I started playing (and streaming) No Man’s Sky Tuesday evening. It’s been roughly six days. Here’s what I think of the game, with no censoring of game mechanics or plot … so if you’re debating on whether or not to get the game, be wary of reading this review.
Now, with that out of the way, here’s the thing: I haven’t played enough to really know how everyone relates. I’m not sure how the Atlas relates to the Sentinels, but it becomes quickly obvious that the warrior Vy’keen (an NPC race along with the electronic Korvax and the economically oriented Gek) hate the Sentinels (though you don’t see any actual combat between them), and seemingly everyone, except that they are duty bound to honor travelers, particularly those who are on the path of the Atlas. The Atlas has its own language.
The game has a story to tell you about all of them, told in snippets as you stumble across monoliths and ruins and “knowledge stones” (the latter helping you learn the languages of the races and Atlas).
You start next to a crashed space ship. There’s no backstory offered about who you are (and there’s no telling what you look like at this point) or how you got where you are. There’s just this ship that needs repairs to get moving, and hints that you’re either searching for the center of the galaxy/universe, or trying to follow the Path of Atlas.
Here’s the thing about the planets in No Man’s Sky: Because of the concept of “procedural generation“, if no one’s ever been to the planet, no one really nows what it or the life on it will look like. There are 18 quintillion of them in the game. Supposedly everyone will be starting on a different one on the edge of the galaxy/universe. And while on the planet, you can scan creatures, rock formations, and plants, claim waypoint locations, and upload your finds to a central database. You can rename them during this process. If by some chance someone comes by and lands on your planet, they’ll see that you discovered it.
Ideally, anyway. As is not uncommon, they were not at all prepared for the amount of data that would be flowing into their servers, so the NMS database connectivity has been spotty at best.
Once you get the ship moving (having mined the necessary resources with your Multitool – a combination weapon and mining device), you start trying to find civilization. Everyone you come across can provide you with assistance … providing you don’t screw up the encounter. Even knowing a few words can help you make the right choice … maybe.
You get some “missions” suggested to you in the lower right corner of the screen. At some point, those missions get you the blueprints necessary to build the ship into something capable of interstellar flight. And then there’s a new system of planets for you to visit and investigate.
Sounds great, right? So where does it fall apart?
Well, I’m not tired of it yet, but there have been a few grindy parts to game, part of which develops out of setting your own goals, like “finding bigger ships”. See, getting a bigger ship can happen one of two ways:
- Buy one at what is usually a cost prohibitive price at a space station or trade station, or
- Come across a listening post that hears the distress signal of a crashed ship (or possibly accidentally stumbling across one without it … I’ve done that. Once.).
So crashed ships are usually just one cargo slot bigger (though they can occasionally be smaller). And, they’re crashed, of course, so they’re not fully operational. Usually you can find what you need near the ship to get it running, but there are some game mechanics when it comes to changing what you term as “your ship” that make this possibly a bit tricky (there’s the possibility of lost cargo if you’re not careful). And of course “getting it running” doesn’t necessarily mean “space-worthy” or “fully repaired.” That can take a lot of time and aggravation, and possibly visits to other planets to find resources not found on the planet you found the ship on.
One way to speed up the whole process is to grind away at the crashed ship thing. Go through the process of finding one (there’s more than one on a given planet), disassemble everything you can on the old one (you’ll probably still end up losing resources somewhere along the line due to lack of room), transfer what you can in the new one … but repair it only well enough to take off and move. Then, repeat the process until you’re either tired of doing it (particularly if one of the listening posts sends you back to where you already grabbed the ship, meaning a wasted trip), or you’re happy with what you have for the time being (mainly, when you’re ready to jump to the next system in your path). The thing is, you don’t want to go into space without a working weapon system, so switching planets or making a run to the local space station for parts on a barely working ship is not a good idea.
Space combat isn’t exactly complex, but I’ve not quite mastered it enough to take on more than two or three ships, and then only with sufficient resources to recharge my shield. I warped into the middle of what could only be described as an “epic battle,” but wasn’t sure who was who and wasn’t getting the information quickly enough from the game to figure it out in order to pick a side, so I used my boost drive to get out of the area and go about my merry way.
