No Man’s Sky Review – 2016: A Space Odyssey

No Man’s Sky delivers on its singular vision- with a few hiccups along the way.

Posted By | On 12th, Aug. 2016 Under Article, Reviews | Follow This Author @Pramath1605


No Man’s Sky is a bold and ambitious game- it promises the player literally the universe, and all of its boundless infinity. It promises the player the joy of exploration and the wonder of discovery. It promises us a collective effort to chart an entire universe, something of the kind that has never been attempted in this medium before. Above all, for the millions of us who in our lifetimes will be stranded on earth, this game promises us a journey through deep space that pushes the limits of our imaginations, as we chart new waters, discover new planets, encounter exotic new species, and engage with a lost ancient alien civilization.

‘Infinity’ is a lot for a game to promise- but No Man’s Sky largely delivers on it. Playing No Man’s Sky is a revelation, and is quite unlike anything else on the market. In a lot of ways, it feels unreal to be playing a game of this scope and ambition, and also knowing that it was made by a team of less than two dozen people- given how the most mammoth AAA projects tend to feel overly linear and limited, it almost leads to a kind of dissonance. But all those thoughts are washed away, as you land on another planet that you just discovered, get to name it whatever you want, and then set out to interact with its lifeforms and biomes, before you collect your resources, and you’re on your way again across the recesses of deep space.

"‘Infinity’ is a lot for a game to promise- but No Man’s Sky largely delivers on it."

Let’s get this out of the way first- No Man’s Sky stumbles in a lot of important areas. On the PS4, the game has a very narrow FoV, which is enough to induce nausea in a lot of instances, especially when coupled with the game’s low (but mostly steady, outside of some instances) frame rate as well as pop in. Some very basic features are missing in the game, such as custom markers (you would think being able to mark a point of interest that you stumbled upon in a universe of 18 quintillion planets, one that you plan to return to later, would be something the game lets you do- you’d be wrong), limited inventory space, a lack of quick travel options, and so on and on and on. I am not going to claim No Man’s Sky is a flawless game, because it is not.

But none of the flaws matter even a little bit once you start to actually play the game. I can tell you that I personally ignored my (increasingly strong) nausea just so I could spend more time in the worlds of No Man’s Sky.

The core gameplay loop of No Man’s Sky is rather simple- you land on a planet, you exit your ship, you scan your surroundings to see any points of interest, you walk up to them. You collect any resources, you encounter local wildlife, you try to make sure the planet and its environment and climate don’t kill you, and you leave, ready to hop into another planet, or maybe to another star system entirely, as you continue making your way to the center of the universe. Along the way, you get to rename any planets or species you got to encounter and discover, as long as you were the first one to do it (and given the size of No Man’s Sky universe, you almost certainly will be each time, in spite of the amount of players playing the game), encounter relics of an ancient alien civilization that hold the keys to your progress, and maybe find trading outposts to trade resources. On some occasions, you probably also end up in combat, and try your best to kill and not be killed.

Why No Man's Sky

"No Man’s Sky stumbles in a lot of important areas."

The true strength of No Man’s Sky lies in just how flexible this core gameplay loop really is- you can choose to play as anything you want within this framework. You could be an explorer, charting new planets and cataloguing new species, or you could be a trader, trying to dump cheaper and plentiful resources for rarer ones, and then selling those at a hefty profit. You could be a colonizer, trying to claim as many planets as yours as is possible, or you could be an aggressive invader, fighting space pirates, attacking local life, and killing sentinel drones. You could just try to stay on track and focus on the story and campaign, and not worry too much about the wealth of side activities in the game. Or you could mix and match any and all of them. Owing to its sheer flexibility, No Man’s Sky theoretically should never get repetitive.

It is therefore a shame that the game sometimes funnels you to do specific things- for instance, for the first few hours of the game, you’d hardly know that this was meant to be an exploration title, as you’re kept on the surface of the planet you crash landed on, and sent on glorified fetch quests to collect the resources you need to fix your ship. For a while, there is this sinking sensation that the game may just be Minecraft or at best, Day-Z, in a space setting. Once you’re finally off the surface is when it opens up to you (and then again later, when you get our hands on a hyperdrive), but those first few hours frankly suck, and lead to a feeling of sinking disappointment with the game.

There are also times when the game specifically funnels you into combat situations- there are entire planets, for example, where the presence of the sentinel drones, that make sure that the local ecosystem is not disturbed, is heavy- so even mining resources lightly alerts them, leading to them to attacking you constantly. It doesn’t help that No Man’s Sky‘s combat is, at best, serviceable, and at its very worst, appalling, and devoid of any challenge, except for when you are swarmed by enemies, which happens often.

no man's sky

"The true strength of No Man’s Sky lies in just how flexible its core gameplay loop really is."

