Setting off a one-man exploration of space is a daunting task, and one that never ends. Fans that have been awaiting the long-delayed release of ‘No Man’s Sky’ will finally get to explore the cosmos on PC this week, with their console partners already having the opportunity to begin their solo missions. The two platforms aren’t connected, and spoilers aren’t exactly a problem with this new title. In fact, there is no ending to ‘No Man’s Sky,’ it’s a game that literally could last you the rest of your life.
The title is more of a tutorial to a new way of gaming. There are no real quest-missions, storyline or ending cinematic. It’s more of a personal journey through space, and your dramatic turns and immediate needs are prioritized through your own wants and needs.
Players begin their exploration into the unknown right away, and although the map behind you can be plotted and coded to great extent, the path ahead of you will never end. The buzzword behind this game is ‘procedural generation,’ a simple catch phrase that describes the game’s ability to create the universe ahead of as you play. This puts the game on a scale that was unheard of in previous titles, with 18 quintillion planets to discover and catalogue.
That is the heart of the game, simple exploration and cataloging. You’re the Lewis and Clark of space, but with no guides and without a companion. On your journey you will find species never discovered before, even by the other players that you will never meet. You will find artifacts and alien weapons that will puzzle and astound you, and it never ends. It’s a simple premise, and of course one that can hit or miss depending on what you expect out of the game.
No Man’s Sky isn’t a combat game, it’s not a survival game, it’s not an RPG or a shooter. It has elements of those genres baked into it, but it’s more of an experience than any of those archetypes. It’s certainly a beautiful game, with dazzling planetscapes and celestial skylines that offer truly stunning panoramic views to capture and share with a community of friends.
There are gameplay mechanics in the title as well, like fixing things and gathering resources. That’s actually how the game begins, with an immediate need to gather resources and fix your ship before you fall victim to a harsh alien world.
You’ll get a ship eventually, and you will have the ability to travel. The game does a fantastic job at reminding you that running ahead and blasting off into space is pointless. The idea isn’t to discover the most planets, it’s to discover. Leaping from planet to planet will only cheat yourself out of the hidden gems that each planet holds. Patience and fortitude is required for No Man’s Sky, virtues that our generation (and gaming in general) usually isn’t great with. The idea that you play without advancing the storyline, without really moving ahead on a community leaderboard, or improve a high score, is a totally backwards concept to the basis of gaming. That being said, it’s a welcome change at this point in the industry.
The game does keep you busy. Your ship is always in need of repair, and so are the basic tools that you need for survival. Your handy-dandy jetpack seems to be made from subpar space parts, and your ship is basically a handed down lemon when you begin your explorations. You will have tools to fix gear, you will hunt for the material and the resources to utilize those tools. Over time you will become a more capable solo-explorer. In that respect, the game moves forward as you do.
The monotony of the game is in the actions, not the adventure. You will constantly be scanning, exploring, categorizing and fixing parts – and the game does little to change how you do these things. The real changes are the most exciting ones, with new planets, species, artifacts and terrains constantly appearing before you. Let’s take a look at the official trailer from the developers.
No Man’s Sky is an adventure experience, that is the term that I would use to describe it. A game indicates that there are winners and losers, or at least a task that would end the the game. You can’t ‘win’ No Man’s Sky, you can only continue to explore or stop playing. It’s a wonderful new concept, one that doesn’t force a storyline or even try to guide you. You won’t even be able to complete it, but you might never stop trying. While the game is clearly not for everyone, it has certainly been an amazing journey so far, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.