Another couple weeks, another game off the backlog. This time instead of lurking in the depths of an uncharted ocean, I’m blasting through the depths of space. This is another example of having played the game at launch, but curious to see what has been added throughout the last few years. So for this Back(log) to the Front, I took some time to play some No Man’s Sky again.
Let me start by saying I adored No Man’s Sky at launch. Yes it wasn’t without its’ faults such as the limited race of aliens or the little motivation to travel to the center of the universe, but the act of traveling to each planet and just the sense of discovery was there and hooked me. The crew at Hello Games has done a wonderful job updating the game to tackle some of the complaints, and what No Man’s Sky has become is the game people probably expected at launch.
The first thing I did was jump into creative mode. I knew I probably wouldn’t get too invested in the mechanics of the game again to really mess with many of the inclusions since launch before writing this. So I figured let’s skip the many hours and go straight to creative mode. This allowed me to easily jump between planets, test out the base building, check out the Nexus, and more.
They have done so much to diversify the planet landscapes since the games released in 2016. The algorithm must have been altered to allow for more colors in the world allowing for things like red grass or new creatures to discover such as living jax toys. I was taken aback the first time I entered an atmosphere and all the color was stripped from the world and it was a weird Twilight Zone effect. There is still a randomness to it that removes the personal touch of perfection, but the idea of discovering something new is still in place which is good for a returning player who may have thought they had seen through the cracks after the initial release.
The base system is fun and allows for your creativity to run a little wild if you want to create a dream home on some utopian planet. It’s not quite as janky as something like Fallout 4 for instance, but still has some kinks to work out. Certain parts don’t rotate in a way they should leaving certain open spaces on corners leaving you to work around it or alter that side completely for example. It’s also quite irritating to have a two or three story base that allows rain to come through still. I haven’t figured that one out quite yet. Maybe it’s because I used floor tiles as the ceiling so I could use the roof as a walkout balcony of sorts? Not sure. But other than a few hiccups the base system is pretty intuitive, almost to a fault when it comes to the many options of placing walls, and gives a very Minecraft feel to the game.
Like Minecraft, there is also a system in place to generate power and make devices work. This is something I would want nothing to do with in a normal game as working around that could be a slog. Just playing with it a little became more tiresome than anything due to placement and world type. For example, there is a object that creates power based on an electromagnetic field (or something to that affect). If you aren’t in a place with one of those, that’s not a good option. Same with solar panels and lack of sun. These two methods avoid the tediousness of a generator that has to be replenished to make everything run. Then there’s the unpleasantness of hooking everything up to make it run that, without careful consideration and time, just results in wires being run every which way to become an eyesore. Not exactly something I enjoyed.
One of the largest additions to the game since launch was the Nexus. From what I recall, the Nexus originally was a small little area with two aliens Nada and Polo who helped you on your way. Now, the Nexus more closely resembles a hub for multiplayer like one would find in Destiny. In creative mode it’s available immediately, but in the other modes it relies on a certain story point to be reached. Once accessible, the Nexus is a place to dock your ship allowing to meet other players in the world, speak with other aliens including Nada and Polo, and take on missions to receive items or credits. The missions from what I saw ranged from gathering resources to taking down pirate ships in space. Not exactly the most exciting but in a game that can be fun by just chilling and visiting new locations, at least it’s some sort of change of pace.
One of the things I was most hopeful and excited for though was the VR update. No Man’s Sky is an absolutely breathtaking game at times depending on the planet you are able to run across. Even flying through space has an awe-inspiring feel to it and it’s for those reasons I really wanted to experience it in VR. I didn’t get a ton of time with it, but it had it’s perks and drawbacks. To make VR more impressive, Hello Games revamped quite a bit. Controls were hard to get used to for instance. While I wanted to just run freely and take the risk of nausea, the team decided to use the warp mechanic. So pointing the controller (I’m assuming the Move controllers would work similarly) like you would your weapon/manipulator and pressing L2 would cause a placement arc to project forward and pressing L2 again will warp you to that spot. Instead of rotating freely, a button press causes the player to rotate 45 degrees. So as someone who really wanted more freedom, this really disappointed me.
Another drawback is the overall look of the game when in VR. Hello Games did add more to the spaceships for example to give them a more detailed look which carries over even outside of VR. However even that improvement isn’t enough to draw attention away from the worse resolution and fuzzier appearance when moving around the planets. The same can’t be said for being in space though. Moving around the spaceship in VR really is amazing. Looking around the cockpit and checking out the side and behind the ship really makes for a cool spectacle to behold.
So after toying around creative mode, I went ahead and jumped into normal mode. It was a harsher start than I remember it being though. I forget how much of the initial planet came down to luck since jumpstarting the mission comes down to locating the proper resources and your ship. Mix in a planet that isn’t so welcoming weather it radioactive or extremely terrible blizzards and you might think about backing out and jumping back in for something a little easier to manage at the start. I think that’s where I was shocked. I don’t recall it taking too long leaving the planet in the first place, but now much of those beginning hours is dependent fulfilling story missions which weren’t there in the beginning. This includes building a base, visiting a space shuttle and more. After roughly eight hours, I had only been to two other neighboring galaxies.
Despite the rough start, No Man’s Sky has actually added a story. I didn’t get too far into it, but it seems to revolve around a stranger you accidentally run across and a mystery of who you are and your existence in the universe. I imagine it would eventually explain the need to funnel players to the center of the universe, but by the time of writing this, that hasn’t come into play. Seeing as the lack of direction was one of the biggest gripes with the game, it appears there is something bridging the beginning and end moments now, though I can’t speak on how fulfilling it is when it’s all said and done.
Revisiting No Man’s Sky was like reuniting with an old friend. It was easy to get back into what made me love that game in the first place while wishing I had more time to spend with it. It’s still not perfect. It may still not be the game you want it to be. But for someone who just wants a relaxing time and take in some unique and interesting scenery, No Man’s Sky is a perfect candidate to try. After all of the improvements to the game including many I didn’t really mess with or touch on in this article including the exocrafts to more readily traverse the planet, this is the best time to experience No Mans’s Sky.