We can't believe our luck. For all the planets and moons in this system, most of them scorched and practically lifeless, the last one we visit is a bonafide world of paradise. Lush bright blue grass stretches out to the horizon where it meets a scarlet sky, the space station hanging just close enough to make out its shape. Alien life is abundant; snaking, twisted trees and huge blue-green shrubs adorn the valley we've landed in, and bizarre bipedal creatures roam peacefully across the view. Best of all, though, there are resources everywhere. Plutonium and aluminium crystals lay waiting to be harvested, and just over the hill stand huge pylons of emeril. We don't know what we use it for yet, but you can bet we'll be selling it all for a tidy profit.
It was a nigh-on perfect No Man's Sky moment. Here in this otherwise barren and red hot star system stood a beautiful planet with almost everything we could've hoped for. We discovered that No Man's Sky is a game of moments. Sometimes you'll wander around for a while and come across a view that is so sumptuously sci-fi, you'll totally forget about that point of interest you were vaguely heading for. Sometimes pirates will detect your stash of gold and chase you down, triggering a short slice of action among the stars. Hello Games wanted to capture the look and feel of classic science fiction, and it's absolutely done that.
From an audiovisual perspective especially, No Man's Sky is a tour-de-force. While technically the graphics aren't all that great, the art style is outstanding – colour pouring out of the screen, creatures behaving in erratic, sometimes unsettling ways, and vistas that have to be seen to be believed. Your share button will be in tatters by the time you stop playing. The audio, however, is even better. The adaptive soundtrack in particular is fantastic, nearly always perfectly pitched to the current scene.
None of this would really matter, though, unless the gameplay was there to back it up, and thankfully, it mostly is. Boiling it down, No Man's Sky is a game of survival, resource management, crafting, and exploration. You start out with very basic tools and must work your way up to bigger and better tech if you want to reach the centre of the universe. Unfortunately, this means the beginning of the game can leave a bad first impression. Your inventories are small and little is explained, meaning a lot of players will be left scratching their heads for the first hour or two. Each starting planet is unique, too, so some (like us) may also have to deal with a hazardous environment right off the bat, adding perhaps unfair pressure to those players.
Once you've been playing for a while, and managed to fix your ship and head out into space, the game gradually improves the more that you explore. The bottom right corner hosts contextual tips that offer you a sliver of guidance if you're lost, and once you make enough money to buy a new ship and multi-tool, many of the early gripes regarding the small inventories slip away. Extended play also proves how diverse the planets can be, and although they possibly aren't as unique as a lot of people were expecting, there's still enough differences to make it feel like you're somewhere else, which is impressive given the size of the game.
The main loop of harvesting resources, selling, exploring, learning words, and scanning wildlife is, on the face of it, actually pretty dull. Sometimes the game can be boring, especially if you're having hard luck finding a particular element you need, for example. If you're mining goods for trade, it can be a big grind to get a decent payment, and if you're trying to 100 per cent a planet (find all of the world's fauna and upload it), you can be in for a long search. However, if the game gets under your skin, you can lose yourself in it, and the gameplay can be utterly captivating. Those emeril pylons we told you about? They're gone. We spent longer than we'd care to admit completely breaking them down and hauling it all to a space station to sell it. We didn't really have a reason to, but by the time we were done, we were millionaires, and could afford a much nicer starship.
Upgrading our ship was a great milestone, and from there we jumped to the next star system in search of new worlds to conquer. Unfortunately, the game crashed just as we were approaching a new system, and this was the second time we experienced it. Thankfully, we had been wary of these crashes and saved at every given opportunity, but it's still a bummer to be kicked out of the game right when you're having a good time. It's something the developer has already promised to look at for its next patch, but in the meantime, it's a problem. Elsewhere, the frame rate is a solid 30 frames-per-second, with some very occasional dips when the screen gets too busy. Beyond that, No Man's Sky is technically very strong, although some may find the 'fade-in' effect of the terrain generation jarring. It didn't bother us, but it's extremely blatant.
