No Man’s Sky (PS4)

Introduction – The Sky’s The Limit

I know this is said to be a “game”.  I use this term loosely as I think it doesn’t quite fit the criteria to be called a game.  I believe this is where the harsh criticism stems against this highly ambitious title from the internet at large.  I believe expectations was that it was going to be more action packed (a la Star Wars, Wing Commander, etc) but instead what we got was a survival/exploration simulator.  If you put it under that context, it actually does what it does quite well.  There are some game-like elements like taking on space pirates, meeting with alien races, and crafting components to help in your survival.  But for me, this is the ultimate time killer.  Just to zone out and take in the virtual outer space and the galaxies that occupy that empty void.

But this doesn’t mean the randomly created planets and wildlife are not always fun to explore.  Repetitive, yes.  But I’m not playing it as a game.  Just as an experience.  Even if the algorithm is easy to predict after a while, it is still enjoyable just to cruise around outer space and see what there is to see.  After all, isn’t that what we enjoy about the science fiction genre?  To explore and see what is out there beyond our own tiny planet and beyond our own existence?  Also, life forms may be similar due to the composition of their environments (for those that follow evolution).  An example would be the frogs that exist across the globe.  They may have similar shapes but different patterns, sizes, and defense mechanisms that were developed to suit their environment. It is highly likely that if two planets have similar atmospheres with minor/moderate differences, it is not unfeasible to imagine this same situation occuring on two different planets.  But I suspect this won’t satisy the fact that the polygons and the bone structure they form for the creatures are fairly simliar with each randomly generated creature.  Ah well…I’m willing to overlook that at the very least.

Story

As far as I have experienced, there is no story.  But rumors suggest you are just trying to get to the center of the universe.  But you do encounter the lore of alien races and you slowly collect words for the languages of said alien races.  This also enhances your linguistics so you may understand them more easily, whether you actually interact with the ones you meet or just read markers along the way.

But the real fun is to just explore new worlds and do what they said in the Star Trek motto…”to boldly go” where no human has gone before.  To be blunt, this game is more like Star Trek and far less like Star Wars.  Even if subspace travel feels like I am riding in the Millenium Falcon taking on the Kessel Run in about 14 parsecs or longer.  I mean 12!  I am so sorry, Han Solo!  That mistake won’t happen again!  Please don’t let loose the wookie!  I am allergic to laser blasts and fuzz balls that aren’t cats, dogs, mice, or rabbits!

Gameplay

I’ve heard the rumors and they seem to compare it to Minecraft.  That is most certainly one segment of the “simulation”.  That is to say that you do spend a fair amount of time collecting resources and using them to build/upgrade your ship and equipment or to make necessary materials.  You use your multitool to mine materials and it can also be used as a weapon if the situation calls for it.  The other major portion of this “sim” is traveling from planet to planet in space.  Admittedly, I get the best emotional rush everytime I come into land and see the ship look like it is burning up as it plummets through the atmosphere, careening towards the planet surface.  The hyperdrive space travel is just as fun simply because the light show you get just makes you think of the VFX used for the Millenium Falcon when it is making a jump.  I’ve had only one space pirate attack so far but I’ve only jumped once between galaxies when it happened.  I am spending too much time on the planets I have uncovered and still want to explore more of each one.  Mind you, I’ve already spent many hours on this game already.

Needless to say, it still hasn’t gotten old for me on either of these points.  I think the best article that gave an excellent description of it came from Kotaku when they interviewed the studio Hello Games prior to launch by almost two years.

Anyways, at the start of the game, you have to repair your scanner.  This is actually somewhat important as it is how you earn credits in the game without having to sell materials.  Once you have repaired your scanner, you use it to start scanning materials and naming everything you find.  This is fun at first and you get credits to spend when you do so.  But after a while, it just gets tedious.  It certainly puts into perspective what the first explorers/biologists of our tiny Earth had to go through.  Well, besides causing environmental damage and wiping out the natives (Spain, I am looking at you for the exploration of North and South America with the pigs and horses that came with the conquistadors).  Back on point though, you can just submit the automatically generated names of the flora/fauna instead of manually renaming them.  The same goes for the planets and universes you discover as well.  They can be renamed as you discover them as well.

However, I am at a loss as to how to make an appropriate analogy of this game.  But let’s give it a shot.  The analogy involves a witch that brews a potion that will only work for those that want it to work.  It blends all the best elements from other ingredients (game genres) and ends up in a giant vial, ready for consumption (official release).  Those that were looking forward to the exploration with a brief periods of combat were well rewarded, I believe.  So this “potion” worked for them.  The other portion that just wanted to start a massive space war and set all hell loose in space everywhere, got shafted.  Or rather, they feel shafted.  Instead, they started hell…hell on the internet on whether the game is worthwhile or truly massive.  To see a list of reviews, check out Metacritic for an aggregate score from different sources and wildly dissenting opinions.

Conclusion

All in all, I would put myself in the camp that liked this game.  Why?  Simply because it allows me to do what I used to dream of doing, exploring space and its wild frontiers.  At one point, humans were making steady progress towards this goal until they turned on each other and decided to fight wars instead of uniting towards a grand goal of human expansion.  And then the internet came to help spread hate!  A true pity really…

Anyways, back on topic.  This game I would give a solid 7 out of 10 black holes of awesomeness.  I’d give it higher but I have to dock it for some minor glitches here and there, the similar bone structures of the creatures (aka: the lack of variety) and how long it takes to find the right materials to make the important equipment.  Ah well, back into the darkness of this awesome galaxy to avoid the controversy that is almost as bad as the Trump vs Hillary presidential race.  Forward ho into oblivion!

-RurouniGatts

PS: And yet here is another gameplay sampler.  I can hear you already:  PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!  JUST STOP WITH THESE!  Well, too bad!  Just kidding!  Enjoy it by clicking here.

1/1/2017 UPDATE:  Thanks to some conversations with my brother-in-law and some research, now I know the real reason for the anger.  I didn’t look at any ads for this game at all which is why I was sheltered from the “false advertising” of this game.  Steam had taken an extraordinary step involving this game as well.  Because I didn’t pay attention to the ads,I had no expectations to disappoint.  Just a game I looked at on the shelf and said to myself “I’ll give it a shot”.  Apparently, that was the better approach to it.  Sometimes, marketing just gets carried away with something and this was one of those times.  But the Star Wars expectation versus Star Trek analogy still stands but now it is assisted by the ads that misled gamers.  My deepest condolences to those that had high expectations due to the ads when the game was nowhere near it on the delivery.  A tombstone has now been made in honor of your expectations.  As for the game, I will still enjoy it for what it is and not the expectation that many had.  It is just a game that was a victim of over-promising and under-delivering.

 

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