No Man’s Sky Notes

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky is such a strange game, I love it, but it really is odd. The trailers before the game was released advertised it as featuring different types of gameplay, but what I’ve played so far makes it clear that this is a sci-fi exploration game with a major element of resource gathering. There isn’t really that much crafting with those resources yet, the developers have said they will add base-building in a future update. That’s a huge change to a game that already is out there, but what you’re doing so far with the resources you gather is put together components for your spaceship and exosuit, as well as fueling those.

There is a storyline, but I haven’t seen much of it yet, and it is entirely optional. Because the universe of No Man’s Sky is procedurally generated, and so huge, you could bypass it completely and just explore different worlds and their inhabitants. Procedural generation was a hot buzzword a while ago, but it ended up making some terrible environments. The procedurally generated worlds and creatures of No Man’s Sky are more fun and lead to some incredibly wacky things, what you see in the game is most likely going to be incredibly different from anyone else. I’ve found dinosaur dogs with wings on their legs and I’m kind of surprised at how different each world is. One planet I just landed on had strange bracket-shaped plateaus dotting the landscape as I hovered over it in my ship.

It’s clear that different parts of the game have different parameters to whatever algorithms generate each thing. Some are better than others. The ships are generated this way and almost universally look incredible or like a believable garbage scow, but some of the worlds have flaws that are obviously due to the process that made them. One that I landed on last night had a gap in the terrain that if you fell through put you outside of the game’s geometry. The only way to recover was to reload from a recent save.

Minecraft is something that I see people comparing No Man’s Sky to, but while it is a useful comparison they’re very different games.

Minecraft has no story if you ignore Telltale Games’ Minecraft Story Mode since it doesn’t ship with Minecraft. Minecraft also more clearly has the different gameplay types that No Man’s Sky advertised. It’s a viable option in Minecraft to just build in creative mode, or play to explore and survive in survival and hardcore mode. No Man’s Sky feels like more of game because it has an optional storyline and polish to its world. There’s more intent to it as opposed to the lego-like blocks that make up Minecraft’s world.

I’m enjoying No Man’s Sky for the exploration, and although I typically hate resource gathering it is actually enjoyable here. Resources are visually interesting in plants or as other kinds of terrain features that provide them.

The combat in No Man’s Sky is insufferable and the biggest drawback to the game. If you’re in space combat, and your ship is under attack by 10 different ships as mine was the first time I answered a distress signal, you’re going to die not because of a higher skill from the opponents but because all of your systems require fueling and repair, manually, through the inventory screen while you’re being pummeled in real-time.

Combat on-foot is the same, although maybe slightly less concerning since you have less to lose and are more likely to have saved recently. It’s still incredibly awful to be in the middle of a fight with three or more flying drones and need to recharge a weapon manually via the inventory in real-time.

I can understand the impetus to want to retain the same interfaces and not make an entirely new one just for fighting. I also have a great deal of respect for Hello Games, they were incredibly interested in supporting Linux for their Joe Danger games back when I wrote for the now-defunct LinuxGames.com. But it is difficult to imagine anyone thinking that this real-time inventory management during combat was a good idea. It could have been interesting in a kind of FTL systems-management under-fire perspective, but that isn’t what this is. 

It could be that as you progress in the game your gear will change and provide more benefits during combat, there are some hints of that after the few hours I’ve put in so far, but I don’t see it ever changing to completely remove the burden.

My hope is that the game is updated to pause while you’re in the inventory or just does something else entirely with the combat because this one part of the game is dreadful.

I’m still enjoying NMS and I feel like I’m about to indoctrinated into a cult as I follow the Atlas quest. This isn’t a review because I haven’t had a chance to play more of it yet, but I would still recommend No Man’s Sky to anyone interested in living in the universe of a 1950’s sci-fi novel cover.

Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky has been out for a week now on the Playstation 4, and I’ve been playing it since Friday on Windows.

Author: Jack Slater

A Philadelphian exiled to Hawaii. You can follow or contact me on Twitter where I’m @TimeDoctor, via the contact page, or via e-mail to zjs AT zacharyjackslater dot com

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