NO MANS REVIEW: PC VERSION
Almost certainly, some guys sky.
Could this be the biggest indie game launch known to (no) man? Years of forthy build up and delays sent the general public into meltdown. Nah, not really. It was a few loud-mouthed people typing into the internet at great pace. I’m pretty sure more sensible game enthusiasts were happy to sit back and wait for the release, but that doesn’t make much of a story.
“Sensible crowd waits patiently for games release without resorting to hyperbole”.
That doesn’t have a good ring to it.
I’ve reached a cataclysmic PC crash situation stopping further exploration, so now’s a good time to talk about…
The hotly anticipated.
Wait for it…..
The flying around in a spaceship for reasons game.
No Mans Sky. The computer game.
To review No Mans Sky is to review hype, expectation and possibly some lies. Always the delicious lies. Let’s start with what the game actually is, to instantly inform you if you would be interested or not.
No Mans Sky is a friendly space exploration game, with light survival aspects.
I’ve created alternative names below. They might make for a clearer picture.
Uppy-Downy Planet Lander.
Colouring book Mercenary.
Sleepy Sexy Space Drifter Man
No Mans Sky is the natural continuation of a once dead genre. What do we do when we modernise a thing?
We simplify it, of course.
I know this is a PC review, but this is very much a console game, so don’t worry about that sexy flight stick and don’t waste time cleaning your mouse, as you best plug in that control pad, quick. This is not a simulation. You seamlessly go from planet to planet, taking in the sights, before mining its resources, to enable you to go from planet to planet. It’s a serene experience, although death might come about if you ignore the whingey survival gauges. Yes, survival gauges.
There you go, after years and years of marketing tossers being unable to explain what the game is, we’ve summed it up in less than a paragraph. All those promos, interviews and bold statements over how many worlds there are, the great dynamic universe and blah, blah hype nonsense, was all irrelevant. You visit the same type of structures with the typical gamey, improve yourself game loop. In this case it’s to acquire a new ship and purchase inventory space, to carry more space-crap around. The amazing universe is impressively static.
Still interested in the game? Ok, read on.
Historically, games within the space sod genre tend to be a bit… grindy. No Mans Sky is no different in that regard. Rather than the soul crushing pursuit of money and fame, we have been charged with refuelling your ship and life support. You do this by mining the planets of their natural resources then buggering off. Arrrrr, a different kinda grind. I can understand why the development team did this. It encourages people to really explore the brave new land they’ve just landed on, as you are literally forced to scramble around the planet in a desperate attempt to refuel your weedy ship. As the worlds aren’t as varied as you’d been led to believe, it becomes a bit of pain in the arse.
If you are in a rush to get to the centre of the universe, this is probably not the game for you. This will only lead to extreme frustration, as you’ll forever be in the menu screens putting together warp cores and mining space blobs. I tolerated the survival aspect and found after a while, you fall into a casual collection rhythm to keep life support humming, which brings us neatly to the next point.
This is not a game for hoarders. This is a game about travelling light.
I am a hoarder and I do struggle with this aspect of the game. When somethings described as “super-rare” I want to put it in my special magic box to admire it later, or show off at parties. This is a game with a purposely limited inventory, forcing you to scrap or sell everything you don’t need, as you can mostly replace everything with ease. The occasion will arise when you’re reduced to tears, as you remember that ton of copper you sold is exactly what you need for that new shiny upgrade… Bugga’.
Repetition is the key word in No Mans Sky. I’m not sure how long I’ve got before I tire of the same looking buildings on different coloured worlds. This complaint was to be expected. Did you really think an entire universe would really appear before your eyes with a billion different buildings with a billion different alien cultures, with their own unique cultures and haircuts?
This is a game about taking your time, admiring the view, selling your ill-gotten goods at the local space shop, checking out a landmark or two, snapping a picture of the local distorted body-horror wildlife and taking it easy.
No Mans Sky is not an online meeting place. It is not really a first person shooter. It’s not a dedicated dogfight sim. Before purchasing such a thing… you must ask the question. What kinda experience do you want? You need to know what you’re getting yourself into, as the marketing teams did a wonderful job at selling the game by any means necessary and the late review embargo guaranteed a reliance on advertising. I trust you dear reader, I know you weren’t taken in by grandiose statements or flashy videos, you’re good people. No Mans Sky features some of the great pre-release claims but if you took it at face value, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the results. In many regards, this is an old fashioned game with sexy back-end technology, No Mans Sky hits you with an initial sense of wonder that inevitably fades with time.
