A Look Back at No Man’s Sky

So it’s been a good while since No Man’s Sky has come out, to some pretty mixed feedback at that, and given the updates and changes I thought why not check it out with a new set of eyes. Perhaps the updates to the world give it something it missed from the beginning, maybe it simply has now what it always needed from the start. I got a fresh perspective on something I didn’t see much of pre-patches, so was it worth it? Well…let’s talk about it.

No Man’s Sky is a game that lives in a difficult bubble of expectation, there was so much marketing, so much hype, that in the fans minds it had to be the best thing to gaming since Half-Life, or life wasn’t worth living anymore. Add in the bonus sympathy points for all the development problems Hello Games had, like their whole office flooding, and this was setup to be the new messiah of space exploration games. I’ve got some bad news for those people then.

I was never actually overly invested myself, especially as release crept closer and people began to notice that behind the hype there was one massive question everyone had behind everything in the game. “…Yes but, what do you DO in No Man’s Sky”. The answer, as we feared it would, turns out to be not a whole lot. If anything the game did capture the true essence of space and the universe, by which I mean, it’s a big empty place with not a lot in it. The whole premise is the journey of starting out on a randomised planet in a vast universe full of nearly endlessly randomly generated experiences, giving you endless adventure across space. You can see everything the game has to offer in two or three planets though, often amounting too little more than collecting materials on differently coloured balls of earth in space, with a freakish assortment of creatures throughout.

There is an addictive enjoyment to be had in progressing through the game, I won’t deny there is an element of something there, but it comes from an innate desire to progress and upgrade that games have mastered using long ago. The loop of collection and crafting to craft and collect more is mindless fun, it’s a relaxed gameplay environment that offers only just enough to give that hook. If you want to turn off your brain and just throw on some music, relax, upgrade and farm, then No Man’s Sky does hit a certain spot. That said, you can find this exact experience in countless titles, and many of them are simply better games.

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Any of the relaxed fun the game offers though does come with a slight catch though, you instantly stop having relaxed fun the second the game crashes, and this game crashes more than our savings during a steam sale. I don’t like to harp on bugs too hard if it’s not truly terrible, but I’ve never played a game on the PlayStation 4 with this many crashes, I don’t think any other game even has for me. I actually had to delete my save to start again at one point just to give this review a second chance. The title has a double meaning I get now; no man truly does get the sky. Even trying my best to give this a chance during some sleepless mornings, it hands down has the most problems I’ve experienced with a game in years, and the only one in my PS4 history.

Maybe I’m just not seeing the bigger picture here, or there is more that I’m not getting. Hell maybe my random generations were just some of the games worst. Regardless though, my trip through space was a rough one, and the updates haven’t done this universe any favours. Even the base building is little more than a minor side note when you literally leave galaxies with no easy way back to your creations. I won’t say there’s absolutely nothing good about No Man’s Sky, but the little there is has been done before, and done better. Quantity over quality is this games motto, and the marketing and lies about what the game offers is a joke beyond belief. This is a lesson about hype we should all learn from if nothing else.

Just play Starbound frankly, it’s like a 2D pixel art version of No Man’s Sky, but good.

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Ben is a writer, live streamer and all around gamer currently hiding out in Australia. He grew up with all manner of gaming culture and continues that exploration today.

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