Good grief, I'm like James Bond in Skyfall's highlands scene right now, clumsily securing Push Square Towers from inevitable impending attacks. There's always been a little bit of crazy in this industry, but Hello Games' hotly anticipated space sim has garnered such a staunch fanbase that it's becoming increasingly impossible to criticise the game; Jim Sterling's website, incredibly, is still offline.
So, here's the thing: I don't care for No Man's Sky much at all. I don't think it's a bad game by any means, but I do think it's a disappointing one. In fact, I'd argue it's probably the biggest let-down of the year thus far – and I've played Street Fighter V. That's an interesting comparison, actually: Capcom's brawler plays like a dream, but doesn't have enough content to take advantage of its mechanics; Sean Murray's magnum opus has a limitless selection of sandboxes, but fails to offer anything interesting to do in them.
Before you lazily inform me that I went into this game with my expectations misaligned, though, maybe go back and read/watch some of my preview coverage for this game. I was anticipating No Man's Sky to be a relatively basic craft-'em-up all along, and that's what it's turned out to be. What I wasn't counting on is the game actively trying to stop me from having fun.
This is a game that makes the mere act of walking a chore, because an abundance of systems force you to micromanage every aspect of your being. Hot temperatures? Better keep your suit's resistance up. Want to jet off into space? Refuel your launch thrusters. Life support low? Go and grab some carbon quick. Hyperdrive? You're going to need to set aside an hour or so to craft a dozen different elements to shoot through the stars. Not got enough inventory space to do that? Time to grind out some cash so that you can afford a (slightly) bigger ship.
It sucks for the first few hours, and your progress is measured by gradually mitigating major irritations. And for what? So that you can further your ambiguous quest to the centre of the universe? Apparently a few lines of poorly written text is all the encouragement that I need to work my socks off for Atlas Stones and Warp Cells. It absolutely stinks.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the mining itself was actually fun, but it's not. All of the aforementioned issues play a part in the tedium of collecting elements, but they're not the only issues. The ever-presence of Sentinels represent the intergalactic embodiment of the 'No Fun Allowed' forum meme, while the landscapes themselves are devoid of anything interesting at all. This is supposed to be the most epic voyage of all time, yet each planet is constructed from identikit parts; strongholds are so similar that you'd think there's only one employable architect in this universe.
For all of the promise of endless variety, No Man's Sky is hours upon hours upon hours of the same. Earlier trailers teased giant sand creatures and dinosaurs; in reality all that you'll meet are Lovecraftian nightmares constructed from common parts. I get it – the title's been made by ten or so people. But you'd think at least some of the best bits from the marketing would have made it into the game.
Of course, I could live with the disappointment if the game was fun to play, but it's just a major chore. And I'm the kind of person that genuinely, earnestly enjoys Farming Simulator, so I'm no stranger to virtual busywork. What's here feels like the foundations for a much more interesting experience, and the hope is that Hello Games will have the time and resources to build upon it. But as it stands right now, it's just a clever piece of mathematics masquerading as a game. It's perhaps a reminder that, yet again, size only matters if you know how to use it.
Now look, this isn't a final review, so take it as you like; reviewer Stephen Tailby's writing our "official" verdict, and he doesn't fully agree with me. That's fine – it's probably fitting that a foray this divisive should get two disparate write-ups in a short span of time. But yeah, for me, this is the biggest disappointment of the year so far.
And that's not because my expectations were out of sync with what was delivered – it's because Hello Games made a boring game.
Have you already said goodbye to No Man's Sky, or are you in complete disagreement with Sammy and loving the game? Try not to get too hostile in the comments section below.
What do you think of No Man's Sky? (250 votes)
It's truly amazing
I think it's good
Meh, it's okay
It's disappointingly bad
It's absolutely crap
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