What's also extremely blatant is that combat isn't a huge focus, as it's the weakest aspect of No Man's Sky. We weren't expecting it to be spectacular, but it's rather lacklustre. You can upgrade your multi-tool to become more proficient in dispatching the sentinels, but even so, combat is rarely exciting. Space battles are better, but again aren't anything too special, and more often than not you'll wish that the bad guys would just leave you alone.
In fact, it's when you're alone that the game really sings. In your own bubble, you're able to craft your own narrative, your own reasoning for playing the way that you play. There are narrative strands that you can follow, but there's always the option of choosing your own path and simply getting lost in space, which for some players, is just as exciting as following the Atlas, or speeding towards the centre.
No Man's Sky is a game of moments. That the game is obtuse and its gameplay relatively simple won't matter, so long as you're willing to forget the destination and enjoy the journey.
No Man's Sky is full of potential, and Hello Games has laid strong foundations on which to build. Its main gameplay is simplistic but becomes totally engrossing, and the technical achievement is impressive. The atmosphere created by the graphics and sound is second to none, and there's an amazing sense of place. Some may struggle to find the fun with the lack of direction, and there are some technical issues that need addressing, but if you're able to create your own fun with the tools that you're given, you'll be playing this for a long time.
Great balanced review. Personally been enjoying the game. I try not to play for more than a few hours as I definitely feel the repetitiveness set in. To me this is a great second game to have to chill to and just create your own stories in. Hearing people strand themselves with broken ships etc on hostile lands whilst must be frustrating it's things like that that make this game unique to me. Alternating this with Hyper Light Drifter and that's working well for good gaming sessions.
I've had a great deal of fun with this game. It is a little overwhelming at first, but like was said, when you get that perfect moment, it's all worth it
Spot on review, one of the best I've read on here.
Thanks for your comments everyone! I'll be happy to answer any questions
Really good review. Glad you found a really nice planet towards the end of your review period... it's just sad that such encounters are so unlikely. Many players will never see a planet like that.
Fair review! Honestly I do think it could have come in at a slightly lower price point but as long as they put some of the huge sums this game must have generated into adding free content down the line I can see me coming back to this regularly. It's just a great game to relax and play for a couple of hours, especially if you're a sucker for this kind of scifi aesthetic.
So based on what I've played so far I'd recommend this game to anyone, but not at the current price, simply because if you don't like it it's a bit too much money to shrug off. If you do like it, though, it's money well spent. So I don't personally feel like I paid too much!
@Quintumply Should I wait for the stability patch before buying seens as though I've held buying off so far?
Hmm. To me this looks interesting, but not worth the £40+ AAA price point they've launched at. It's a tarted-up indie game, not a must-buy blockbuster like Naughty Dog or Rockstar games.
The user reviews on Metacritic are pretty savage too. I'll wait till it comes down to about 20 squid.
@themcnoisy I'm not sure exactly how far away the patch is, but if you've held off this long, maybe give it a bit longer. If they can get rid of the crashes, you'll have a much better time.
@Quintumply thanks man, great review! Will hold off until the patch.
Nice review, interesting to get a different perspective. Might get it when it goes on sale.
@themcnoisy : i'm on the same spot. I'm very intrigued and i'll definitely play it sooner or later, but i feel no rush.
@Quintumply: a nice review, thank you.
Just out out of curiosity, while reading i was almost sure to see a 8 at the bottom.
Is because of the technical hiccups, or because of its "not for all" nature, or something else?
Great review, sums it up perfectly. I was trying to explain it to a mate yesterday and wrote pretty much what you have, and everyone else that likes it and hates it at the same time.
I don't think I helped his purchase choice. I love it. I hate it. And I can't stop playing it.
Great review. Everything about this game that is good is beyond amazing but the weak points really stand out. Thankfully I can look past them and am loving it so far. Really this game is un reviewable though, you have to play it and you'll either love it or hate, there is no middle ground.
