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No Man's Sky review

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Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • An incredible technical achievement
  • Exploring is fun
  • Giving everything you discover a funny name

Cons

  • Basic mechanics quickly become repetitive
  • Frustrating bugs and crashes

Key Features

  • Available on PS4 (version tested) and PC
  • Manufacturer: Hello Games
  • Review Price: £46.00

No Man’s Sky is a phenomenal achievement. For such a small development team to create a universe with such incredible scale, discovery and exploration speaks volumes of Hello Games. However, in company founder Sean Murray’s desperate reach for the stars, it is the fundamentals on the ground that are lacking. When this is coupled with frustrating bugs and issues, the sense of wonder quickly fades. Does it live up to the hype? Well, that depends.

No Man’s Sky has had more hype and expectation surrounding it than a Manchester United transfer window. For years fans have speculated about what the game is, what it could be and how it’s going to make all our lives whole again. Now of course, Hello Games is partly responsible for the hype Frankenstein, as is Sony, but so are we. For every new trailer we brought with it our own expectations, interpretations and demands. It wasn’t until the few months leading up to launch we finally got an idea of what this game actually is. And now we know for sure.

Watch: What kind of game is No Man's Sky?

No Man’s Sky is a survival game. A chance to explore 18 quintillion planets, scrambling for resources, battling against an oppressive sentinel force, fighting off bounty hunters and pirates in space while discovering and naming all the phallic-looking flora and funny-looking fauna. In my first few hours with the game, it is all of this and more.

Starting on my first planet – which I later named “mine” – because it’s definitely not yours – I begin searching for minerals and materials to repair my damaged ship. Everything is new, everything is exciting. The lush red and purple landscape is awash with new experiences, chances to learn how No Man’s Sky ticks. Within an hour I have learned that Sentinels are mean, how to mine resources, learned new language, which resources are most beneficial, the fact my backpack is the size of Jiminy Cricket’s pocket, all while exploring a gorgeous new world.

After repairing the ship, I jet off into the galaxy, and it is indeed a "wow" moment. The first time you break the clouds and reach the stars, planets all around waiting to be visited, explored, plundered, your mind boggles with all the possibilities that lay ahead.

Related: No Man's Sky beginner's guide – tips and tricks

No Man's Sky

I spend my next few hours gleefully planet-hopping, adapting my suit to deal with the harsh climates of wherever I visit. I scan everything and explore everywhere. Sentinels rain down upon me when I become too greedy. Space pirates attack my ship as it becomes abundant with treasures. Everything exhilarates, until the patterns start to emerge, and all you're left with is the realisation that the core mechanics are incredibly basic. There comes a time where your disbelief can no longer be suspended and you realise, in terms of gameplay, No Man’s Sky is jack of all trades, master of none.

Again, No Man’s Sky is a survival game, with many different things out to end you. Depending on the planet, the climate can be extremely harsh, sentinels extremely aggressive and the indigenous creatures equally fierce. At first you’ll stick it out, thinking of ways to defy the odds and get the vital materials you need until you realise that, with 18 quintillion mining holes on offer, it’s much easier to jet off in search of a more hospitable environment.

It’s hard to consider No Man’s Sky a survival game when there is very little reason to ‘stick it out’. When a planet isn’t welcoming, there’ll be dozens within the solar system that will welcome you with open arms.

Related: 5 Things you need to know about the Titanfall 2 campaign

On the subject of planets, too, while they can look gorgeous at a distance, up close textures can look a little blurry. Land patterns repeat, rock formations look bland and any patch of water will be completely still. The consequence of procedural generation is, ironically, a lack of uniqueness and detail. You also won’t have to explore many planets before you get the sense of deja vu.

While talk of 18 quintillion planets and requiring hundreds of years to explore every single one will be thrown about, I can’t shake the overwhelming familiarity many of them share. I’ll land on a planet, it’ll be devoid of flora and fauna (an all-too-common, frustrating experience in my time) and quickly set off for richer climes, only to land on the planet next door that boasts an eerily-similar colour palette and near-identical structures.

Of course, with such a phenomenal scale, it’s impossible to have every planet be truly unique, but I just wish the spell didn’t break quite so soon.

