First Impressions: ‘No Man’s Sky’ on PlayStation 4
First Impressions of the Highly-Anticipated Space Exploration Experience
My review for this game will come very soon, but for now I believe it’s worth mentioning and briefly talking about my first impressions of “No Man’s Sky.”
Nowadays, just like how I handle movies, I try to stay away from as many trailers, spoilers and information for a video game product, in order for my initial response and experience not to be jaded by pre-released content. Sometimes that’s difficult to do in the video game world. With most new games being in the $60 range, it’s very difficult not to look at trailers or reviews. It’s a lot of money to throw down without some kind of validity, and with how many disappointments we’ve had come from overly hyped games, it’s no wonder why so many people are either reluctant or just plain discouraged by new games.
Still, I did my best for “No Man’s Sky.” The basic premise and what you could do were pretty much all I had going into it. Seeing the first footage of the game and how you could seamlessly bounce from one planet to another in your spaceship had me hooked immediately, so please try to understand my excitement when I was finally able to fire this bad boy up and awake on my very first planet. From the opening minutes, it’s very evident that this game is massive. Daunting is a great word to describe what I initially felt and what I feel as I write this article about the world of “No Man’s Sky.” Your first 16-24 hours could be entirely spent on the first three or four planets you can encounter.
Planets are exactly what they are — huge with lots of exploration opportunities and mysteries to uncover. There are the basic elements and plants you need for basic actions and fuel development, and then each planet seems to either be sparse or abundant when it comes to special/rare items, elements and plants. The crafting system these items are used for isn’t too bad. It’s actually pretty straightforward and very specific, which makes it feel simple and then you realize you’re on a planet that doesn’t have an abundant source of Heridium, which you need for a specific recipe. That kind of situation makes you think and strategize, perhaps causing you to fly to another planet or making a pit stop at one of the space stations.
Regardless of how you handle a situation like that, the main point of “No Man’s Sky,” as of right now at least, is getting to the center of the galaxy and scavenging/searching/researching every planet and moon you come across. Besides grabbing material and crafting new items and upgrades for your multi-tool and spaceship, there are also alien monoliths and other life forms to interact with. The monoliths give you snippets of clues to the history of the universe you’re in, as well as rewarding you with treasures and bits of language if you happen to pass the monolith’s test. These bits of language are important. I’ve only come across one race and one language so far, but without learning word by word from the monoliths and aliens I’ve encountered, I would not have been able to pass as many of the mini-games/riddles that I have. So, you are rewarded for being thorough with your investigation of each planet.
Jumping from planet to planet is done with your spaceship, which you have to repair in the opening/tutorial section of the game. Once you’ve done that and perhaps have found schematics for upgrades and new tools, you can venture off your initial planet and head right over to the next one. When I say upgrades, I don’t mean such ones that allow you to change your ship’s look or item capacity. This brings me to my first negative of my first impression. There isn’t enough storage space in the game, which makes you strategize more than rage, to be honest. Your inventory is only as big as how many slots you have. Your suit has, let’s say, 13 slots, your ship has 20 slots, and your multi-tool has 7 slots. Sounds like a decent amount, but every upgrade/tool/shield/item takes up a slot, and without an off-site storage container or something, these slots fill up quickly. My multi-tool cannot hold anything I find on a planet because each of its slots has either an upgrade to my boltcaster or mining tool (which take up two slots themselves, actually). While the inventory system is a negative for me, it does make finding a new ship or exosuit or multi-tool with more slots so rewarding and excellent. It propels you to go out and find better items, but still… my initial feeling is the storage capacity at the beginning of the game can be frustratingly minimal.
One of your slots on your spaceship has to be taken up by a hyperdrive system. Well… I guess it doesn’t have to be, but if you want to visit other systems and planets outside you’re starting area, then you better dang well have the hyperdrive installed. The first time you open the star map is breathtaking. You have a choice of either staying on the path to the galactic core (the apparent main story of the game) or free roaming, as you like. There are18 quintillion planets in this game, so just imagine how many stars there are on this star map. It’s absolutely beautiful, yet I’m trouble by this system as well.
The best way to describe “No Man’s Sky’s” procedurally-generated universe is by this sentence from Wikipedia, “The main feature of “No Man’s Sky” is that its virtual universe, including the stars, planets, lifeforms, ecosystems, and the behaviour of the space-bound factions, is created through procedural generation using deterministic algorithms and random number generators.” This is a brilliant system and very innovative, but I feel like all these big words and technical attributes are a façade tricking you into believing the game is bigger than it actually is. My theory is that this system most definitely does exist in the game, but I don’t believe all of the star systems and the 18 quintillion planets in the game are running/existing at the same time. It’s like there are 18 quintillion options for planets to exist, instead of them co-existing with each other. I believe every time you jump to a new system or fly through a black hole, it definitely brings you to another part of the “universe” but it’s generating the planets, moons, and species during your “trip through lightspeed” a.k.a. a loading screen. When you arrive, it seems like the place has been flowing fluidly while you’ve been in another system, but my beliefs push me towards the fact that I’ve just arrived in another space-constrained “hub” and four more random planets were generated right before I got there. I’m going to test this theory by trying to fly to another system without using hyperdrive. This won’t completely disapprove my theory, but it’ll allow me to say the game feels more like an organic entity rather than a façade-ridden one.
Regardless if it’s true or not, “No Man’s Sky” has been worth my $60 so far. Sure, you do a lot of the same things on each planet, but every planet I’ve been to so far has introduced me to something new about the game. Each planet is different with its alien races, animal population and climate, and some are even uninhabitable until you upgrade your gear enough to be able to explore. A lot of first impressions I have read have complained about how repetitive the game is, but I believe there’s a much deeper core to this game that will take some digging to get to. There’s a reason the galactic core is the end-game of “No Man’s Sky,” and I highly doubt it’s going to be a mere thumbs up and congratulations screen. I want to get there, I want the best gear and I want to learn everything about the alien races. It’s going to take awhile, but initially I’m engaged to take it on and become a well-geared space explorer.
P.S. This game is mostly about space-exploration, which is great for “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” fans, like me. Don’t get it twisted, though. There are space battles and drones that you can fight on the planets, plus some very hostile wildlife. The game is not combat-based at all, but there’s enough to be satisfying. There’s still no telling how much the game will change when one gets closer to the galactic core…