No Man’s Sky Review – PS4
No Man’s Sky is a game I was very hyped for once I heard about it back in March (and I know others have waited YEARS). It promised a practically infinite universe, epic space battles, realistic physics and rotating and revolving planets. For a while I described No Man’s Sky as “space Minecraft” to friends who didn’t know what it was. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t been following the hype train that was No Man’s Sky, allow me to explain: What is No Man’s Sky?
When you first boot up No Man’s Sky, you’ll see a pretty screensaver-esque background of a colorful 80’s style space with bright stars. In fact, each and every one of those stars is its own system, with a number of planets, moons, and a space station. Each one is a real system you can visit and explore. Once you’ve finished being starry-eyed, the game begins with you being stranded on a random planet on the edge of the galaxy somewhere. No one has ever been to this planet, and you’re stranded. Your ship needs repairing, and your multi-tool, used for mining and fighting, is not operating at maximum efficiency. Thus begins the hour or two “tutorial” where the game gently nudges you in the right directions, teaching you how to craft the things you need to fix your ship, how to scan for resources, and how to gather said resources.
Before we get into more of the actual mechanics of the game, I want to talk about the presentation, because No Man’s Sky is beautiful. Each planet is procedurally generated, and even the barren planets look amazing thanks to the art style used. The team behind No Man’s Sky, Hello Games, wanted to go for a distinctively 80’s sci-fi magazine art style, with bright colors and exciting visuals, and they definitely hit the nail on the head. Space in each system is typically colorful, and the planets have a sort of cel-shaded style of sheen and color to them, making each individual blade of grass pop off of your screen. Sure, some planets are prettier than others, but each new planet you land on, you’ll almost always take a moment to go “Wow”. As you look up to the sky of a planet, you’ll see other planets or moons in the background; real places you can actually travel to. Seriously, No Man’s Sky is desktop background porn. The music of No Man’s Sky is also stellar. 65daysofstatic knocked it out of the park. The electronic sounds, rocking drums and chilling vocals really makes for some memorable tunes, whether when you’re in battle in space, or lazily strolling across a planet. Check out Supermoon from the soundtrack. If that doesn’t get you hyped for flying through colorful space, I don’t know what will.
A good majority of the game will be gathering resources. Each planet has it’s own set of resources, and typically the more dangerous the planet, the rarer (but not necessarily more valuable) the resources. Gathering resources involves using your multi-tool’s mining beam to extract the important elements from various rocks, trees and crystals scattered across the planet. You’ll need these resources for 3 main things: repairing and upgrading your ship, multi-tool, and exosuit, for recharging your multi-tool, elemental shielding on your exosuit, and thrusters and lasers on your ship, and lastly, for selling them for Units, the universe’s universal currency. Some resources are worth more in one star system than another, encouraging one to hold on to their goods until they can sell high. While you hunt for resources, you can also run into many different things on a planet such as crashed ships you can repair, with potentially more cargo spaces than your current ship, upgrades for your multi-tool and exosuit, knowledge stones and monoliths, enabling you to learn more about the language and lore of the three alien races, and various shelters, usually staffed with an alien (more on aliens later). That said, you will find all of these things on every planet, making planets not that different, mechanically speaking. Lastly, you can also scan flora and fauna to make some quick Units, and every planet, system, rock, tree and creature you discover can be renamed and uploaded for other players to possibly stumble upon.
If you mine too much on a planet, or otherwise destroy the planet’s ecosystem, your wanted level will increase, a-la Grand Theft Auto. Sentinels will approach, the omnipresent robots who kill those who disrupt planets’ ecosystems. However, Sentinels are pushovers. Combat is very bare-bones, and I never once found myself in danger while on a planet. Even the stronger Sentinels are easily dispatched with only a few more shots. Not only that, but in GTA for instance, when you kill more police, your wanted level increases and things get tougher to the point of near impossible until you hide or die. In No Man’s Sky, the only way your wanted level increases once active is if you let the Sentinels watch you for an extended period of time, which will almost never happen. Killing all the Sentinels in the area will deactivate the threat and you can return to doing whatever it is you were doing. Ultimately, combat while on a planet is lackluster.
