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Stop hating on No Man's Sky!


Screenshot of a lush screen planet with numerous strange creatures generated by No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky starts you off as a lonely explorer with a crashed ship and a severe case of amnesia. You're marooned on a hostile alien planet in the outlying region of a procedurally-generated galaxy of 18 quintillion planets. What happens next is completely up to you.

Getting started

Once you've collected your wits, you'll want to start mining resources to repair your ship so you can blast off and explore the rest of the solar system. Later you can build a hyperdrive to jump between stars.

In the intervening time you'll find yourself cataloguing new species of flora and fauna, learning to communicate and trade with the aliens you'll meet during your travels, documenting places of interest, discovering new technologies and deciding if you want to journey to the centre of the galaxy or not.

Given the massive scope of the game, your own journey is guaranteed to be completely unique to you. In fact, the very reason I haven't included a lot of gameplay screenshots in this blog post is that part of my enjoyment of the game comes from knowing that I'm discovering parts of the galaxy other people will probably never see.

Bad press

Let's be honest, No Man's Sky has had more than its fair share of rotten tomatoes flung at it. This is down in no small part to the developers being unclear during their marketing and leaking patched early releases of the game instead of sending out review copies for the usual channels to work with.

There were also a lot of teething problems at launch. In fact, I haven't managed to get sound working consistently on the PC version as the game seems to struggle with the MSI-branded AMD R9 380 graphics card I use in my gaming rig. As a result a few weeks ago I gave up and switched to the PS4 port instead. I lost all my progress and pre-order bonuses which isn't great, but it has made the experience a lot more enjoyable.

However...

Let's remember that unlike certain sweetheart projects that continue to empty peoples' wallets without really delivering, No Man's Sky fulfilled exactly what it promised in its kickstarter. Also, they've resolved a lot of launch problems and even added new features like planetary bases, freighters and the ability to stack resources and leave messages for other players on certain planets you visit.

If you're after epic space battles that take weeks to complete then Eve: Online is probably a better choice. If you're after a space combat/trucking simulator then Elite Dangerous is another great pick. But ultimately those aren't the primary focuses of No Man's Sky.

This game is about exploring a galaxy at your own pace. You can race around doing the bare minimum to upgrade your ship and equipment, or you can slow the pace enough to use it for ASMR videos. As someone who works a 9-5 job with a big commute on either side it feels great to be able to crash out on the sofa at the end of a day and have the option of doing something relaxing (like exploring caves and feeding weird animals) or exciting (like breaking into a manufacturing facility while angry drones buzz around my head) depending on my mood.

This game also truly impresses on you the vast scale and emptiness of space and how vanishingly rare planets with human-friendly conditions are. This very shouty YouTube video echoes my view on how refreshing it is to find a game that forces introspection and grants you maximum freedom to define what success looks like for yourself. People genuinely care about the cool things they discover, to the point they're even memorialising loved ones who've passed away.

In summary

If you prefer games that are action-packed, prescribe particular storylines that "branch" or offer fixed "jobs" you can choose between that is completely fine. But it seems a shame to attack No Man's Sky for lacking those things, because it's the very lack of them that marks it out as a unique and worthwhile experience. I love this game, and long may it continue!