I first discovered No Man’s Sky while watching the Sony Conference during E3 2014. The scale of the game being it most impressive attribute grabbed my attention and touched on my fascination with space travel. The ability to explore a procedurally generated universe while visiting solar systems and planets is something that I didn’t think was possible.
After years of development by the small team known as Hello Games, the game was finally released in August of 2016. Sony promoted this game just as hard as it would a AAA first party property garnering a lot of hype and attention, much of it being negative. The whirlwind surrounding the game in the months leading up to its release was fierce.
The crusade against No Man’s Sky began with a Polygon article in May that predicted the release date was going to be pushed back. This article was published just weeks before the games scheduled release date in June and shortly after the article was posted, Sony and Hello Games officially announced the new release date in August. The internet went awash with speculation about the validity of the delay.
Then a person obtained an early copy of the game and posted videos online exposing the game play and how long it took to reach the center of the universe (which was much shorter than advertised). Hello Games reset the servers wiping out everything this player accomplished and advised fans to not seek out spoilers for the game.
Once the game was finally released on PS4 on August 12th, players realized that they could not interact with their friends online in the game. The online features were used solely for uploading discoveries (this was announced by Hello Games long before the release). The outraged internet army then searched out videos and articles where Sean Murray (the games lead creator) stated players would be able to interact with each other and see each other in the game.
To make the situation worse, the PC version of the game was delayed 3 days and had many issues with performance. After the days following the release, Hello Games went silent publicly. Public opinion of the game reached an all time low which incentivized Sony to offer funds. The two plus month silence from the developers infuriated the public even more dwindling the total amount of people playing the game online. A lawsuit was even filed in the U.K. over false advertising for the game and was ultimately thrown out of court.
Hello Games broke their silence in November with a massive update to the game. This update added two new game modes (Survival and Creative), base building, the ability to purchase freighters (massive star ships), and improvements to the life on the planets themselves.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky has four main game play components, explorations, survival, combat, and trading. The game starts with the player (named the traveller) waking up next to his crashed space ship on a random planet on the outside edge of the universe. The traveller is shown how to use the multi-tool to mine for resources to craft new parts to repair the compromised ship.
The tutorial is designed well, forcing you to learn how to use your jet pack, inventory, multi-tool, and how to craft before leaving the planet. In your search for resources you are exposed to the wildlife of the planet that you can scan, document, and upload to the Atlas servers.
Once you are up and flying, you learn how to operate your space ship. There are three main speeds of travel, normal speed, hyperdrive, and warp speed. My first time playing this game I was shocked by how large its scale is. Before I learned about the different traveling speeds, I saw a space station in the distance. I placed my cursor on the station and it stated it would take hours to reach it going at the default slow speed. I knew this game covered an entire galaxy made up of 18.6 quintillion planets, but it took that moment for the real immense scale of the game to settle in.
Every star has a solar system, which contains planets and moons that can be explored. In these countless solar systems there is a space station that houses aliens and a place for travelers to trade. There are three alien species that you interact with, Gek, Korvax, and Vy’keen. All species have their own language that can be learned slowly while playing the game via the discovery of Rosetta stones.
The goal of the game is to explore the galaxy while traveling closer to the center of the universe. You can freely warp from solar system to solar system at your own leisure, or follow the path of the Atlas, the mysterious all-knowing entity.
During your journey, you gather resources to keep your ship, multi-tool, and protective exosuit operating. Each planet has its own unique life forms in rocks, plants, and animals. The planets are also occupied by monoliths left by aliens races, trading outposts, and various structures occupied by resident aliens. Excess resources collected can be traded for money (called units) which in return can be used to buy a better space ship, multi-tool, and goods.
The planets are guarded by sentinels, robots who monitor the depletion of resources. If you become gluttonous in your mining, the sentinels will attack with increasing fire power and strength the more they are disobeyed. While being attacked, you have a choice of fighting back with your multi-tool or to retreat. Each planet has its own weather system with storms, rain, radioactivity, and extreme temperatures, sometimes making it difficult to survive. The discoveries of plants and animals are rewarded with units when they are uploaded and catalogued in the Atlas database.
As you continue on your journey, you uncover new blueprints for star ship, multi-tool, and exosuit upgrades. These upgrades make mining and survival easier and more efficient. Also during your journeys, pirate space ships will constantly scan for valuable goods and attack you to steal your hard-earned resources. Fighting them off with a photon cannon is possible, but if they do succeed in killing you, you will wake up at your last save point without your goods. To retrieve your lost items, you have to reach the location that you perished, similar to Dark Souls.
I chose to follow the path of the Atlas during my playing of this game. The Atlas has space stations more spread out and offer you advice and awards you with an atlas stone if they deem you to be a worthy traveller. Your status as a traveller is determined by 9 different categories. Those categories are distance traveled on foot, number of aliens met, words learned, units earned, starships destroyed, sentinels destroyed, days survived in extreme conditions, amount of times warped (solar systems visited), and discovering every species on a planet. Each one of these categories has 10 levels making it possible to have a traveler rating of 90.
The higher your rating is, the more likely you are to receive an Atlas stone. I wont spoil what happens when you reach the center of the universe or the end of the Atlas journey but I will tell you it is satisfying.
In the hundreds of hours that I played this game I enjoyed most of them. As you can see below I reached level 10 in every journey milestone while visiting 149 planets and 104 solar systems.
This game is everything I expected it to be. A casual (do nothing game as my friends call them) that I could pick up and play any time free of stress. Discovering every animal species on a planet was way to difficult and my least favorite aspect of the game. Over the 4 months I played this game it crashed about a dozen times, mostly while uploading discoveries to the database.
It’s unfortunate that this game will be remembered for its disastrous release. No Man’s Sky should be remembered for its ambition and intense space exploration.