No Man’s Sky
Might contain spoilers.
An absolutely phenomenal game and beautiful ‘wallpaper generator’. The visuals are stunning. It was worth waiting a month for my new graphics card. Of course, I can’t help noticing the difference in the level of detail between the realistic, tactile model of the player character and the rest of the world, particularly the comparatively low-fidelity creatures.
The music and the audio in general are top notch as well. I never tired of hearing the tones signaling a completed quest, or the sound of a new title being bestowed upon me. My favourite piece from the score is the rarely used, upbeat variation on the main theme that heralds a major accomplishment. This might be ‘Supermoon’ on the album.
I never really understood how the shared procedural universe works. Nor did I understand the ultimate purpose of the translation system. Still, whatever your complaints about procedural generation in, uh, general, the first moments of finding the ship, reaching that second planet, reaching a starbase, and warping to a different system are each monumental. There’s also a deep satisfaction to entering a new system and making it part of your territory by gradually establishing a base with a teleporter.
To be fair, you do run into the limitations of procedural generation: quests, flora, fauna, and worlds are infinitely varied in theory yet not all that dissimilar from one moment to the next in practice. What’s more, the game tracks a smorgasbord of useful information but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. For example, it doesn’t track which flora or minerals can be found on a planet except with generic descriptions.
It also doesn’t provide enough information about bases and portals. I couldn’t find a way back to the special system across the galaxy that the main story takes you to once I had warped home from there, despite having built a teleporter for that very purpose. It’s not much fun to blindly teleport to one system after another while hunting for specific market items either.
I enjoyed owning freighters and running settlements, but it’s a mystery to me why the person in charge has to cross their entire length and breadth on foot for every little thing. I was also rather annoyed at one point to have spent half an hour on a single crashed freighter mission before being forced to give up because the final piece was unreachable.
‘Inventory Tetris’ is boring. I had to waste a lot of time grinding additional inventory slots. Indeed, the game can be very heavy on the grind, especially the opening, which requires at least an hour of work before you can even save. The UI overall could use a lot of work, especially around quantities. My fingers began to hurt from holding down keys all the time. I believe this has been addressed to some extent since I played.
Speaking of which, I’m aware that No Man’s Sky has seen a staggering number of additions and improvements over the years, and I cannot overstate how impressive Hello Games’s dedication to it is. I feel a pang of yearning every time I see a trailer for a new expedition, like the Leviathan update that came two short months after I made myself quit.
I would have appreciated an indicator of which dialogue choices move the story forward so I could safely explore the conversation before that, like in a typical RPG. I found the main story compelling enough that I looked up the rest of it on YouTube even after quitting. The ending is interesting and affecting. I would have liked to experience that myself.
The derelict freighter missions are quite spooky, unlike the rest of the game.
A visual sampling
- As I mentioned in 2022: Afterword.↩