Owing to the game’s procedural generation, your very first planet could be a toxic planet with sparse resources, aggressive wildlife, and heavy sentinel presence- or maybe you could run into a batch of worlds later that are either all basically empty and complete pushovers, or so hostile that you are literally not equipped to deal with them at the time. This completely breaks any semblance of a meaningful progression curve in the game.

The good thing is, unfortunate instances where a player gets a poor and hostile first planet aside, the game offers you enough freedom that if you run into one, or a batch of, bad planets, you can just take off and go look for some other planets that are more suited to what you are looking for. No Man’s Sky is a game that is entirely malleable- you will get exactly what you want from it, and you will get it, with few exceptions, when you want it.

There is an argument to be made that something like that is anathema for a lot of players- a lot of players don’t want a game that is so devoid of an overarching structure, or sense, or purpose. Such players would argue that No Man’s Sky, devoid of any context, is ultimately meaningless, as is everything you do in it- so why bother? These players aren’t necessarily wrong, because their arguments do hold water- but they are also playing the wrong game. No Man’s Sky is a game that works exactly because of its lack of contextual structure. It is a game that takes this kind of meaningless meandering, and runs with it, turning it into its largest strength. If something like that is not appealing to you, then you will not like No Man’s Sky, and it is not for you- but for others, No Man’s Sky delivers exactly what they want: a massive universe for them to explore, and for them to explore on their own terms.

no man's sky

"No Man’s Sky succeeds exactly where it needs to the most- it succeeds in delivering upon its astronomical ambitions."

It also helps that it’s is a world that you want to explore more- each world in No Man’s Sky is gorgeous, its lifeforms exotic, all rendered with a beautiful artstyle that covers for any deficiencies that the graphics may otherwise have. Each world has its own sense of character, and the worlds are likely to stand out in your memory long after you have departed them- especially if you got to name them, too, which leads to you, the explorer, developing a special connection with them. Most of the times, in spite of the survival elements, and in spite of the combat situations, No Man’s Sky is a very relaxing game, as you land on a world, and walk around, taking its vistas and locales in, before you set off to see more of the sights that this infinite universe has to offer. Coupled with the game’s soundtrack, there is a sense of zen-like calm and beauty that can be attained by playing this game and letting yourself sink into its worlds entirely- and at that point, all of its litany of flaws fail to matter. No Man’s Sky succeeds exactly where it needs to the most- it succeeds in delivering upon its astronomical ambitions.

And in the end, that’s what it comes down to. No Man’s Sky staggering ambition, which it largely delivers upon, compensates for any other flaws that it might have. This is a game about the beauty, wonder, and joy of exploration, and it is a game that lets you play it at your own pace, how you want to, when you want to, and where you want to. Truly infinite, boundless in its possibilities, and presenting its players with a universe of possibilities, No Man’s Sky is a triumph, and is set to go down in history as one of the defining titles of our era- stumbles and all.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.

THE GOOD

Gorgeous artstyle, beautiful soundtrack, technical marvel; staggering ambition that is almost entirely realized; flexible gameplay loop that lends itself to any style of playing almost entirely at the player's will and discretion, so that the player can mix and match a variety of play styles; a never ending quantity and variety of things to explore and discover; so vast that it never quite gets old.

THE BAD

Low FoV, low framerate with occasional drops, pop ins, procedural generation completely throws any semblance of a progression curve out the window sometimes, an over emphasis on the combat, survival, and narrative elements can detract from the game's core strength of exploration and discovery, some UI quibbles, not for everyone.

Final Verdict

Truly infinite, boundless in its possibilities, and presenting its players with a universe of possibilities, No Man's Sky is a triumph in what it sets out to do.

A copy of this game was provided by developer/publisher for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.
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  • Scott Lee Clayton

    You mean its not a 10 or an 11!?, I can hear the sound of gnashing claws and teeth! from the NMS defense squad, batten down the hatches.

    :-0

    • efnet

      I assume this 8 rating is the safe # to not piss off the ps4 readers yea? I mean it’s like 40+ million of ps4 users so it’s only right to pander to the bigger fan base right?
      This game is so damn boring, I can’t see how anyone could give this an 8 ….

    • Pramath

      No, I gave it an 8 because I quite enjoyed the game, but I also recognized that it had flaws marring the experience. Hence, the balanced 8 rating.
      You not enjoying the game is fine, the review itself admits not everyone will enjoy the game- which is true of any game. But just because you didn’t like the game doesn’t mean that I didn’t either, and that I then gave it an 8 anyway to ‘not piss off 40 million PS4 owners’ or to pander to them.