@themcnoisy to be honest it's only crashed once for me and I lost about 30 seconds of progress so it's really not that bad. I'd say get it if you got the spare coin and time.. Otherwise if you are gunna hold off you may as well wait a bit longer till it's cheaper.
One small step for the reviewer, one giant leap for pushsquare kind (great review!)
It seems like a quite a divisive game. No Man's Marmite, if you will.
I'm glad it exists, but also sadly admit I'll never have the time spare to fully appreciate it.
Great review and lets be honest this game isn't easy to review anyway but is made worse by the fact its already out and its not a short game either.
@Bliquid In honesty it was nearly an 8, but I think a 7 is more fitting. It came down to the flaws in the gameplay and the technical problems it currently has. I know it affects some more than others, but I had it crash at least three times, which isn't very good.
Thank you everyone for your lovely comments!
@kyleforrester87 they have already said that they are going to put free content in and that's why they charged full price so they didn't have to go down the road of the season. They said that they don't like that model that other companies use. I think it's worth every penny personally. Great review
@dunhill1986hj Yup, I'm sure they did say that.. Of course whether they make good on the promises of adding extra really meaningful content or not is another thing. Hope they do. Again, loving the game so far.
Top review. I also expected a bit fat 8 after reading it but it's all good. Some of those pics shown are beautiful, I've still yet to land on a lush planet so I'm looking forward to when I do.
One of the best reviews I have read on here. Good work.
I thought about buying it but £50 on PSN and £46 on Amazon made me think twice about a game I am not totally sure about.
There maybe better deals but that is a lot of money. I think I'll wait until the inevitable price drop.
Played for about 5 hours and was bored- samey, drab planets with little life and dull grind. Played for an hour with my 4 year old and had an epiphany. The look on her face when we landed on a lush planet teaming with life... I'm now hooked. Also, 4 year olds are amazing at coming up with alien sounding names.
Great review. I will surely look again in this game in the future. For those that played it does it have civilizations on the planets or NPCs to interact? Also is there a story (even hidden in logs etc), a purpose of why you want to go in the center of the universe or is a greater event happening plot-wise?
A great, fair review thanks. I personally believe the game is a 9 and GOTY as there's nothing that has rivalled it's addictive mining/space exploration gameplay loop for me in 2016 thus far. But I appreciate a game with such technical issues as forced console crashing has to be criticised.
But I agree with all the negative points here too. It's not a perfect game, as much as I love it; it can get repetitive and has a steep learning curve at the start, but I think the average reviews so far are extremely harsh and see to have been written by COD kids that need a story and massive battles to be able to enjoy a game.
It's clearly not a game for everyone, but it's such an incredible, addictive technical marvel that everyone should at least give it a chance.
Good review, I would give it at least 8.5 so many cool moments. One planet I was on started out at 120 degrees , then a storm came and upped the temp to 240 had to haul it back to my ship or burn up. I don't think combat is that bad either
Na... Not for me. Too much commitment!!! .... potentially Endless sandbox doesn't really turn me on !!
Loving it myself, averaging 1 8 hour stint each day. Can't recommend highly enough to keep upgraded your exo suit with slots.
Nice review! This game is EXACTLY what I expected, and I never understood the outrageous level of hype it got. Quality over quantity seems to be the lesson here.
If they added multiplayer, base building etc.... this game could become a masterpiece, here's hoping the developers have it planned for updates in the future.
After your earlier article I expected a vary harsh 5/10!!
Good review. This game is not for everyone, but if you like exploring for the sake of exploring this game is made for you, I can't stop playing the game, I just want to explore.
Sorta figured this would be spore 2.0
I'm surprised NMS is never getting compared to the new Elite in reviews/comments. They look so similar (to someone who hasn't played either of them yet).
I'll pick them both up in a sale and give them a try but probably Elite first.
@Quintumply Best review I have read for the game (and I have read a few). A lot of work went into this one clearly. Feels like it covers what people like and don't like about the game.
