Ever since we got the first real look at No Man’s Sky back in 2014 during Sony’s presser, it seems like the internet has been ravenous for this ambitious game to come out. The odd thing was that everyone seemed to have a different idea of what the game actually was. The internet was flush with conversation about how we’re getting a gorgeous, 3D Starbound, a space-themed Journey or even a spiritual successor to Wing Commander. Impressive how literally everyone got it wrong.
I’ve spent a few hours with No Man’s Sky and the closest comparison I can draw is actually the Wii title Endless Sea. You see, despite the promise of something waiting for you at the center of the galaxy, the game doesn’t really have a purpose. Rather, it lets you decide what you want to do in its overwhelmingly large space sandbox. As with Endless Sea, this will make some players very happy and some very bummed out.
The game drops you on a random planet in its galaxy filled with 18 quintillion planets (or so the marketing tells us, anyway). On this planet, you apparently wake up next to a crashed space ship. Fixing this becomes your tutorial and a small distress beacon that sends a signal somewhere becomes your only hint of a plot. After that, you’re free to do whatever you want.
While that sounds exciting, there actually isn’t that much to really do other than look around. The only challenge you will ever encounter is a lack of inventory space. Inventory is broken up into your exo-suit, your space ship and your multi-tool (aka mining tool/gun). Inventory spaces can either be taken up by items or upgrades. This means that the better you make your stuff, the less items it can hold. Considering the inventory space for each is already abysmally low, you quickly learn that hording items simply isn’t an option here. Traveling down the upgrade loop isn’t really an option either since that further decreases your precious inventory space. So what do you do? At the point I’m at, I’m not really sure. It appears that spaces can be upgraded over time and better exo-suits/ships have more spaces but it still seems massively tedious.
While the inventory is annoying, the speed of the game is what is turning me off the most. This is a game about exploration but your character walks even slower than my brain coming up with an appropriate metaphor. Walking anywhere becomes a waiting game. The game even seems to recognize it. Whenever you’re walking towards an icon on the HUD, the game pops up with a timer telling you how long it’ll take to get there. Even interesting locations nearby often take several minutes of real-time just to walk there and look. You’d think this would be because you’re meant to fly places in your ship but that prevents you from really taking a look around at the life on each planet, plus the controls for the spaceship are atrocious when you’re flying within a planet’s atmosphere. It feels like someone gives you the controller but then keeps grabbing it back when they feel you aren’t flying how they want.
Space feels pretty much the same but with even less to look at. I found myself looking around for a planet and then waiting 4-5 minutes for the ship to actually get there. You’d think this may be a play at increased realism (space is real big, you know.) but there’s debris just laying around everywhere. Even far away from the planet, rocks just fly by your ship constantly. So it’s not like there’s a lack of stuff, it’s just that none of it is interesting.
I’ve only spent a few hours with No Man’s Sky but so far, it feels like an early access game. I want to explore but moving is so slow with very little payoff for my trouble. I look forward to seeing what the game looks like in a year, as Hello Games has said they plan on continuing support not to mention modders are already getting to work on the game, but for right now, I’d stay away.