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When on a planet, you’ll spend plenty of time mining, which is fine, but lacks creativity. It won’t be long before you know what materials you need, and where to find them. The fact you simply have to grab them and shove them into your spaceship’s engine or combine them to craft an element to add to the hyperdrive. It lacks a certain connectivity and drive that Minecraft has in spades (and picks).

The only reason you keep collecting is because of the main objective: the journey to the centre of the galaxy – the Atlas quest – but the path to completion is a strain on my patience as monotony truly kicks in.

To move to new planetary systems, you need to upgrade your hyperdrive, doing so by combining certain elements to craft components to create energy cells. At first I was strolling, wandering around every planet, picking up the materials as I found them. But as the objective become more and more pressing, the sense of discovery no longer intrigued, and all that remained was finding the ever-elusive Heridium.

Related: Best PS4 games

How long you choose to chase Atlas will simply be how much patience you have with the gameplay, or how long before the immersion breaks and the realisation that you’ve done the same four basic tasks for the past ten hours hits. Either that, or the endlessly-annoying game-crashing bugs will get you.

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky broke far too frequently to consider it an anomaly. Often my game crashed while trying to warp to a new solar system, which is even more frustrating when the game has certain save points, meaning at times I’d have to go back to a space station, craft the energy cells and try and warp to the solar system once more, only for the game to crash again. The game's instability simply served to dull my excitement and willingness to persevere further, which is such a shame considering the excitement I experienced in the first few hours.

Buy Now: No Man's Sky at Amazon.co.uk from £45 | Amazon.com from $59

Verdict

No Man’s Sky is a good game. Sean Murray and Hello Games’ vision of creating a vast universe on a scale unseen in video games has no doubt been achieved, and will certainly provide everyone who plays it with something unique.

However, the fundamental gameplay isn’t deep or rewarding enough for me to stick around and explore many of the planets the game has to offer. With such basic combat and inventory management, it quickly wears thin and you’ll feel like you’re dragging yourself from system to system in search of Atlas.

Does it live up to the hype? For anyone who’s been following this game for years, probably not. But if you appreciate this game for what it is – a technical marvel that will no doubt vastly improve over the coming months if the day zero patch is any measuring stick – then there is certainly plenty of fun and wonder to be had. It’s just a case of how long before the fun stops.

Overall Score

7

Admir Karalic

October 19, 2014, 6:47 am

Initially this game was supposed to be on PC, then they decided to make a version for PS4. I honestly feel more like waiting and getting the PC version which will undoubtedly come out after the PS4 timed Exclusive and will of course have all the Patches and Fixes that we need to enjoy the game. Wow can't wait :)

Luke Borom

March 14, 2016, 3:22 am

When you die you lose all you gathered and explored on that planet. But the real punishment is they make you read quotes from Jaden Smith...

Shadeslinger

April 13, 2016, 1:07 am

Unless you get the resources to your ship. If you die outside your ship on the planet you lose everything you haven't placed in your ship. For instance...you leave your ship and find 10 items and die before returning to your ship...you lose those 10 items. If however you find 10 items go back to your ship and store them then leave your ship and die...those 10 items will still be saved.

jd2020

June 3, 2016, 12:32 am

What I would like to see is a game that actually uses real astronomical charts and everything we know about stars in our galaxy and any other planets. I realize that 100 billion stars would probably get "explored" in no time but it would be a great learning experience for all players.

SimoneNonvelodico

July 29, 2016, 4:26 pm

Doesn't Elite: Dangerous do that already? I'm not 100% sure, but I think it uses real star maps (at least where there are any, which is... not much even in our galaxy, really).

Cigi

August 8, 2016, 12:15 pm

This is surely the most over hyped game in a very long time. It is all related to the HUGE size, but size it not everything - actually sometimes it is the exact opposite. In my point of view this is the case here.

Roc

August 8, 2016, 6:24 pm

Yep, this is exactly what I am doing too. As tempted as I was to pre order this for ps4, I've been fooled too many times before

Roc

August 8, 2016, 6:26 pm

Currently resisting the urge to watch streams from people that got the game early.

Allen - PSN iPITYtheFOOL_T

August 8, 2016, 9:18 pm

The size of this universe has nothing to do with quality and your opinion is baseless since you have zero experience.

