A Redemption Story. In Space!
Platform: Playstation 5
Available on: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox X/S/One, Android, Microsoft Windows.
Genre: Action-adventure, survival.
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Released: August 9th 2016
When No Man's Sky first appeared on an E3 stage way back in 2014-ish, I was sold from the get-go. Exploration check, an infinite universe check, exotic planets check, sci-fi check and an intergalactic system of alien races with fluctuating economies check, check, check.
Then on a beautiful August day, NMS came out and I think we are all familiar with how that went. All the promises were none existent. Yes, there was an infinite universe to explore but that was all it had. It was vast and it was empty. There was nothing to do and no reason to do what little was there. As a result, I played maybe ten hours trying to convince myself that it was a good game. I wanted it to be a good game.
Well, here I am jumping back in almost five years later and I can tell you vindication tastes very sweet. No Man’s Sky is an amazing game, it just took a while to get there.
Space, The Final Frontier
Much like its initial release the current version of NMS is still based on the premise of an infinite procedurally generated universe to explore in whatever way you see fit. The ultimate goal being, try to reach the centre. The original had you achieve this goal with a lot of aimless wandering and a shallow mystery about a cosmic entity that is up to something. Well, all that is still there but Hello Games have completely reworked how you experience it. Instead of wandering aimlessly you now have structured missions and a main story to follow if you wish of course. All featuring alien NPC’s with dialogue and each with their own motives for asking you to help them. This serves as an excellent way to frame the main gameplay loop and give you some direction.
I find I now care about the mysteries this universe has to offer and want to explore further to find out what is happening. I have yet to fully figure out the overarching mystery so I won’t be talking about that today. What I will mention is how the game has given me characters to care about.
As I was flying from planet to planet I intercepted a message from a lifeform named Artimus that was trapped in a place they couldn’t explain and they were scared. They asked me to rescue them and this leads me on a quest line which I found myself getting heavily invested in. How did they become trapped in this ominous place and what will happen if I can’t rescue them. It took a path of exploration across the galaxy trying to uncover the mysteries of an ancient species. I felt invested, what happened to this civilization and what happened to Artimus for digging too deep. I won’t spoil it here but let’s say it didn’t turn out how I expected.
Finding a place to call home
I have already mentioned hopping from planet to planet to make your way to the centre of the universe. The only reason to land on planets used to be to gather resources to help you fly further or because the planet was really cool looking.
Well, that’s all changed now. No Man’s Sky has added so much content to the gameplay loop that you need somewhere to contain it all. This came in the form of base building. Now there is a reason to find a plant and call it home. Establish your own little corner on the galaxy to work from, process materials, store gear, mine resources or just take a moment to drop out of hyperdrive and just chill. Hey, you can even live out your days as a space farmer if you wish.
Base building has been a game-changer for NMS. It adds a new dimension to planet-hopping. Looking for the ideal mix of environment, resources, flora and ascetics that you are happy to pitch your proverbial tent and create a space life for yourself.
I must tell you that I spent way more time building a base than I am willing to admit. You can even hire staff to work at your base to help research and learn new items to craft and help you on your journey.
Did I mention you can add a mech suit to your base to help you explore the more dangerous planets you may encounter. Come on guys, a mech suit! I don’t think you need anything else to convince you to give it a shot.
We can rebuild him, we have the technology
Perhaps one of the best things I can say about No Man’s Sky is Hello Games commitment to adding new features and improving the game at every turn. All for free might I add.
Foundations brought us base building.
Pathfinder gave us land and sea vehicles.
Atlas rises completely reworked the core story.
Next added full multiplayer.
Beyond massively improved features across all previous updates.
The list of content keeps going right up until very recently with the Expeditions update. This and all the other content is what put NMS back on my radar.
Being able to jump in with friends and share the comradery of discovering weird planets and creatures together or having dog fights with space pirates. Expeditions gave us a whole new way to play the game with a very set structure of missions to follow and a more defined end which can be a problem sometimes in games of this type.
Landing on the space anomaly the games multiplayer hub and seeing a host of other players to chat and trade with or embark on missions together. All this content has made NMS a game that is no longer devoid of things to do.
To infinity and beyond
No Man’s Sky was a game that at launch I wanted to love so badly. I did like it but I didn’t love it. Even then ‘like’ was a stretch. I think I couldn’t accept that I was wrong about a game that had so many elements I should love. Like so many underwhelming games NMS drifted out into outer space to never be heard from again or so I thought.
The unwavering commitment that has been shown to NMS has rescued it from the cold darkness of the bad games black hole. I am so very happy that it survived its exile and made a triumphant return. This game has provided me with countless hours of sci-fi exploration, story and intrigue that I will continue to explore for countless hours to come.
I am also so very happy to finally admit I was wrong I do love No Man’s Sky.
Play this game if…
You like Sci-fi.
You like boundless freedom.
You enjoy the intrigue an endless universe can offer.
You enjoy interesting Sci-fi worlds and creatures.
You just want to get lost in space.
All images are taken from the No Man’s Sky press kit here