I’m writing about No Man’s Sky now largely because I can. Not because I have a reason to do so. You could say, I have become so busy thinking about whether I could, I haven’t stopped to consider whether I should. So that’s this week’s Jurassic Park reference out of the way too. Hooray.
I got No Man’s Sky last Saturday; which now seems like million days ago. I have been waiting in lip-biting anticipation of NMS since my eyes were first gifted a glimpse of this extraordinary feat some two years ago at E3 2014. It invoked such childlike wonder and excitement in me that I hung up my tattered and non-existent Professionalism hat where the game was concerned and stopped looking at the pre-release material. No more, I demanded with an ill-deserved sense of bravado. I wanted the experience to be as shiny and new and unfettered as it could be; the premise I had long since been sold on.
Having been tipped off that SimplyGames were shipping out pre-orders alarmingly early, and having not done so already, I popped money down on the Friday, and lowe and behold, there neath my letterbox on Saturday morn, sat No Man’s Sky.
Over the Saturday and Sunday I sank a smattering of hours in; nothing life-commandeering, but enough to get a grip. It was good. The weapon mechanics felt a little sticky, and you spent SO much time in your inventory constantly fixing your Life Support and Hazard Suit that the core survival system seemed to be predominantly the wet-dream of the local stamp collector. Or something. I eventually leave the first planet, make it to the space station and continue pottering about with my tasks. I spend a good while getting filthy rich mining some emeralds. I instantly adore the isolation. We’ll get back to all that in a short while.
Boy, Were They Not Kidding
Because really, the news here is that developer Hello Games released a Day One patch, cited as of such importance that a review of the prior experience is quite simply unfair. And boy were they not kidding.
So, just like they made me do; please forget everything I’ve just said. Let’s start again shall we.
I have never seen a Day One patch do SO much. After demanding I wipe my save through the PS4’s out-of-game UI, this miniscule 800-odd meg download changed the splash screen at the start, the loading screen, the place where I started, the default button layout, the shooting mechanic, the hostility of those little drone things (general indifference has transformed into wild aggression) the proximity of the initial resources I needed (my first go had me traipsing across the map for half an hour at a time to find the right material deposits), the scanner, the way the interior outposts and space stations looked, and the way the hyperdrive navigation screen works. And that is all I’ve discovered far.
It is almost unrecognizable to play from the start again. What must have gone on for the disc-based content to go out in such a stripped back form is a mystery we may never know, or care about enough to read the inevitable Polygon article.
Of course Day One patches are a part of the process these days. They help us get games quicker, they help devs solve twilight-uncovered bugs to improve our experience, and ultimately are a core-component of the modern day development-to-shelf highway. And with NMSs initial senseless-fury-inducing delay a well-trodden track of internet discussion, there’s bound to have been some hairy complications in its delivery.
In spite of essentially playing through the same tasks again, the patch made everything that bit easier to get on with. It occurred then that someone experiencing the game post-patch for the first time, as most players will, in fact, won’t have the joy of playing it in both forms, and seeing the leap in playability. If we don’t have the bad and the difficult and the disappointing, how can we ever comprehend the good.
Vessel of Questions
SO anyway. I’m still only maybe five or six hours in to No Man’s Sky. It’s a long time since I’ve been raptured enough to sit there after work and totally lose track of how long I’ve spent playing something. Its beauty is of course in its scope. In the desolation of being adrift in a world whereby you are the alien; everything is strange, everything is new and you are entirely alone. A wandering vessel of questions let loose on a literal universe of possibilities.
Things To Do
As suspected, there is absolutely nothing like exploring on a planet surface, before jumping into your own little X-Wing sized craft and launching dynamically through the atmosphere, flying across the landscape before pointing your hull up and into space. For me, the game is worth playing solely for that experience. The art-style is wonderful in all its soft pastel palette tonal glory, though graphically it seems, in places, a little way off what was initially promised; as ever. The Visor adds another layer of Things To Do, affording players the opportunity to analyse, save, rename and upload their discoveries, which also earns you credits; another incentive to maniacally scan everything sight.
Life or Death
Resource management and survival dominate the proceedings, certainly so far, and though post-patch it’s far better than it was, you do seem to be constantly required to find materials, and don’t have the inventory space to go freely mining and looting as hard as you can for everything. The launch thruster, for your first craft, for example, gets four uses out of a full slot of Plutonium. For a game about exploration, that emphasis is a little disappointing, and you still spend a large amount of time in your inventory trying to decide what you can afford to get rid of. It certainly keeps you in management mode, fighting to find the right rock or plant to keep going, and in that way, it keeps you exploring – just not at the leisure I’d expected. I don’t need life or death to be into finding things, but maybe some players do.
Meeting alien NPCs plays out in a text adventure-esque manner; a paragraph or two appears and describes your situation, before giving you a list of options. It’s a classic approach, tinged with nostalgia, and a nice offset to the comparatively glitsy, colourful space extravaganza happening elsewhere.
Drink No Man’s Sky In
Ultimately, If the idea of exploring a universe in a spacecraft all by yourself in a way no other game has let you do before does it for you, then at this stage No Man’s Sky is entirely worthy of your money, time and attention. It is, if you’re up to date, how you’d expect it to be, and that is entirely a good thing. If you’re looking for the most fluid, shooting, flying, space-em-up out there, you might be a little disappointed at some of its jagged edges and stricter gameplay nuances. Personally, I intend to drink this game in fervently, exactly as I knew I would want to do two years ago.
More space adventure on Respawn soon.