My first 10 hours with No Man’s Sky – Dan P

To Infinity and beyond…maybe

10 hours may only be long enough to just barely scratch the surface of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky but it is enough time to discover planets and alien races and get to grips with the systems that drive a game that seamlessly lets me explore a supposed 18 quintillion planets.

Everybody starts off at a different planet at a random point in the universe. Green hills, strange alien trees and a giant electric blue scorpion type creature, this is how my adventure started off on a planet I named Bob. My ship has crashed but there is no context for why I’m here or what I am supposed to do save for a strange red amorphous artefact lying next to my downed vessel. I am given a choice, do I accept guidance from “Atlas” in my journey through the cosmos or do I venture forth on my own and explore blindly. I like to be told a story when I play games so I chose to accept guidance.

My first task is to escape the planet I am stranded on, but my scanner and laser tool are damaged so I my first repair them so I can identify and collect the resources needed; and organically I am introduced to the games’ resource management, crafting and cataloguing systems. These are the key systems in the game to progress you must have resources to either craft the materials you need or to trade for items you are going need to aide your journey to the centre of the universe.

The inventory is just too small

The inventory is just too small

I quickly found that the scanner is my best friend in No Man’s Sky; before doing anything scan your environments for plant’s, alien life and locations, every time you find something new it is immediately catalogued and you earn credits. This is where my first frustration came, at no point am I shown on instructed how to earn credits and rename the discoveries I have made. It’s not that they are hard to work out mind just that it is a fundamental part of the game that I had to discover on my own, but then I guess that’s what No Man’s Sky is all about so I’ll forgive it this little gripe.

Once I’ve scanned and renamed everything I can see within my immediate vicinity I set about destroying everything in sight with my laser. Not because I am destructive and want to watch the world burn but because that is how to collect the resources I need. Think of the laser as a futuristic version of Minecraft’s pickaxe everything you destroy is broken down into materials such as Carbon, Zinc and the all-important Thamium 9, which will fuel your ships thrusters. Here is where my second issue arose, you get two means of storage for the materials you collect; your exosuit and your ship. Both have limited, and I’m talking extremely limited here, space to store everything you collect, a particularly irksome moment came when I had to craft something to help repair my ships engines.Whilst collecting everything I needed I ran out of space multiple times and I could either transfer stuff out of my exosuit inventory into my ships inventory but that gets filled up just as quick so I found my self constantly having to go into my inventory and drop items to make space. Then again, once I had the materials I found that I couldn’t craft the parts I needed because I had to have space for that too, and so had to drop even more material.

I spent a good three hours exploring the planet Bob and in my time there I managed to discover several locations containing upgrades to my scanner, including a blaster modification so I could defend myself if the time came. Scattered across the planet were drop pods which housed exosuit upgrades which let me expand my inventory, thank the lord. I also came across facilities, which contained rarer and more valuable materials as well as terminals where I can sell said materials. I also came across several monoliths, small ones that once interacted with give you insights into an alien language teaching you a word or two and advancing your knowledge.

NMS monolith

I also found a large monolith that not only taught me several words boosting my standing with the alien race, but I also caught my first glimpse of No Man’s Sky’s story. I learned a little of the history of an alien race; a species I only just then came to notice I had not seen neither hide not hair of. I found myself wondering what happened to them, were they watching me as I made my way across the planet? Had they all left this world? Had they perhaps been long extinct? I was suddenly filled with wonder and decide it was time to leave Bob and start my journey properly… Only I couldn’t because I didn’t have enough fuel for my ship so I had to once again get back to the grind.