    • Orion Wolf

      Everyone has their opinion, but reading a few articles even those that
      are currently “In Progress & Unscored” it seems to me that most are trying to minimize the glaring issues of the game.

      Like the writer of this review getting nauseous, but dismissing it as something trivial. From the gameplay I’ve seen (and I did see quite a bit of it), the game (imho) is at best a 6 out of 10 – to put it in a better perspective I would go with thejimquisition’s review, as it reflects my
      own take about the game.

      However and as stated previously, everyone has their own tastes, but there are a few too many issues with the game right now, one of the
      major ones (besides the nausea – but that depends on the person playing it) being … well, a lie, that it’s a multiplayer game.

    • J.j. Barrington

      What glaring issues?

      You mention the nausea brought up by one person as if it’s typical; isn’t the fact that it’s NOT typical the reason it’s dismissed as trivial?

      And you talk about the “lie” of it being multiplayer, but that isn’t a lie in the slightest. Can you run into other players? Yes. Is it likely? Not really, and you probably won’t even notice. It’s not a game where you join up with friends and explore/conquer the universe; it’s never been billed as such, either, which is why it’s strange that not being able to do that is suddenly a lie.

    • Orion Wolf

      There are multiple articles on GB (and various other places) talking about the issues with the game on both PC and the ps4.

      Did I say that the nausea is a universal issue with the game?

      The problem is that the game caused the reviewer to get nauseous and yet he proceeded to play the game to the detriment of his own health, I know that’s on him, but something that makes you sick is anything, but trivial imho.

      Moreover, I did add that it’s not an universal issue aka “depends on the person playing it”

      “Can you run into other players? Yes.”

      Well actually no you can’t… at least not for now and there are other issues at hand besides that, but perhaps you’re right
      and I was a bit too harsh with the wording, but still, as it is, it’s a SP game only.

      http://www.gameondaily.com/did-sean-murray-lie-about-no-mans-skys-multiplayer/

    • J.j. Barrington

      “There are multiple articles on GB”

      And yet you don’t mention them. Which says that you have no experience with them, personally, and don’t even put enough stock in them to name them, because you know better: they can easily be picked apart.

      “The problem is that the game caused the reviewer to get nauseous and yet he proceeded to play the game to the detriment of his own health,”

      Did he continue to get sick for the duration of his time playing the game? Or is it something that made him sick, but that he adjusted to? (This is one of the things that detractors for VR seem not to take into consideration: a lot of people who are adversely affected do, indeed, get used to the format, and no longer feel that way.)

      “Well actually no you can’t”

      Well, actually, yes, you can. All this stemmed from two players who couldn’t meet… yet, for whatever reason, everyone ignores that they DO actually meet up upon subsequent attempts.

      “it’s a SP game only.”

      Only it’s not, and to call it such actually WOULD be a lie.

    • Orion Wolf

      “Don’t even put enough stock in them to name them”

      I didn’t see the need considering most of them are on the first few pages.

      Actually, one of the most recent articles was with a dev apologizing for the issues, and just to be clear, not putting a title of an article is not the same as the issues not existing.

      Moreover, the reason I didn’t post my own issues/experience because it could be easily dismissed as me being just one of the haters of the game – unlike if it’s a dev talking (apologizing) for those issues.

      About the review being sick and the cause of it, well no idea, but about the adjustment, do you have any articles/other documentation/video I could read (watch) up on? I’m interested if that is actually possible even for someone that suffers from a severe form of car and (sadly) VR sickness.

      “they DO actually meet up upon subsequent attempts.”

      My apologies than, but as stated previously (about myself), without a source (article/video/tweet etc.) it’s hard to believe – but again, if true, my sincere apologies.

    • J.j. Barrington

      Don’t think people are getting upset about that.

      Back to trolling the low score articles with you.

  • crizz1066

    Why do they bring the good games out in the middle of the summer!!!!! By time I pick up a copy everything will have been discovered 🙂

  • Nintengods
  • CouldntComeUpWithAName

    This game will need all the possible high score reviews after the hype train crashed.

    • J.j. Barrington

      And what will that do? It won’t stop people from trolling it, will it?

  • kee1haul

    So despite all the flaws, all the game breaking bugs, all the frame rate drops, the lack of mulitplayer, the lack of content, the rubbish PC port, the lack of content, the outright lies- It gets 8. Dear me.

  • goldenboy77

    i bought this game its slow i go off the planet and the game keeps crashing back to desktop and does not save no way to save your game i have to allmost start over
    after every crash there is nothing to do in this game it plays in a sandbox i cant even
    get full screen i give it a 0 out of 10 all i can say is dont buy it wast of money


 

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