The time has finally come – No Man’s Sky is available for purchase on both PS4 and PC! Pixel Cereal is here with our first impressions of this massive game after experiencing about 10 hours of gameplay.
First things first, if you are a gamer that enjoys nice visuals, then No Man’s Sky is a game that will probably catch your eye. The visuals can, at times, be a bit uneven – flying above the planets at slow speed leads to some significant pop-in of geometry and textures – but walking around some of the more colorful planets and travelling around in outer space can be a memorable experience. I won’t soon forget my first lift-off into space, my first time warping to the next galaxy or the majesty of strange, otherworldly animals wandering through a sulfuric acid oasis. Much of these discoveries happened in the first 5 hours of gameplay, despite the vastness of the game’s billions of unique planets.
At it’s simplest, No Man’s Sky is a game for players who don’t mind feeling lost and without direction, while at the same time managing resources and balancing survival against the desire to explore. For example, the game starts out by placing you on an alien world with one mission – escape the planet by repairing your ship. Equipped only with a mining laser, you quickly begin to decipher the game’s resource system and realize that it is sort of like a minecraft in space gameplay mechanic. Oddly enough, mining some of the needed resources quickly aggravated sentry-bots, who quickly tried to shut down my operation by lasering me. Luckily, the game has a generous auto-aim, so my mining laser made quick work of them. Eventually, you make it offworld, only to discover you need a warp core to progress to another galaxy. Once you gather those resources, it’s off to another galaxy to get the plans to make warp cores on your own, and so on and so forth. If this “go fetch” gameplay sounds a bit unexciting, well, maybe this game isn’t for you. Honestly, I found myself getting a bit bored near the end of my ten hour playtest, as my dreams of ruling the galaxy began to feel undoable. Instead, it seems as though exploration, resource & inventory management, and incremental upgrades to ships & gear seem to be the focus.
However, if like many of my friends you enjoy the exploration of planets without a fleshed-out story to tie the whole thing together, then there is a lot to love here. This is the type of game where the more you play it, the more cool gear you will have access to. New ships, modifications to your mining laser, the ability to speak alien languages, and the desire to “boldly go” can be compelling reasons to keep playing for some gamers.
It should be noted that the inventory controls, as well as some of the context-based button presses, are needlessly complex – much like those in one of my favorite games, Destiny. Rather than just navigating menus with up, down, left, right and a simple button press, the player has to move a cursor on top of what they want to select and then press and hold the square button for about three seconds. Odd that something so simple is so cumbersome when it doesn’t have to be. There are some other odd gameplay issues as well: grenades open holes in the ground, but the mining laser doesn’t; pillars of resources continue to “stand up” even after the entire base of the formation has been eliminated; flight just above the surface of the planet is carefree – the game autopilots around all obstacles; planetside creatures seem to be of only two varieties: the grazing, placid type or the attack-at-all costs aggressors. Finally, nearly every game I have played has the “run” button as L3, but No Man’s Sky opted to put in on R3 – so be ready for lots of mistaken environment scans when you meant to run.
In the end, I will play it a bit more for the technical wonders of the procedurally generated worlds and galaxies, ignore the somewhat wonky controls, and then come back to it when I feel a yearning to explore strange new worlds.
Preliminary score: 7/10.