No Man’s Sky is finally here in a Non-VR state and as expected it is a game impossible to review. Many outlets tried to put a review in progress etc. on their sites but the truth is the game is impossible to review. Like Minecraft, this is an experience game, you play for the experiences, not the mechanics. Luckily the experience is very good.
Despite what the trailers may have you believe, No Man’s Sky is not a Han Solo simulator. You can experience thrilling space dogfights, but you can equally drift aimlessly for 30 minutes towards an undiscovered planet only to find it devoid of interest. Such is the draw and the dismay of this game.
Starting at random, no two players should have exactly the same experience. You begin with a broken ship and only a basic guide in how to repair it. Those looking action will be sorely disappointed in the first few hours. You have an Omni-tool that deals with combat and mining resources but the resource gathering will take up your first few hours. You begin by gathering resources almost immediately. You will no doubt spend a few moments looking around whatever randomly generated world you have started on. Mine had a temperature of minus 47 that dropped further at night meaning there was only so long I could stay outside my broken ship, gathering resources before I froze to death. Slowly but surely I found enough resources to repair my scanner, then the scanner allowed me to find the resources necessary to repair the engines, then repair the thrust engines… and so it goes on. This is both the pattern of the whole game and its hook. If you don’t like resource gathering and grinding, then ignore the hype and DO NOT BUY THIS GAME.
Luckily I enjoy this aspect of games so I am able to experience some of the amazing sights the game has to offer. Never before has a game immersed you in a lonely, harsh world such as this. You literally have to start thinking about survival from the first minute. Your suit needs power, which comes from isotopes farmed from local rocks and plants. The fact that the planets are random mean that some people will have a harder start than others. You may have hostile randomly created creatures around that stop you gathering the needed resources. When you do, you get to take off for the first time and now the wonder of the game is revealed. You can travel across realistically scaled planetscapes or pull back on the stick and take to the stars to find a more interesting planet. Along the way, you will discover beacons and other points of interest that remain unexplained to date. Only after two hours, I discovered my first alien. Of course, they don’t speak English and you have to find parts of the language in hidden dictionaries, one word at a time. It really allows you to forge your own path in this world away from the normal constraints of linear gameplay unless you crave direction.
There is a beacon at the start that allows you to take what is called the Alpha path through the game. I chose this and thankfully, now there is a bit of direction. You are told of markers to visit, that will take a few hours to get to. I immediately set off but like GTA or Fallout got completely distracted by the first shiny thing I saw as I was cruising along on my spaceship. That is the kind of game you have with No Man’s Sky. You set out to have a dedicated couple of hours with the game only to find yourself sitting at 1am haveing accomplished nothing except naming a newly discovered creature runny butt face. I had to it looked like something that ran a lot and had a face like a butt.
Unfortunately, despite all this freedom there is a real missing element in this game. Of course, I’m referring to VR. If only it had been a launch title for PSVR. The game screams immersion at you. If you had been wearing a VR headset then this could have been the gateway to unbelievable experiences. The graphics are wonderfully colourful but not exactly detailed, meaning it should have been possible to produce for VR. Even the field of vision feels too close to the screen meaning you would be pressed up against the glass of your spacesuit. Had it been in VR, this would all have felt so natural and so entertaining. I would have cared so much more about finding runny butt face had I looked around and saw him making a stupid chicken like walk over to my right. On screen, it is still amazing but the sheer joy you could have had exploring in VR will forever taint this game until it is possible.
So far my experience has been limited to getting off to what I consider a solid start. Farming and upgrading on one planet, before moving to the next. I have travelled in space using my hyperdrive and it gives a great sensation of speed. Three space pirates have flown past my ship but decided not to attack it because I carried nothing of value and I have sold my excess treasure on the galactic market with its changing prices and expensive retailers. That last poorly punctuated paragraph is the perfect summary of an hours play at the game. You will bounce from one element of this game to another without really achieving or completing anything. Luckily there is an extensive stats and milestones screen in the game to just give you that encouragement that your time has not been wasted. Because without this it is very easy to feel that any time you have spent in No Man’s Sky would have been better spent in another game. This is the dilemma for anyone playing it. Do you carry on in this world that doesn’t give great feedback or feeling of achievement? Or do you cut your losses and play a normal game?
As ever the choice is yours. Without VR it is a choice you will need to consider carefully.
You Can buy it here