They wanted an infinite universe so they made it as big as it can possibly be. Planetary landings at launch and unique art style are only a couple more selling points of the game.

it's okay. I'm sure you are some butt hurt xbox fanboy or something, no need to reply, I don't care for trolls like you (you know, trolls that can't even properly troll).

Allen - PSN iPITYtheFOOL_T

August 8, 2016, 9:19 pm

Yes, it of course is not completely accurate but they did what they could to make it about the milky way galaxy.

Allen - PSN iPITYtheFOOL_T

August 8, 2016, 9:21 pm

Do what? Can you say DERP?

PS4 all the way, likely to have a way bigger community than the PC for sure and all my friends are on PS4. Sure they say you prob. won't ever meet anyone but at least we can try on the PS4.

There really isn't any timed exclusivity on this game. PC is releasing 3 days later.

Michael Prescott

August 9, 2016, 4:29 am

Look at you, defending something you dont know about with such disgusting vehemence. You sound worse than any fanboy Ive ever fucking heard.

You seriously need to sit down and shut the fuck up.

Leighroy

August 9, 2016, 5:06 am

Re: The hype as it's been called around this game, most of it has been generated by the press and the gaming public, not the software developers or Sony. Its been far less commercially hyped than most triple A releases.

Tomaterrrx

August 9, 2016, 7:58 am

Lol no need to assume he's an Xbot. How can you justify the immense hype for this game. No game can ever live up to this kind of hype.

Zaki

August 9, 2016, 8:02 am

AAA titles need to hang their heads in shame if this game turns out to be everything we want. Hello Games deserve all the praise they can get.

MattMe

August 9, 2016, 8:27 am

I just read the above piece which says the game hasn't been released yet, so how can you say whether this is over-hyped or that the scale is a negative point to the game (the entire game which is based on it's scale)?

Thomas

August 9, 2016, 10:16 am

ya, This game launch sems to be alot like spore back in the day.
Spore was hyped up to the so huge, so fantastic, so full of possibilities and it seemed to be the bee's knees, but when the game came out it just farted.

The size seems to be hyped up the most, but tht's more or less meaningless really. Sure if you have a few hundred minor options to configure you can make a zillion anything but more likely than not it's going to be quite repetitive\similar.

azcarim

August 9, 2016, 1:47 pm

More importantly, you can 'teleport' items from your inventory to your ship remotely, so you don't even need to go back to your ship unless your ship is full

Fil Franca

August 9, 2016, 5:02 pm

XBOX FOR LYFE!!

Darth Kaltavius

August 9, 2016, 6:23 pm

All I can say is I started the game after the PS4 release timer got to zero, and I love it. I'm actually living my nerd dream of discovering a new planet and seeking out new life and new civilizations.. oh wait... sorry, I was thinking of a different sci-fi genre. Seriously, I can't wait to get home from work to play some more . What's cool is you don't need PS Plus to play the game. There is no need. Though I do have it. Anyway, I like the game a lot and glad I got it.

Allen - PSN iPITYtheFOOL_T

August 9, 2016, 11:28 pm

Defending something I don't know much about....hum I seem to know a lot more than you and I pointed out a couple of other selling points of the game.

You sound like a butt hurt fanboy with no leg to stand on. Trying to play off like I'm some fanboy when I'm simply pointing out the facts and laughing at the bad troll.

Please kid, come back when you actually have something.

Kulti Vator

August 10, 2016, 10:47 am

So the creatures lack a bit of variety from planet to planet - what are your experiences with the variety of landscapes and flora on offer? Does the game allow you to encountered water worlds, gas giants, ice planets, asteroids/comets, nebulae, black holes, etc? Also, do you get any sense of scale between big planets and small planets - or are all portrayed in much the same way and with the same gravity settings?

FourFooted Messiah

August 10, 2016, 12:54 pm

Ah, but No Man's Sky seems to take place in the Euclid Galaxy, not the Milky Way. ;)

Good luck finding Earth.

FourFooted Messiah

August 10, 2016, 1:00 pm

And then the thing to do would be to return and use/sell some of that inventory, I suppose.

L4lefty

August 10, 2016, 1:11 pm

Condemning other titles and their publishers on the basis of what might be a decent game, and what 'we' want (should read, 'I') is a bit of a self-aggrandizing leap, don't you think? Maybe the shame should be with your massive assumption/lavish extolment.

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