So you start at the planet, right beside your half-broken ship, there is no traditional tutorial about anything, which is both thrilling and semi-hardcore. For example, I had no idea that it would be better for my closest future to stop mining Coal from plants when Sentinels are scanning me. This leads me very quickly to my first combat encounter and I had the pleasure of learning how to quickly charge my laser when I am under fire. Surprisingly, I managed to survive (yay me).
At first, fighting with Sentinels is quite exciting. It was really fun until I stumbled upon a planet where Sentinels were aggressively attacking even when not provoked. This planet showed me, how repetitive combat truly is: if Sentinel starts combat, you take ~2 shots and kill it. If you attack Sentinel first and take it down, another one spawns exactly behind you and flies toward you. It is also possible to get rid of Sentinel watch dogs with one well-placed grenade – blowing ground directly below doggy makes him unable to fight as he cannot find right angles to stand.
Later in the game when I had the general idea of what am I supposed to do while on a planet, I felt that I had quite a lot of possibilities. I started with searching for alien ruins as I was quite interested in learning the history. Getting through particular obelisks and knowledge stones to learn words specific to one race (there are three of those – Gek, Vy’ken and Korvax and every solar system ‘belongs’ to one of them) was really fun, especially when it bears its fruit very soon, just when I encountered first aliens and was very nice to see that the more words you learn, the better you will understand aliens dialogues which will make your decisions much easier. In near future, I plan to learn all of the words if that is possible.
I already mentioned meeting aliens – Currently, I have over 70 encounters, and I have spotted that some dialogue lines repeat. Fortunately, it is quite opposite for NPC design, beside general elements common and specific for every race, it is nice to see that those are not the same models.
Beside aliens, it is possible to encounter some working alien technology and find some riddles to solve to receive a reward – my favorites are math-based ones. Unfortunately, there is not a very large variety of those; I would say there is around five possible variants with the change in numbers used only. Great idea, pity it was quite neglected.
Space Minecraft simulation?
The next important part is looking for resources, also specific for every planet. Some are found in large rock/crystal chunks; some can be found by interacting with plants. While the biggest formations are quite visible and hard to miss, smaller ones are nicely tagged by using your terrain scanner (only while on foot, ship scanner seems to mark only points of interest). During the progress of play through, it is possible to develop more space both in the suit and on ship – at the beginning, space that is available for the player is very restricted, so sometimes a heartbreaking decision must be done, what to spare and what to throw away.
I left the main event from planet exploration for last – discovering new species of floras and faunas. By using scanner implanted in players’ binoculars (L2 for PS4), it is possible to analyze the species and check its basic characteristics. The randomness of generating those is both great and not-quite-finished.
Not to me to judge if that was planned effect or is it generation formula bug. To be honest, it looks pretty creepy. I remember one more situation just like the one above, when bugs of one kind where spawning right under the ground level (not in a cave), moving unnaturally fast – scanning those was possible only on corpses, after using a grenade on a nearby ground. The same goes for almost every flying species, as those bastards are moving fast and are doing pretty crazy acrobatics in the air, so following it with controller based cursor while not impossible still is very challenging. Not to say more, I gave up after the 5th planet and now I first shoot, scan corpse. I know, I know, I am an insensitive bastard, sorry Greenpeace. Hopefully, there will be some patch which will slow those guys or shorten the time required for analyze to start so that everyone will be happy.
The biggest issue for me that is connected to planet exploration is about finding each and every species on a planet. I am quite a perfectionist; I like to leave only after I have found all animals that were possible to find. Not to mention juicy unit reward for fulfilling this task. So imagine this: you come to a planet, which must be some pre-scanned, because by pressing ‘Options’ button you have access to see what was already discovered on a planet and how many species there is total on a planet. So riddle me this: if there is some implemented mechanic, that tells player how many species are on a planet (to fit and follow the game logic I called it ‘planet pre-scan’) why is it not possible to show the player general location of those? Do not get me wrong; I do not want the game to pinpoint me the exact location of undiscovered species, as it would kill the whole pleasure of exploration.
However getting hints like ‘you hear a strange noise from nearby cliffs/caves/hills/etc’ while the small red dot appears for a blink of an eye would greatly help. Maybe enhancing ship scanner to allow player finding general direction which should be followed to find what is missing. Maybe adding some technology would fix the problem. While I love to grind, spending 2h+ on a planet looking JUST for one or two last species is tiring and for sure will make some players rage quit. Come on; we have lasers, space ships and you still have to run five hundred miles and then run five hundred more? Also, what I have spotted is that it is particularly hard to find species only at the beginning after it is discovered, it is met at every single corner.
