No Man’s Sky’s launch came with massive hype and expectations. A large part of this was due to Hello Games allowing speculation to run rampant ahead of its release instead of giving gamers hard facts, but regardless of the reason, perhaps no game this year has had a bigger hurdle to leap as far as gamers expectations than No Man’s Sky. Did it reach the stars, or did it fall woefully short? Let’s find out in our No Man’s Sky Final Opinion review.
There was no doubt that No Man’s Sky was going to be big, what with 18 quintillion planets to explore. The question was if exploring all of those worlds was going to be worth it. The answer turns out to be mixed. If your goal is bee-lining for the center of the galaxy – No Man’s Sky’s endgame – then no, you won’t find much to make it worth your time. The reason being that most of the best stuff is on the planets (and more often, their moons) around stars that require higher level hyperspace drives to visit, and leveling that up takes time and exploration. Jumping from one system to the next won’t net you the best gear, you have to explore the surfaces of the various planets and moons.
Once you find do gear upgrades, often times you have to craft them. This involves a Minecraft-style hunt for resources which on its own has a compulsive charm, but when coupled with the restrictive inventory management system, it becomes a chore. Your starting backpack and ship storage are so small that it makes no sense to horde minerals and instead only mine them as you need them. The game quickly turns into a series of mini-missions to find gear upgrades, then the requisite resources, then craft said upgrade before repeating with the next piece of gear.
If you take your nose out of your backpack long enough to take in your surroundings, there are some interesting things to see. While a great number of planets skew towards the drab and hazardous (toxic, burning hot, freezing cold, etc.), finding a planet with advanced life is often exciting. Naming and uploading your discoveries is also fun, at least for the first few. After that you’ll start haphazardly naming them before uploading just to get the max credit (No Man’s Sky’s currency) reward. The plants and animals tend to blend together, visually, after a while so keeping your enthusiasm up for each discovery can be tough. As with the planets, once in a while you will come across something really unique and creative, and that “oh, wow!’ moment is what makes playing No Man’s Sky worthwhile.
The controls are my biggest sticking point. Flying does not feel intuitive and often seems to be running on automatic. You can’t crash your ship into the ground as your autopilot keeps a healthy distance from the surface, and trying to dogfight is harder than necessary due to the sluggish controls. Landing is also tricky in that you can’t get a look at where you’re landing from your cockpit perspective so it becomes a guessing game, one that can quickly get expensive with each take-off costing you valuable minerals. Shooting on foot isn’t much better, so survival is more about outlasting your foes (usually one of the AI sentinels, a kind of robotic space police) rather than about accuracy or skill.
The presentation is ok, with simple yet charming visuals and good use of color. The interface could use a complete overhaul, though, especially the “hold to select” mouse clicks. The audio – aside from the music – is not great. I got very tired of the robot voice nagging me about every little thing. The biggest presentation offender is the in-game achievement system, which hijacks your view for a good couple seconds with a graphic that takes up 80% of the screen and prevents you from interacting with the game while it’s up.
In the end, is No Man’s Sky good? Not if you’re looking for action, or space trading, or good flying controls. It is good, though, at what it sets out to do, and that’s give you a huge galaxy to explore with procedurally generated flora and fauna to encounter. It’s just a shame that No Man’s Sky wasn’t marketed as just that, and instead (probably pushed by Sony) promoted trading and action as features and failed to quell the rampant speculation filling in the gaps they left. Still, if you want a slower-paced game that gives you a ton to explore, even if what you discover won’t always be that exciting, then No Man’s Sky is…