Hello Games’ ambitious No Man’s Sky is finally here, after a few delays and legal troubles with the Sky network. After all the anticipation, how did it turn out?
For Hello Games, mostly known for their Joe Danger games, No Man’s Sky was quite a radical departure from the fun Trails-like gameplay of their previous titles. When talking about No Man’s Sky with colleagues, I would sometimes compare the game a little bit to Spore. That game, too, was highly anticipated. And that game, too, was a game where no one could really tell you what it was about, aside from a few generic remarks here and there.
Having now played the game, the closest game I could come up with was Captain Blood, the 80s version I played on my Atari ST. Having said that, No Man’s Sky is vastly different and larger in scope, but elements did remind me of that sci-fi cult classic. Unlike Captain Blood, exploration is key in No Man’s Sky – and a lot has already been said about its procedurally generated worlds and infinite possibilities.
What all this exploration brings with it is a lot of trading, upgrading and interacting with other races. The latter is where my Captain Blood reference comes from. When you encounter another race, you won’t automatically speak their language – so instead, you figure out bits and pieces during your travels, where new discoveries can include ways of communicating with a race you’re already discovered.
This constant juggling of exploration and reward is what drives the game forward, and it’s not for everyone. Finding new planets and unique environments is a lot of fun, but after a few hours everything starts looking like a variation of what you’re already seen before…. and you might not be too interested in seeing a few million more at that point. This is where crafting/upgrading comes in, which interplays nicely with how you’re able to manage your relationships with other races in the galaxy. It provides that “okay, one more thing to discover before I stop!” feeling that the game is clearly going for, aided by wonderful visuals that paint a colorful canvas of space.
How long that feeling will last is the real question here. With its open sandbox structure, there isn’t too much in terms of character/story development to drive the game forward for very long. It’s why I never got into Minecraft as well, and why I’m more interested in the Story Mode adaptations of that game. No Man’s Sky did manage to entertain me more than Minecraft ever did though, and that’s because spacefaring and making discoveries in an infinite galaxy is a lot of fun to do for a few hours on end. After those hours, my interest waned a little, as it felt like there wasn’t too much else to do for me. I’ll definitely go back to the game again, but it will probably be in short bursts and not a prolonged session like my initial one was. That’s a shame, because the initial momentum the game builds up is excellent and I wish it would (and could) last longer.