My play has gotten to the point to where I rarely talk to aliens any more. I’ve got a vast majority of the blueprints I need (I keep getting the message “You already know how to build this”) and there’s very little they can offer me at the moment. Perhaps once I’ve visited my second Atlas interface I’ll have need of the interaction, but there’s a lot of NPCs out there that think I’m rude because I run in, use the trade interface or pick up the coordinates of a crashed ship, and then leave without talking to them. You get credits for claiming waypoints and scanning creatures, but beyond my first landing, I usually don’t bother to hit any waypoint that doesn’t have a landing pad (which means there’s a trade interface) or listening post at this point.
And I used to land at every knowledge stone, plaque, or ruins I saw … but depending on my goal for the evening, they can be just a waste of time for very little of a large story.
I went through the process of getting a bigger ship (making the “barely fix” hop about three times), and my next couple of steps will probably involve just landing on each planet in a system in order to name it, pick up the resources I might need, and then make my way to the next system (which I think is where my next Atlas Interface is).
But I’m not bored; I would still be playing all day if I didn’t have to go back to work tomorrow. The planets are beautiful, the stories are interesting to learn, and looking for new life/mineral formations is fun if you aren’t in a rush to perform some other task (i.e. get bigger ships or hunt for resources you really need to fix your current one). It seems like it was a little too easy to get the ship/exosuit/multitool blueprints, since I’ve seemingly maxed out each one (though maybe new ones will be available the closer I get to the center of the galaxy), so talking to aliens isn’t necessary any more.
On another note, there’s some stability issues on the PS4 that I’ve run into that may be due to the fact that I’m using Twitch to stream my gameplay. I broke down today and just played without streaming … and it was fairly stable. But with Twitch going, there were a couple of places that I could repeatedly cause a crash. Not sure if I should blame Twitch or No Man’s Sky …
Random list of things I’d like in the game:
- Some easier form of planetary navigation – mapping and compass, please! It’s next to impossible to purposefully go back to some place you’ve been if you’ve traveled a suitable distance by air. I think you should be able to look at the waypoints you’ve claimed and set one as a destination marker. The flip side of this is that once you’ve visited somewhere, it’s mostly pointless (unless there’s a trade interface) to go back. But if you’re hard up to sell or buy something, it’d be really nice to be able to fly to where you know one was.
- Better handling of the “maxed out blueprints” situation. Either give me something, or if you’re giving me something and a blueprint, don’t even mention the blueprint if I already have it.
- Better solar system navigation. I have ended up naming my planets based on the order in which I visit them, rather than their distance from the sun, since it’s not easy to figure out just which planet is closer or farther away.
- If I’ve named something, I should be able to rename it. I made a mistake when I named a planet’s moon and now it’s stuck that way for all time.
- More information about planets you’ve visited. The list of resources available on it would be nice. I visited every planet in one system twice because I really needed copper and knew one of the planets had it, but couldn’t remember which one. Mind you, I do have an unused pad of paper next to me when I play, so it’s my own fault, and this is something I’ll likely be logging when I hit the next system.
- An easier way to scan flying creatures that doesn’t involve shooting them down. I get yelled at when I do that.
- Better handling of “you’ve been there before.” Several things on a planet will direct you to other waypoints (usually but not always on the same planet). The thing is, sometimes those things will direct you to a place you’ve already been (landing pad, alien facility, ruins, or crashed ship). It would be nice if you could at the very least delete the waypoint if you know you’ve been there. Ideally, the game shouldn’t tell you about a place you’ve already been. Early on I ended up at the same ruins three times thinking I might learn something new, only to realize I had been there already.
It’s safe to say that once my ship size is nearly maxed out, I might spend more time just looking at a planet (providing it’s not trying to irradiate/freeze/burn/poison me, or the Sentinels aren’t in a “shoot on sight” mood). If there’s animals, they are interesting to see and fun (as well as hard sometimes) to come up with names for. Sure, I hear the call of the Atlas, and a some point I’ll learn whole part of that story. And that part may not involve the center of the galaxy/universe, so there’s still that to do as well …