Space. Exploration. Discovery. These three points are the key to driving the theme behind science fiction. But when you are pursuing an interactive approach, endless possibilities can be included into the equation. This makes for one amazing experience unique to each person, and that’s what No Man’s Sky achieves seamlessly.
Created by Hello Games, No Man’s Sky is a universe exploration game for PlayStation 4 and PC. The game starts off with you and your ship on your first discovered planet, where your ship has crash landed and you are forced to gather resources to get it back up and running. With most games, I’m used to seeing some sort of tutorial at the start but with No Man’s Sky, it throws you straight into the deep end. No obvious explainer on how/where to mine materials and no exact instructions on how to construct items. I find it rather off-putting for games to take this approach due to the heightened onus on the player to know what they are doing, but With No Man’s Sky however, it keeps things simplified to a degree without ‘holding your hand’ through the game. It does this by emphasising to the player to explore the universe, and interact with nearly everything each planet has to offer.
Flora can be picked or mined and fauna can be attacked, both of which result in receiving materials for crafting items. There really is no right or wrong way to play this game. Whether you decide to explore a planet in its entirety or jump from one star system to the other, the experience still remains solid and immersive.
To say that the universe is big in No Man’s Sky is an understatement. Hello Games have explained that the number of planets that can be discovered in the game is over 18 quintillion (which is 10^30), and this is done through procedural generation. A simple way of explaining this is you won’t be able to visit even a fraction of this universe due to its overwhelming scale.
With every planet you discover in No Man’s Sky, you can permanently rename it and upload the new name to the server. It’s a nice feeling to know you’ve etched your name in a game, but given the size of the universe, the chances of coming into contact with an already discovered planet is unlikely. The same can also be done with the various fauna in every planet, where you have the opportunity to rename it and upload to the server. An incentive for doing this is you are rewarded with in-game currency for every animal, planet and star system you have encountered.
So when you are done with discovering one planet, you’re probably wondering what keeps the player motivated to continue on. There are a couple of drivers, one being that each planet is different with regards to terrain, flora and fauna, which promotes exploration to see the various wonders of the visible universe. The second is that there are various item drops that can be found, such as new unlockable weapons, various craftable items or even bag upgrades to allow more slots for your inventory. This is a great way to show the player that they are progressing and that there is some level of reward for their efforts, regardless of how big or small it may be.
In each star system in No Man’s Sky, there is a space station which allows you to dock your ship and access the Intergalactic Trade Network. This is a great tool for off-loading any unwanted materials and purchasing anything required to create your next item. The buy and sell prices for each item changes as well, so it is possible to “play the market” and maximise it to your advantage. If the price is not good enough, you can even talk to other travellers where your ship is docked and offer to buy or sell through them. On top of that, you can even offer to buy their ship! There are various ships of different sizes and shapes that enter the space station, so there is a fair amount of choice. Be prepared though, they do ask for a high figure so make sure your wallet is loaded.
What I love about No Man’s Sky is how interactive the game is, which adds to its immersive nature. From gathering materials from a small plant to warping through space to the next planet, the game gets you involved in nearly every aspect. That said however, the game does have its cons. The inventory system is not the most user-intuitive and in-game combat is rather cumbersome.
The game essentially has two inventories – one for your character and one for your ship. If your bag is full, you can transfer items to your ship at any time and regardless of how far you are away from it. But here’s the down side. If you want those items that you have transferred back, you need to go and find your ship. The game could have benefitted from having one main, larger inventory that does not deal with this transferring back and forth nonsense. As for in-game combat, attacking targets (sentry bots in particular) feels a lot more difficult than it should be, mostly because you don’t have the ability to focus. It’s as if the game was purely designed for exploration, but these finer details were just glossed over.
With that said however, No Man’s Sky does make for one amazing experience full of discovery and wonder. With a vast universe at your hands to explore, every person’s journey in this game will have a unique and intriguing story to tell.
No Man’s Sky was reviewed with a PS4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.