I’ll get straight to the point; there’s only so much to say about a game like this. As soon as it was announced, there was an intense amount of discussion surrounding this weird unique title. 18 quintillion planets to explore? The unlikely possibility of ever meeting another player because the universe is just that massive? Naming your own star systems, planets, and species, with each one unlike the other?
Before we go any further, I need to make this clear. No Man’s Sky is a beautiful game. The planets are awe-inspiring, the creatures are strange and unique, and the soundtrack evokes a lonely beauty that’s hard to capture. So if all the ideas for the game are great, where does it falter? Well, the truth can be found in a cruel irony. Because despite it’s massive size and enchanting exploration, the game still manages to feel empty and mundane.
Unfortunately, once you remove the scenery, it’s all too clear to see the design flaws. At first, just how big the planets and space stations are is enough to distract you. The lure of following a path to the center of the universe, or following mysterious anomalies that promise you true enlightenment is too much to ignore at first. The two pictures below are from one of the most beautiful planets I’ve encountered. Each planet is absolutely massive, and when you’re lucky enough to find one this beautiful, you want to take the time to soak it all in.
But eventually the process to get to these planets becomes too dull. You land on a planet, gather resources, trade with aliens in small colonies (picture below), explore a bit to find relics that teach you the languages of one of the three intelligent races of aliens, and then take off to the next planet. At first, it’s enough variety to keep you interested, but when you encounter the same buildings, with the same aliens, the pattern becomes clear, and then the only thing to hold your interest will be making it to the center of the universe or discovering the truth behind the mysterious anomalies. But don’t expect to the end of either path anytime soon; it takes somewhere around 30 hours (possibly longer) to reach the center, and I’m not aware of how long it takes to complete the Atlas quest.
And again, the game’s big issue is that there isn’t enough variation to keep me hooked for the next 30+ hours. It definitely doesn’t deserve a $60 price tag, because any videogame with that price has the burden of proving that it’s worth replaying multiple times. And as stunning as some of the planets can look, a $60 postcard simulator doesn’t seem to have the best return on investment, especially when only 10% of said planet is more than just scenery.
In conclusion, I’m left with two feelings toward the game; on the one hand, regardless of how you feel about it, it’s a step in the right direction for gaming. Because if a minuscule team such as Hello Games can “create” (technically they created the game using procedural generation, meaning the computers did most of the work) a game that will take five billion years to explore, regardless of how interesting it is, it’s set a foundation for other developers to build on, and I can’t wait to see how this game inspires future developers. On the other hand, I have to treat it like a vacation; for the first week or so, you want to spend as much time enjoying it as possible. But stay there too long, and the charm of whatever place you’re in fades away all too quickly.