Combat in space is a little more fun, in my opinion, but very basic. You can pitch and roll and shoot your cannon or laser beam. That said, it’s a little tougher, and therefore more tense, especially when you have multiple pirates surrounding you and you need to zoom around trying to find which one to take out next. Unfortunately, if you find yourself taking too much damage and your shields are failing, you must recharge them by opening the menu, navigating to the ship page, selecting the shield, then selecting the element you wish to recharge your shield with, totally taking you out of the immersion from an epic space battle. Crafting similarly requires a number of cumbersome steps through the menus.
Ultimately, No Man’s Sky is not very difficult. Even when your protection is failing on planets with harsh environments, you can duck into a cave or one of many shelters scattered throughout the planet to easily recharge. Even hostile creatures on planets are pushovers and are easily dispatched. The tiny annoying crab and the huge angry dinosaur both pose the same threat, except one is easier to shoot.
Aliens are also omnipresent throughout the universe, as each star system you enter will have one of the three races inhabiting it. When you first interact with an alien, you won’t have any idea what they’re saying, and you’ll have to guess at whatever they’re asking you. Guessing correctly will reward you with some new tech to upgrade your suit, multi-tool or ship or perhaps the alien will teach you some new language. You’ll also gain a reputation bonus, enabling a few more interactions or request from aliens. Guessing incorrectly will result in a reputation loss. As you learn more words through aliens or knowledge stones, you’ll be able to more accurately pick the correct response. Unfortunately, the rewards for upgrading a reputation have no real benefit, and it’s very difficult to go down a rank in reputation. Ultimately, reputation has no purpose. Gaining rep with one race has no effect on another race, even though it should, from a lore standpoint.
The first few hours of No Man’s Sky is amazing. For some it’s 5 hours, for others it’s closer to 30. You’re filled with a sense of wonder as you see what’s over the next hill and what kind of creatures reside there. You look up and see another planet, so you hop in your ship and seamlessly fly there, no real loading time or anything. Your first jump from your starting star system to the second is exciting! So you start exploring and realize, “Man, it sure would be great to have some more inventory space.” So you start grinding out newer ships or suit upgrades. Then you start finding a lot of tech, so you start hunting for the resources needed to make you more robust.
Then the fun starts to fade. You realize that the only thing really different about each planet is what it looks like. Creatures tend to look the same but with an extra horn here or there. You can land on nearly any planet and find the resources you need. If not, just jump to another one. You start to realize once you start maxing out your ship, suit, and multi-tool that there isn’t anything to actually DO. Working up to maxing out your stuff is fun at first, but once you start getting near the endgame it’s like “now what”? You now have all these slots for carrying things to make Units for… What? There’s nothing to buy and the only thing worth buying (ships) are so astronomically expensive that it’s not worth grinding out, as you can probably just find a cool one that is crashed somewhere. There are two main objectives, but all they do is give you a New Game+ mode with no real closure or satisfying ending, despite everything building up to it. Once you max out, nothing really serves any purpose except for novelty, and you realize that you have an incredibly huge game that is… Incredibly empty.
That said, coming back to the game for a short session is fun. No Man’s Sky is for short bursts, not hours-long sessions. Every now and again I can come back and enjoy it, but anything more than an hour or so gets kind of tedious.
The Bottom Line
- Beautiful environments and great music.
- An amazingly large sandbox.
- The first few hours.
- Gets very same-y far too quickly.
- No real point or use for many things you can do in game.
Final Score: 7/10
No Man’s Sky is still fun and relaxing, minus all the quirks, and let’s not even get started on all the things NMS promised to us. I just suggest playing in short bursts so you don’t burn yourself out on it too quickly, and try not to give in to the grind.