Just like a large portion of the gaming community, I was enticed by Hello Games’ title No Man’s Sky when details of what was to come took the internet by storm, and just like that same portion of the gaming community I was left disappointed and cheated without so much as a comment from the games creator and lead advocate, Sean Murray.
So why was No Man’s Sky such a disappointment to such a monumental amount of people? What did Sean Murray do so wrong that caused gamers around the world to put their mice and keyboards aside and pick up their pitchforks and torches? He lied. And he didn’t just lie about one small, insignificant feature, but what seems like the majority of what promised to be a huge, enthralling, open, living, breathing universe , when what was delivered was more like a few procedurally generated anti-climaxes cloned multiple times with different colour schemes.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, No Man’s Sky wasn’t a total disappointment, it did deliver on some of its ambitious designs, albeit for only a few hours of mediocre satisfaction, but it did deliver, just about. I booted up the game with high expectations, normally my instincts when it comes to pre-ordering pay off well, I can’t remember the last time I regretted a pre-order. As I booted it up I was apprehensive, a mixture of hype-induced curiosity and excitement intertwined with a healthy scepticism cycled through my mind. The game loaded in to my first planet, with your first, and almost only, objective being to repair your ship.
I was at first impressed by the world around me, it seemed to live up to what was promised, an interactive weather system which changed based on storms and the time of day, a pair of Sentinels darted around scanning the environment for change, even approaching me to scan this unknown life form on their planet. Once I had got to grips with the unnecessarily clunky inventory system, I got to crafting the necessary components to repair my ship, and kick-start my adventure into the vast and detailed universe Hello Games had crafted, or so I thought.
At first my interest was piqued by the different biomes and races and the sheer magnitude of the universe before me, ripe for exploration. I thought there would be endless combinations of planetary conditions, a plethora of wild and flourishing worlds at my fingertips, but instead I found myself exploring a new expanse of mediocrity. Unremarkable terrain begging to be explored, but eventually offering me nothing to trade for my time, every time I zoomed across the vast blackness to the next planet, and the next, and the next. With each new planet the shine that was presented with the first wore off a bit more, piece by piece.
The space combat, like everything else in No Man’s Sky, promised much but delivery very little. This bare-bones combat system offered to immerse you in epic, sprawling battles, but this fell flat just like so many other fantastical features promised to the consumer. Three measly pirate ships attacking me once in a blue moon, only to be easily dispatched in a few seconds of dull circling, is not what I would call intense space combat, nor richly detailed factions with potentially game changing consequences depending on which side you picked to help in these imaginary battles.
The factions were advertised as being whole civilizations spanning entire star systems, complete with meaningful relationships between rival factions, alliances and trade systems. The ability to build up reputations with these factions was anticipated by many, I was looking forward to learning the language of a newfound faction, perhaps doing missions for them, or if not that, then trading exclusively with this faction, getting to know their culture, their specific ship types and their role in the universe. The reality of the faction system, however, was completely lacklustre. Every space station, regardless of faction, is exactly the same, in layout and exterior appearance. When you are inside the stations, you get to meet many different aliens, such as Liquidator Goran…. and his six clones.
After exploring a planet and finding some monuments made by ancient and modern cultures alike, you can learn a new word in the alphabet of a specific factions language, but this mechanic is often too slow to feel important, and usually doesn’t equate to much noticeable change in the universe around you. You may take the time to explore a few monuments made by the same culture, only to be able to understand three words out of a repeated, predictable string of words from an NPC instead of the two you could before. The whole process feels very impotent and insignificant, none of it actually furthers your progress or even feels like you’ve achieved anything whatsoever, as the aliens you’ve been waiting to meet stare blankly into the distance, apparently waiting for interaction from the character and doing nothing else. Factions as a whole feel rushed, unfinished and poorly presented.
In conclusion, my opinion of this game is that it was over-hyped in the extreme. Whether this was intentional, or brought about by the huge amount of pressure Hello Games must have been under given the amount of anticipation for this game is unclear, but all in all a huge portion of the game feels tacked on, unfinished and hugely disappointing. While the first couple of hours I had in-game were mildly enjoyable, I wanted to be blown away by this game, but almost nothing in the game even came close to what was showcased by Hello Games prior to the games release. My faith in pre-orders is gradually dying as more and more games promise too much and inevitably fall short. Some people might call me naïve to still be pre-ordering at this point, what with all the failures and over-hyping that has been done in recent years. But I still have hope that developers can and will make good on their promises, even if it’s now a rarity instead of an expectation.
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