But I know this game won’t appeal to everyone.
Near the end of my session last night, I was using my multitool to dig out a deposit of an uncommon metal. The process took me around 5 minutes, and it required me to use up the last of my plutonium to recharge the mining beam. After I tapped out the rich vein, I had enough materials to build a weapon attachment for my multitool that enables me to break through certain doors as well as mine harder metals.
That’s the game. It’s about doing an act until you have enough resources to do that act quicker or to something else. I like those kinds of games. I’ve spent plenty of time with Minecraft. And the trappings of space exploration and a universe that, for my purposes, will never end — well, that’s exactly my kind of experience.
And I can tell I’m going to come away with emergent stories that belong to me. Like the aforementioned pirate attack. I had never run into a hostile scan before, and I was excited for some dogfighting. After trying that for 10 seconds and seeing my shields deplete to almost zero in that time, I decided retreat was the wiser option. I spent the next several minutes evading and repairing my ship until I had wiped out all of my materials. Finally, with my death looking imminent, I reached a small moon and was able to hide from my pursuers with only a sliver of my hull integrity left.
You’re going to have those stories, too, but they will come as highlights to 10 minutes of digging out ore from a hill so that you can go spend another 10 minutes digging out another ore after taking the time to travel to another planet. If you want a guided thrill ride along the lines of Uncharted 4, this is not for you. It’s the opposite.
For me, however, I look forward to another sleepless night rocketing from one space station to another.