Finally once I had enough Thanium 9 to fuel my ship and I was sure there wasn’t anything major left for me to find it was time to leave this planet. There is nothing I can really say to put into words how impressive it is to take off from and fly up though the clouds out into space and watch as space debris and other planets in the star system come into view. This is where the scope of the game really becomes apparent. I looked to a nearby planet and started flying towards it, being given an estimated time till arrival at this new world. If I were to keep flying with just my thrusters it would take me 4 hours to get there! Luckily I can boost through space to cut down these times drastically.

nms space

On my way to this new planet I came across a space station which housed an alien I could trade with but not really all that much else unfortunately, so I continued on my way to the icy planet I named Hoth. This is really where my problems with No Man’s Sky really start to come to the fore. Hoth is very much like Bob; it may look different, and I have new creatures and flora and fauna to discover and rename but fundamentally I am doing exactly the same thing here as I was before. Collecting and frustratingly managing my minimalist inventory system to craft parts to fix the warp drive on my ship so that I can leave this system and make it to another was once again called for.

No Man’s Sky has a plethora of gameplay features, unfortunately they are not all that robust and are seemingly designed to slow my progress every step of the way. No Man’s Sky is first and foremost and exploration game so I was not expecting an all out romp to the centre of the universe, but I was hopping for something a little bit more entertaining. I wanted to carve my own adventure through the cosmos and see varying life forms fight enemies on land and in the air, or space, but none of that is really what you get in No Man’s Sky. The early trailers and Sean Murray’s promises of an epic adventure filled with wonder and trepidation just aren’t what I have gotten here.

After arduously exploring a handful of planets in the system and slowly gathering and re-gathering the materials I need to make my warp drive, I was finally able to jump to a brand new system at another point in the universe.

There is a map of sorts for you to plot your way to the centre of the universe, which I have to admit I did spend about 15 minutes solidly doing, moving through all the star systems just to take in the size of the game… it is absolutely incomprehensibly massive and I did find myself reinvigorated and full of wonder once more.

The universe ladies and gentlemen

The universe ladies and gentlemen

But the story is the same for whatever system you jump to the gameplay never evolves I spent the rest of my time going from planet to planet gathering resources to fill my warp drive to jump to another system only to have to do it all over again. No matter how varied and brightly coloured the planets I land on look that all feel just as barren and lifeless as all the rest. The creatures are varied but it doesn’t take long to start noticing parts being used over and over to create the life forms and after a while all I could think of was that the life forms all look as if they had been put together by a child who just picked different body parts of an animal and put them together in some sort of mini-game. Some creatures were tiny other enormous but the parts sometimes seemed not to fit right,  and where were the giant worlds sliding through the desert and the dogfights and air raids on supply ships I was promised?

Every planet has outposts to find and upgrades to be installed to your exosuit and scanner, maybe there’s a new ship to buy but everything “man-made” like these structures and the monoliths work and look exactly the same save for a lick of paint here or there, it’s almost like the entire universe has the same architect, and it quickly goes from being awe-inspiring to un-inspiring very quickly. Each planet is also roamed by sentinels who will attack if you cause too much destruction but again they all look the same no matter where you are which makes the uncharted space aspect seem a little meaningless if before I even get to a planet I can predict with a great degree of accuracy exactly what I will be doing and witnessing. For example; I know that every planet I land on will have an atmosphere that will degrade my life support and no matter the issue, be it extreme cold or heat or acid rain, all that really changes is the colour of the bar that continuously drains as I explore until I top it up with a resource. It’s merely a cosmetic difference.

No Man's Sky_20160805123346

For a game with a near infinite number of planets to explore, all procedurally generated and varied, I can’t help but think that there is definitely a finite number of ways to tackle every given situation. I find it hard to reconcile the fact that the game costs £50, I expect more from a full priced game and I think my problems with No Man’s Sky would not have bothered me so much if it had been a downloadable title priced at £15 or so, because what I have experienced so far, no matter how impressive the tech is, is just not the No Man’s Sky I was sold.

When Dan S and I decided to write up our first ten hours in No Man’s Sky I was expecting to write about the different adventures I was going to have and the wonder I was going to experience; but so far all I am left wondering is “Do I really want to continue my journey?”

Have you been playing No Man’s Sky? What do you make of it we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

– Dan P



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.