@CloudNine. Exactly, amen. Thats what its all about
@belmont There are NPCs and yes there is a story
@DoctorOverbuild Base building is coming
Best review I've seen so far, 7 is about right jumping to an 8 if new content is added and bugs are fixed.
Thanks again everyone for your kind words, and it's great that a lot of you are enjoying No Man's Sky!
I love the game. It's on elements of elder scrolls, minecraft, grand theft auto and elite, all of which I adore. The graphics are very stylised but that is part of the charm. I got lost in a subterranean cave last night and went deeper and deeper and could have gone further but decided I needed to try and retrace my steps. 3 hours later I found the exit and seeing the glint of sunlight through the opening was a glorious triumph. It's these moments that make it. I've had no crashes, textures "fizz" a bit on planetary entry and space debris appears from nowhere, which, when you're in pulse, can force a quick evasive manoeuvre but it never bothers me. I've had barren planets, irradiated planets, planets covered in Gek ruins and just found a planet that is some sort of manufacturing / research facility, so much to do on this place it's overwhelming. I've just bought a new multitool and have seen a nice ship to buy but need to make some units first. For 40 quid this game offers an endless adventure. Once I've got a sweet pile of units, a great ship and a to multitool I'm gonna start flying around and become a space pirate for a while. There's plenty of ships in and out of space stations.
This is a great review. I personally love the game but what you've done is put across what type of game it is and who is going to enjoy it. I'm under no delusions about what type of game it is. It's a particular type of game which will appeal to a certain type of player (more so than usual releases).
You've gone in balancing everything which is always nice. It's what a review should do: people who read it will think "that's my sort of game" or "this really isn't my sort of game". Good work Stephen!
@Fandabidozi Elite Dangerous is brilliant, I cant talk about NMS for obvious reasons. The base game on PC is £8.... go and buy it now!!!
@kyleforrester87 yeah, Im definitely going to wait, Driveclubs pulled me back in so Im gonna try that damned bike racing again. Then buy NMS,
@themcnoisy good luck beating some of my times
I'll get this in a sale, glad I didn't pick it up on launch, sound's like 7 day's has much more depth and poo's all over NMS.
@SuperCat Metacritic user review are pretty rubbish and worthless. Remember the 1/10 review on Mass Effect 3 because users didn't like the ending? Worthless site.
@BambooBushido OK Thanks!!!!
Good review. This is the sort of game I would hate.
@Mergatro1d I miss my young years when i was just ecstatic when i played a game as simple as mario. Now at my age i am spoiled and can get put off by the most stupid things.
Fantastic review, clearly defining the games highs and lows. If I was reviewing it subjectively then I would give it a 7 but for me personally it's a 9.
I haven't been so enthralled by a game for a long time, especially when I am first entering a new planets atmosphere and wondering what strange fauna there will be and how lucrative the mining opportunities will be.
I find sentinel and space combat a chore but everything else has drawn me further and further into this wonderful universe.
I still have my first ship as I can't bear to part with over a million of my hard-earned but I'll have to shortly as I haven't found any lying about.
It took me far too long to figure out how to add slots for my suit, but I got there eventually. The game has also crashed on me 12 times now but saving happens frequently so it's ok.
A fantastic achievement for a small development team. Bravo!
@Serf Thank you!
I didn't come across a crashed ship for a long while, but they're really good opportunities to upgrade. I read somewhere that a crashed ship will always either have one more or less inventory slot than your current ship. I started a new game once I'd finished playing for the review, and I've managed to find three crashed starships across two or three systems, and they've all had an extra slot. I've yet to spend a penny on a new ship, instead putting the time in to fix up busted ones I think it's the observatories that tell you where crashed ships are.
Glad you're enjoying the game!
Bit late to read this but a really great review, very fair and balanced. I really can't imagine how tricky it must be to review a game like this. For all its flaws I'm really enjoying it and am looking forward to seeing how it develops over time.
I like the look of this but i'm still not 100% sure.
I would love to see a review by the idiot who made death threats when the delay was announced!
Yeah, what I thought it would be. I'll probably get this game, but I'm not hugely excited.
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