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No Man’s Sky – First Impressions

Mason Sylvia

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Upon my humble beginnings into No Man’s Sky, the latest and innovative title from UK indie developer Hello Games, I was immediately overcome by a sense of wonder and concern. My very basic and generic-looking ship was crash landed on a planet whose name I couldn’t pronounce in a solar system whose name I could only dream of pronouncing and there was a bunch of hardware and mechanical pieces of technology scattered about. The atmosphere of the planet I was intruding upon was rather gorgeous, making excellent use of a wide and interesting color palette in various shades and hues. It is a unique art style that is showcased on the game’s box art—call me biased, but I am a sucker for Tiffany blue—and it’s certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

With the unboxing itself, the presentation of the game is hit and miss. We have a lovely art design for the packaging and an eye-catching font, but like many games before it, No Man’s Sky contains nothing more than the game disc itself. With press copies, there was a note from Sean Murray himself, and I was a little disappointed that something similar did not make its way into the retail copies for the fans. It’s a lost art, really, that only CD Projekt Red seems to cherish and perpetuate, which is why I’m glad I opted for the limited edition of the game, which will be arriving tomorrow—much appreciated, Amazon—so I can get a little more bang for my buck in terms of physical content.

I began my first hour on this planet, collecting the resources necessary to complete my objective: get my spacecraft up and running again. I learned very quickly that No Man’s Sky features somewhat of a wanted system. As I mined aimlessly for resources and components, I was approached by Sentinels—these deadly little eye-bot things—that immediately opened fire in response to my apparent greed. Naturally, I had no weapons save for my multi-tool which I was surprisingly able to cut the Sentinels down with and put an end to my interstellar assault. Going forward, I mined for resources more carefully and more sparingly; I determined shortly after that as long as I collect resources without destroying the flora itself, the Sentinels leave well enough alone. After about half an hour, I had almost everything I needed, except for one critical component to repair the pulse engine so I could actually take off in the ship. I managed to get a very basic understanding of the non-linear direction and lack of mini-map—or any kind of map, for that matter—and realized the HUD indicates the direction of the objective: a deposit of Heridium…which was a 15-minute walking distance from my current location. It goes without saying that after I made the 30-minute round-trip on foot, I was beyond appreciative that I had a spacecraft to make the most out of going forward.

During my trek from Point A to Point B, I stumbled upon a wealth of wildlife, plants, and resources that I analyzed and uploaded to the Atlas, which essentially serves as the game’s encyclopedia of knowledge. Your discoveries—animals, plants, solar systems, planets, and waypoints—can be uploaded to the Atlas for monetary payment as well as recognition in-game. For example, I was the first player to discover that specific planet and solar system as well as the inhabitants, and because I uploaded the discoveries’ data to the Atlas, my username will forever be attached to the discovery, even in another player’s game…which is a little odd for a game that has absolutely zero multiplayer features whatsoever. Yeah, we all remember the initial discussions about No Man’s Sky and a potential multiplayer component, where Sean Murray said something along the lines of “The chances of running into another player is almost zero percent,” which is obviously now literally zero percent, as the game is a strictly single-player experience. To be honest, I think that is rather detrimental to the experience.

Ironic, indeed. Everyone who knows me on a personal level knows how much I don’t care for online or multiplayer experiences, because I like to enjoy the game alone without any unwelcomed interruptions or complications from other parties. With that being said, though, I feel like No Man’s Sky would have benefitted from something akin to Destiny, where players are in the game world with you, but you are not forced to interact nor play with them at all. Why? Well, No Man’s Sky feels rather…well, empty. Yeah, I know the game has 18 quintillion planets to explore and things of that nature, but even Minecraft has multiplayer features. I didn’t stumble upon any NPCs until my third or fourth hour into the game, when I finally happened upon a space station and a few other ships arrived and docked on the neighboring docking stations. Of course, I ran over to investigate and with most of the NPCs I’ve encountered, the only communication is trading—buying and selling goods. You almost feel truly alone and it’s rather disappointing and mildly unsettling. However, I did eventually find a few faction-based NPCs to interact with and raised my affinity level with them to the point where they gifted me some cool technology, including a well-upgraded multi-tool. Once I managed to get far enough on their good side, a small list of requests become available like asking them to teach you a new word in their language, or request healing services, and things of that nature. It’s almost minimal, the interaction with these NPCs, but I’ll take what I can get at this point. I’m starting to get lonely out here in the confines of space.

Exploring space itself is slightly overwhelming, if I am completely honest, but that is not to say it isn’t enjoyable. It took me about 45 minutes to get from one planet to another, before I discovered the power of the pulse drive which allowed me to travel the remaining 12-minute distance in 25 seconds or so. In the solar system that I was procedurally started in, there wasn’t much in space itself save for a couple hundred thousand asteroids. As I managed to explore deeper, I eventually stumbled upon what looked like a few freighters, but neither of them offered any interaction or gameplay at all…unless I managed to miss something when I circled them six or seven times. I think the number one downside about space exploration—or any exploration, for that matter—is the lack of a map and no ability to set points of interest or custom waypoints or anything of that nature. I literally have to explore everything of interest along the way; I made the mistake of seeing something interesting and saying, “I’ll explore that after I’m done at the space station I’m heading to,” only to forget where that point of interest was and then spend 20 minutes looking for it again, to no avail. We need some kind of breadcrumb system here!

I have to say, I truly am enjoying my time with No Man’s Sky so far, despite a few negatives and a couple of setbacks. I stand by my opinion that the game needs some kind of multiplayer component at the very least, just to make this virtually limitless world a little more populated. It feels incredibly empty and lonely at the moment and that’s where you’ll find my vote on how to improve the atmosphere. Either that, or add a crap ton more of NPCs with more interactions than just trading. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see some substantial additions in future updates. For now, I’m making the best out of it and really getting involved in exploration and upgrading my equipment and spacecraft. I can easily see No Man’s Sky keeping me busy for a very long time…or at least until something becomes unbearably repetitive.

Video game enthusiast, James Bond aficionado, Tomb Raider expert, and lover of Beefeater gin. I'm a creature of habit and I'm either found buried in a book or working through my video game backlog when I'm not working my day job.

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