$60 seems a little steep for this title, even with its ambitious nature and scope of a universe.
First, let me preface this review by saying that as a reviewer, it is important to take a lot of things into consideration when looking over what it takes to be a game of quality. While the words that follow these will focus on the experiences and thoughts I had while playing No Man’s Sky, understand that the final score is what is given based on how I felt once I put the controller down and closed out of the game. Now that that’s been established, lets continue.
Starting off in a random planet, desolate, vast, but seemingly empty in the deep crater among the wreckage of my small but capable starship, I immediately got excited at the possibilities above and outside of the hole I found myself in. Knowing that my trusty jetpack would boost me out in a thrust or two, I was overwhelmed with anticipation to begin exploring the lands of a planet I knew no other living player has ever seen before. With that in mind, I took one long look at the debris surrounding my little X-Wing knockoff, and headed into the great beyond in the direction of nowhere specific, save for what my imagination had flooded into my hopes and expectations set by developer Hello Games and lead dev, Sean Murray.
Boosting out of the crater with my handy jetpack and multi-purpose mining tool, I immediately began to admire the size and scope of the planet. Without a doubt, I was on a planet that would be to scale of say, Pluto or perhaps a small moon in our very solar system. This idea caused a rush of excitement that surged through my entire being. I look left, I look right, I look anywhere, and I am showered with thoughts of what could possibly be out there waiting for me. So naturally, I picked a direction and took off.
After walking for a few minutes, I found a few plants and animals, the latter of which I named randomly based off of their unique designs. Some were as small as poodles, others were the size of industrial shipping crates. All of which could not be named anything inappropriate, no matter how hard I tried to bypass the strict name-filtering system.
It was at this time that my excitement reached new heights. Less than 20 minutes in and I have already torn down a bunch of plantlife to add to my extremely limited inventory space of planetary materials and named a bunch of creatures after genitalia in the most creative ways the game would allow (peanushead for example). Once more, I continued on my journey for another 10 minutes in search of more exciting creatures and wildlife inhabiting this unique planet.
And then I continued on foot for another 20 minutes…
And then another 30 minutes…
And then another hour…
And then I realized something incredibly daunting- This is all there is to No Man’s Sky. Let me reiterate. Walking, harvesting materials by pointing your sidearm at a plant, and more walking. Yes, the scope of No Man’s Sky is intense when you think about it. And when I finally repaired my ship and took off for the first time (after well over 90 minutes of walking around the planet searching for literally nothing in particular), I was stoked. I could literally fly around the whole planet and land wherever I wanted. But there was no point or purpose in doing either.
“Unfortunately… Size isn’t everything.”
After leaving the planet, I thought that there would be no way this is all the game could possibly be. Just harvesting materials and moving on? A full planet and there are no established civilizations, or ancient ruins even? Surely there would be some sort of PvP or enemy encounters on the planet, right? And there were, if I attacked them first. Which means you were perfectly safe from enemy attack… if you did not start the fight and create the enemies in the first place.
Once I was in orbit, I noticed a waypoint off in the distance that lead me to a spacestation, whose inhabitants totaled in only one NPC who would be willing to boost my life shield and sell me a ship for more money than I could have possibly made selling materials found on the previous planet I was on.
The one thing I did not get a chance to experience, as much as I tried, was a space battle between me, and anyone who wanted to challenge my puny little starfighter. Sure, the ship can be upgraded, and it can shoot little photon blasts at asteroids, but I knew going in that if I managed to engage in a space fight, I would get demolished since I was not prepared to survive. But this begs the question- what is the point?
The entire game hinges on one very specific purpose, and that is to get to the center of the universe. Which, I am told, takes 30 hours (or less if you cheese it), and that to me seems to be an issue. Why do I want to go to the center of the universe? What could be waiting for me there? Surely I would be willing to put in 30 hours of my time or so to complete this task after spending $60.00 USD, right? No, I can not see myself spending more than a day’s time doing… anything, really, in No Man’s Sky.
The problem with No Man’s Sky, is it’s size. A game this large is surely ambitious, and truly dwarfs out any games we have seen prior. But that really is all NMS brings to the table. With a universe so large, countless planets to explore, why does it feel so empty? Because it is. No Man’s Sky is lonely, empty, and offers nothing more than the occasion screenshot for your desktop should you desire to make that a point of interest. The wildlife in NMS is bland, and quite recycled. Seeing only 3-5 species per planet after a half hour of walking or longer, one can only question what the point is the whole time you’re traversing a seemingly empty world.
While the planets themselves offer a unique biome with a lot of scenic options extending into many environments offering snow, sand, and mountains. Weather, I have heard, plays an interesting part in the planets overall atmosphere, but this was one experience that escaped me. The weather never seemed to change, and I can’t recall whether or not day turned to night during my playthrough, which was a small, but impactful disappointment.
If you are into a game that is as vast as your imagination, that offers a lot of neat landscapes to look at, with no enemies to bother you, nothing to build but lots of plants and rocks to tear down, a few weird and obscure animal species to name (keep it clean, players), and the idea of flying through space in any direction constantly crashing into asteroid fields and maybe running into a few rogue ships that shoot at you, then No Man’s Sky is the game for you. But if you are looking for something to do, friends to play with (or see), and if you are looking to get your moneys worth, then No Man’s Sky quite simply is not something that lives up to the hype and certainly won’t live up to your expectations.
Point is, No Man’s Sky is huge. Like, the hugest game I have ever seen in my life. But the problem is; with a literally endless universe at your disposal, one can’t get over the overwhelmingly lonely and empty feel to the game with little objective, basic direction to nowheresville, and not much to interact with. Unfortunately, No Man’s Sky is the perfect example of excessive hype, misleading representation of just what the game offers, and that once and for all, the notion that size truly is not everything.