Reviews being withheld does not necessarily indicate a bad game.
It’s always ominous when reviews for a game are withheld until after its release- history shows us that the game almost never turns out well, which is why reviews are deferred until after the game has had a chance to get some sales in. Look at previous titles like Assassin’s Creed Unity and Destiny, all of which turned out disappointing, and all of which had review embargoes lifting after the game had officially released.
However, every now and then, it turns out that a game with a late review embargo turns out great after all- for an example, look no further than Bethesda and id Software’s DOOM, which launched earlier this year. DOOM, too, had its reviews withheld by Bethesda’s embargoes until after the game had already officially launched- but it turned out to be a great game, a hell of a game that many would argue is the best game so far this year.
The question with No Man’s Sky, then, is, which category will it fall into? The long and short of this is, reviews being withheld for this long seems to indicate that the publishers are not fully confident in the product- or at least its ability to score well, at any rate. Excuses can be made about online functionality and the nature of the game, but unlike Destiny or The Division, where those excuses at least made some sense, here they don’t necessarily hold to scrutiny.
However, Sony have been claiming that this is not the case, and the issue seems to come down to the game’s day one patch, which apparently will be substantial enough that the game will differ greatly with the patch from the state that it is in right now- the patch is at the very least great enough that it will cause incompatibility between patched and unpatched copies of the game. Sony are claiming that this major update is the reason that No Man’s Sky cannot be reviewed pre-launch, because reviewing the game without the patch is not representative and therefore makes no sense.
The question is, is that PR spin, or is it true? And I think the answer to that, many users will probably find, does not matter. Just because Hello Games and Sony are unsure of the game’s ability to score well, doesn’t mean that No Man’s Sky will be a bad game at all- simply put, Bethesda were probably unsure of DOOM reviewing well, too, but DOOM turned out to be great regardless. The same may still turn out to be true for No Man’s Sky as well.