No Man’s Sky – To the Stars, and Beyond

No Man's Sky box art

Released on: 9 August 2016

Available Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X, PC

Price: $79.99 CAD ($59.99 US)

Developed by: Hello Games Published by: Hello Games

I love talking about outer space. When I look up at the night sky and see all of those stars, I can’t help but think just how small we, as a human species are, in the grand scheme that is our universe. To think that there are more stars out there than there are grains of sand on our planet is wild. Some people find the concept of the infinite vastness of space to be overwhelming. I can’t help but wonder what is out there. If shows like Star Trek or games like Elite Dangerous taught me anything, it is that space is a fascinating but dangerous place.

In 2016, one game placed its space helmet into the space exploration genre. Being advertised as a game that procedurally generates its universe, the game promises endless exploration, epic space battles, and the ability to share what players found with the rest of the player base. The game in question? No Man’s Sky.

I picked up No Man’s Sky on launch. Back then, I liked what I played, as it was neat to explore space, and I hadn’t played Elite Dangerous at the time. I did, however, feel like it was more of a zen garden, where the player walks of a mysterious planet to gather ingredients and nothing else. That was six years ago. Since then, the game’s had vast and numerous updates that promise to breathe new life into the game. Is No Man’s Sky worth exploring once more?

No Man's Sky tile screen

The player awakens on a deserted planet with little recollection of who they are, where they are, or what they need to do. The only clue they have is a mysterious machine that seems broken. Once the player accesses the device, it introduces itself as “The Atlas,” and it tells the player that they should head towards the center of the galaxy.

No Man’s Sky’s beginning seems innocuous at first, but soon, the player finds evidence that maybe they shouldn’t place all of their trust in an unknown entity that may or may not be a deity. What’s more, the player will soon find other story missions that they can follow instead of the primary goal of reaching the center of the galaxy. I enjoy No Man’s Sky story missions. As a point of reference, I have three story missions on the go, where two of them clash. It’s exciting and makes me wonder what happens when I see one of them through to the end.

No Man’s Sky has impressive visuals. One of my favorite things to do with space-themed games (like Elite Dangerous or even The Outer Worlds) is taking in the fact that I am no longer on Earth. I find myself looking up at a planet’s sky I’m on to find neighboring
planets, ring systems, or even several moons or suns. It excites my imagination to think that these kinds of worlds may exist and that, if I were on such a planet, I would see the same thing (provided I could survive while being on said planet). No Man’s Sky does this beautifully, as those things the player sees in the sky, the player can hop into their spaceship and go to it. It makes the planets, the star system, and the universe feel connected.

I don’t know what this thing is, but it’s cool, and it’s just an example of the things people can find in No Man’s Sky.

One significant improvement that the developers added to No Man’s Sky was the things the players can do and accomplish. Most of the time, the player will gather minerals and resources from various planets. The player uses these resources to recharge their equipment, build bases, power their base components, craft objects, repair spaceship parts, and trade. As they explore planets for resources, the player will find all sorts of different structures and miscellaneous objects during their expeditions. A few notable examples of things I found are Knowledge Stones, which teach the player a word in an alien language, damaged spaceships where the owner is nowhere to be seen (thus I helped myself to the ship), and abandoned buildings, which usually have cartography information.

It isn’t always smooth sailing, however, as planets sometimes have hostile lifeforms. Sentinels are usually the prime annoyance to the player, but some creatures would rather see the player in pieces than to let them go on their merry way. Luckily, the player can defend themselves by either using the mining laser or switching to the Boltcaster (which I like calling the “gun mode”). In outer space, there are hostile ships that accost the player on occasion. Thankfully, the starting ship comes with competent lasers.

Exploring the planets to find resources works well enough. I do like how the game offers two different camera angles (first person and third person). Running around the planet works well enough, and the player has a jetpack that they can use to climb steep hills. Where the game shines for me is finding the ancient ruins, buried caches, and Knowledge Stones. There is a lot to discover when scouring planets. So much so that I never ultimately found everything there was to uncover on a planet.

One significant addition to No Man’s Sky is the ability to recruit alien lifeforms as pets. While I have yet to use this feature in any practical way, I still love it. Is there a weird-looking crab-like monster nearby? Why not give it a treat and make it a friend. On some of the bigger creatures, the player can even ride them. There’s even an incubator later on in the game that will allow the player to breed their pets.

No Man's Sky crab friend.
Don’t mind me, I’m just hanging out with my crab friend.

Another update that recently came out (at the time of writing) is the freighters. I was surprised when I saved a freighter from pirates and got invited to board their ship, only to give me the freighter for rescuing them. That was exciting, as I can now have a portable base, select my ships while in space and send my freighter on expeditions. It felt like I was the new captain of a crew, and it feels incredible.

While No Man’s Sky did improve significantly over the years, there are still, a few areas that can use some polish.

While the game is much more stable than it has been in the past, No Man’s Sky is still prone to glitches. Most of the glitches are visual, tolerable (most of the time), but I’ve also encountered an artifact that, after the text box disappears, the game crashes.
Thinking it might just be a temporary thing, I decided to explore the scene again, only to find out that I can consistently crash the game by investigating the artifact. I’ve also found myself warping inside of a freighter which almost destroyed me. I understand that, given the size of the game, No Man’s Sky would have technical hiccups, but there
is still a need for technical polish in certain areas.

No Man's Sky glitch
The valet really messed up this time…

While getting used to No Man’s Sky. I felt the resource gathering was on the tedious side. The player’s inventory capacity is limited; thus, they will often find themselves managing what they are carrying with them. Once the player gets a few suit upgrades and can construct storage units, the inventory management issue is more manageable. It did take a while for me to become accustomed to No Man’s Sky’s gameplay loop.

People accustomed to Elite Dangerous’ flight controls will need to acclimate to No Man’s Sky. I tried finding a mod that would allow me to implement Elite Dangerous’ flight control scheme, but sadly, I couldn’t find any. Despite that, flying in general in No Man’s Sky has a much more arcade-like feel to it, especially when compared to Elite
Dangerous. Space combat is also much simpler in No Man’s Sky. It might be because I haven’t gone up against anything legitimately threatening, but I have yet to lose a dogfight in No Man’s Sky, with my opposition being taken out with little trouble.

If I had one thing that I could add to No Man’s Sky, it would be the option to save the game manually. As it stands, the player can save the game by either disembarking their ship or using a save beacon. While this isn’t as game-breaking as the crashes, I’ve found myself having to rediscover or redo certain sections of the game because I forgot to
hop on, then off of my ship to save the game before logging off. No Man’s Sky does let the player know when the last save was done. It does prevent people from logging off when they are losing a firefight. It would still be nice to be able to manually save the game before turning the game off.

I must give my congratulations to Hello Games, the developers of No Man’s Sky. To say that the game improved since launch would be a colossal understatement. There is so much to discover, do and experiment within No Man’s Sky. It would be a shame to miss out. Anyone looking to explore the depths of space without needing to learn (or relearn) how to drive will enjoy what No Man’s Sky has to offer.

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