Another thing that is pretty annoying: there is no in-game map of a planet for a player to check. It is also possible to mark places on a planet you would like to return later – however it is done in a way that is not very user-friendly.
I want to fly like an eagle…
That would be all regarding planet exploration, generally – I loved it. So let’s hit the space! Yeah… about that – there is some annoying bug, which makes your space ship jump into space right when you take off.
Let’s just pretend that I was not in the middle of planet exploring, and I wanted to sky rocket into the universe. So in every system, there is always a space station, some planets (sometime with moons). You can encounter two types of space ships – neutral (attacking those will taunt guardians to attack player) and hostile – sometimes, a player will get scanned and soon after that pirates will appear with the attempt to steal player cargo. Also an event can occur, during which pirates attack neutral ships – fending them off means additional reputation from the race that ‘owns’ current system and some nice reward as well. There is also a lot of debris flying around in every system – blowing it up nets player some resources.
So we have seen everything which was worth to see in our system, let’s get some warp cells and we can check another system! However first it must load during our warp travel. So it loads. And loads. And then it loads a bit more before it is finally loaded. Probably system and planets are generating. However, it does not change the fact that it takes awfully long. Also, there is no way of ‘marking’ systems which we have had already visited on universe map. Therefore it is impossible to quickly go back to the planet we liked in past.
Where is everybody?
There are only two structures possible to see in space: space anomaly and already mentioned space station, on which player can trade his goods with aliens that are stopping by or even buy their ship from them. The Sad thing is, this place gets lively only during player visit – not even once when I flew into the space station was there any other ship. Space anomaly can appear randomly and allows the player to meet mysterious alien couple Nada and Polo, which will help the player in the course of the journey.
One more thing worth mentioning in space are Black Holes – a mysteriously looking, allow the player to jump between large parts of the universe instead of multiple warp jumps. Sadly, that is all that is possible to do in space. Have not seen any flying asteroids, supernovas, there are no threats other than pirates. Maybe flying into the sun may be dangerous. However, I did not try that, feel free to check and let me know how it ends. With all that, space seems a pretty peaceful and cozy place.
Graphics and sound effects are simply amazing. Even though animals are randomly generated, some look funny; some make you wonder ‘how the hell did the evolution create that crazy bastard?’, However, there was not even one that looked like a pure abomination, which in my opinion is nice. The same goes for plants. I remember going through the forest on a calm planet when new, calm song started – it was pure ‘wow’ moment for me.
Equipment development is nice – it is possible to have a total of 48 slots in the suit, 24 in multi-tool and up to 48 slot ship. It requires some work and patience to get all of this. However, it is totally worth it. In every slot, the player can put some enhancing technology, from my experience those matters. What’s more, putting the same ‘kinds’ of technologies in neighboring slots enhance the bonus received even more.
Game lags during save at points of interest on planets. It is nice to see that game was saved, however not like that.
The greatest issue is constant game crashes. For me, there were multiple moments when game was crashing:
- Game initial loading screen.
- Picking up a technology from holo-display board which hangs in buildings.
- Uploading my discoveries.
- Coming out of warp tunnel.
- During take off
There was no rule connected to it. Sometimes the game freezes right before it just happens and sometimes not. It is something unforgivable and drastically lowers overall game score.
Trophies are easy; I would say way too easy for the game of this scale. One could think that those were made just to meet the requirement. No trophy for getting to the center of the universe, no trophy for flying through Black Hole, no trophy for gathering given the amount of some rare resources, no trophy for cleaning space debris and those are just some examples.
No cities at all – to the point of space I got, I did not found any civilization beside those mentioned earlier. Every planet is empty and seems abandoned – from time to time you meet and alien or two and some ruins. Where are advanced civilizations? I am still on my journey to the center of the universe, and I hope something will change.
The game is well made, however it is repetitive – sadly, the greatest threat that was standing right in front of Hello Games hit No Man’s Sky like a truck. It takes some time into the game (I would say around 20 hours) to start seeing the terrifying lack of differentiation. Not many buildings/ruins schemes, ‘missions’ like check the SOS signal or solve the riddle always follow the same pattern. Starting price is definitely way too high when comparing to what content players actually get.
What is the most surprising thing, I keep playing No Man’s Sky and I have a lot of fun despite all of the negatives I have pinpointed? Hello Games was successful at the most crucial thing for me; the game has something magical that keeps me interested. The casual player, however, might get quickly bored.