Let’s talk about the most computery game thing in No Mans Sky. Sentinels. Yes, you’re not the fantastic trailblazing adventurer you think you are, as every planet’s protected by (and I’ll quote the back of the box blurb here) “robot wankers”. You crazy kids and your desperate need for gun shootouts. I could do without them, maybe reserving them for a few choice planets, as a rare shooty-shooty surprise. That would be preferable to seeing them on every bloody planet you land on, but hey, the kids love space lasers. The combat in No Mans Surprise isn’t worth discussing at length. It’s there, works ok and lets keep reusing the word simple because it perfectly sums it up.
There are actual goals in the game, as No Mans Sky gently nudges you along to the centre of the universe and does provide the odd side-quests, of a sort. Oh, a quick mention to the world map… it’s pretty painful. Where the hell is the centre? Where am I in the universe? How do I get a sense of place? Is it because it’s not relevant? Why plan a route to a section of the galaxy when ultimately, it doesn’t matter? It’s random innit.
There is no big whizz bang adventure story. I think such a simple game could’ve benefited from a little whizz bang. Imagine this for an amazing idea. Just throw in the entire Flash Gordon film for a story mode. Complete with Brian Blessed bellowing and a smarmy mustachioed man limply inserting his hand into a space hole. I’d play the shit outta’ that story. Forget aimlessly wandering around a universe when you can break up Ming’s wedding after flying in from Mongo.
You can procedurally generate worlds, but so far, we cannot procedurally generate story.
I’m a big fan of No Mans Sky’s art design. Indeed we were all sold on such a bold vision. Although at times the executions a little shaky, at least on the PC version. Strange graphical pop ups can be expected whilst rendering an entire planet, seeded planets give away to seedy graphics. At times it’s utterly beautiful, other times, ugly. Sometimes smooth, other times jerky. Strangely, at least for me, the jerkiness fades after extended play. The patches will come, the experience will be improved upon, but even with these problems, No Mans Sky is more than capable of providing visually interesting moments. The thrill of getting into your ship to instantly escape the atmosphere of a planet is a thing of beauty and I dread the day that it bores me. The fancy colours, teeming with dense vegetation and wildlife keep generally keep the planets interesting. At least, it kept me interested. You might not be as tolerant.
No Mans Sky is a technical marvel without any real depth. It’s like they developed the technology to seed a universe, land on any planet and thought… shit… what do we do with this? How do we make a game from it? The answer is: with great difficulty.
Does No Mans Sky live up to the bold claims? Well, no. It was poorly explained and couldn’t hope to live up to such incredible statements. Do you blame the company for wanting your excitement, or the lunatics for buying into a dream? I believe if the game was released tomorrow without much fanfare, it would be a (possibly cult) hit, catering directly for people who adore these types of games.
Is the game broken? Yes, somewhat. I’m currently stuck until an incoming patch fixes the game. Until that point it was playable with the odd bug and framerate stutter.
Am I having a good time? Yes, yes I am. But I didn’t expect the world. Just the ability to visit them in a mildly superficial manner. I’d poured hours of my life into Elite, Freelancer, Evochron Mercenary and friends. I don’t mind repetition and can suspend my disbelief. The little discoveries in No Mans Sky keep me interested… for now. I may have sounded a tad miserable in my write up, but I’m still enjoying my time with the game. No Mans Sky is a quirky game.
You must worry at the whole process. Years before release an E3 trailer shows wonderful technology with stunning art direction and we all took an interest. What is this space game?
Since that time people have constantly asked “what do you do in No Mans Sky?”
As you attempt to fashion No Mans Sky out of muddled code, you’re asked to talk about the game. You know what you want the game to be, you have big plans, as you catch a glimpse of a sinister man in the shadows, you squint… is.. that the shape of a top hat? You faintly hear a metallic tapping sound. “Yes, you can take part in epic space battles and meet the occasional player online, but that will be very rare”. The silent man in the top hat doesn’t move, you can feel his presence. No matter, the people are excited, the strange tapping sound continues. “Aliens will have factions and their own agendas” you squeak. The game is delayed, the money begins to dry up, “Yes, the planets go round the sun, did I mention there are a trillion planets in No Mans Sky!” The sinister man comes out from the shadows, his top hat haggard and bloody, his giant wet eyes piercing deep into you. He incessantly taps his broken watch, the game must be released. It must. The big ideas were too big, release it now! The visions compromised but the coffers are filled. “We can fix it in patches” you mutter to yourself, “we can always fix it in patches”. You flop into your well worn chair. 6 out of 10. Was the sinister top hat man even there in the first place?
Utterly pointless giving such a game a score. you already decided if this is for you or not after the first few paragraphs, remember? One mans 9 another mans 3.
If forced, at gunpoint, to give a score it’s a 8 in week one, a 7 in week two and I suspect a shrug in 6 months time. No Mans Sky is really not for everyone, despite the hard sell.