Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
Last week, I explored 5 solar systems and found dozens of unique creatures. I took dozens of photos of the gorgeous world around me. I became allies with an alien race, and destroyed my relationship with another through space piracy. I survived radiation storms, I completed missions, and I built my own base filled with workers. I even fought an evil hopping plant. After all of this, I unlocked platinum trophy #152: Total Perspective Vortex.
Last week, I played forty hours of No Man’s Sky.
The First Attempt
Back when No Man’s Sky was first revealed, I was both impressed and excited. Like nearly everyone else, I was shocked by the scale of the game, and the potential of such an ambitious title had me making plans about what I would do when it released. I wanted to find creatures and planets that resembled those from the games, books, movies, and shows that I loved. I wanted to fill the limitless universe with references to friends and family, meet intelligent life, and go on adventures. I couldn’t wait to do these things. Then, No Man’s Sky released.
I was there on launch day. I started the game, and explored my first planet for hours before deciding to move on. To this day, leaving that original planet is still one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in a video game. Hearing how huge the game was for years didn’t make seeing it for myself any less incredible, and I was genuinely stunned. Like many others, though, I soon came to the realization that this was the only time No Man’s Sky was going to shock me.
The game was huge, sure, but the gargantuan size of the project could not come close to covering up how shallow it was on the gameplay side. Combat was weak, planets were often hard to look at and rarely beautiful, and much of the content that was promised to be there was nonexistent. Grinding for materials felt endless, taking hours of work for brief moments of fun, and storing those materials was a pain due to limited inventory space. Finally, even though many had hoped for it, there was no multiplayer. It’s been said that if No Man’s Sky was “Minecraft in space”, it would have been a huge success. I think that’s accurate. Still, I’m not here to talk about the game’s flaws (that’s been done more than enough over the years).
After 19 hours of playtime, I stopped playing No Man’s Sky. The game had potential, and it was certainly innovative... but its flaws were far more numerous than its strengths. Even then, though, I was never as down on it as everyone else. I never took the odd satisfaction that so many did (and still do) in tearing the game to shreds and bashing it nonstop. I despised the people who had targeted Sean Murray personally and sent death threats. Perhaps the extreme amount of hate is why I always thought about giving it a second chance. On the other hand, it may have just been me wanting the game to be as spectacular as I had hoped. Whatever the case, after some time, I committed to the idea. I decided I would come back to the game when it was heavily improved upon, and I would play until I had experienced enough to earn the platinum trophy.
In the second week of 2018, I finally made good on that promise...
The Enjoyable Return
Today’s version of No Man’s Sky looks far less like the launch version of the game, and far more like the game that was so heavily publicized. Many aspects of NMS have been tweaked or rebuilt from scratch, something that I couldn’t be more thankful for. I noticed my first change when it came to the storage space, of all things. Gone are the days of sharing exosuit and ship slots between technology and material; there are now separate slots for each, as well as a high capacity storage slot in the exosuit inventory. This simple change makes farming for materials doable in one go as opposed to repeat, repetitive visits, and constant menu swapping. This simple change makes a huge difference over time.
The next thing I stumbled upon was in one of the many space stations players visit during their journeys. While on the way to sell some of my excess material, I ran into a new type of vendor: a vender that offered side missions. These missions weren’t anything special; they ranged from taking out sentinels (the AI “enemies” of the game) to finding a lost traveler and getting them back to the station. They were simple tasks that could be done through natural gameplay... something that was perfect for No Man’s Sky. Following these side missions led me to what might be my favorite addition made to No Man’s Sky since launch: base building.
Building a base on No Man’s Sky is a surprisingly simple task. It isn’t too hard to find a habitable location, nor is it very costly to build one’s base material-wise. Players are quickly given a series of tasks after construction of a basic area, and following these leads to much more to do. Thankfully, all this work feels rewarding. After completing each of the quests given by the base workers, I was unlocking a new blueprint or something even more useful... like storage units or a vehicle. I then progressed through some of the Story of No Man’s Sky (yes, you read that right).
A few months back, Hello Games added a new story path to No Man’s Sky. Players can still take the original, heavily-criticized path of moving towards the center of the universe, or they can take a new path that focuses on the rescue of an alien traveler named Artemis. I didn’t complete the path, but I do plan to soon; it’s an interesting enough plot as of now, and it’s nice to have actual story missions in No Man’s Sky.
The new bag of tools and mechanics were welcome additions to a flawed game, and made for a far deeper gameplay experience than No Man’s Sky originally had. Yet, the past few days that I’ve had to reflect on my time with the game have led to one grim realization...
The Disappointing Truth
It's too late for No Man’s Sky. I plan to end this article with a resounding, positive message to “give this game another chance”, like I did, because I do truly feel that it deserves one. I doubt that many will care when I do, though. The narrative around it is simply far too negative.
During the week I spent with the game, I had five friends question me for playing it. Out of these five people that I talked to, only one was still playing and enjoying No Man’s Sky. The rest were disinterested by the game and had moved on, or were legitimately annoyed that I was playing it. They couldn’t understand; those who had played the game at launch knew how flawed it was, and those who had never played it had seen and heard all the huge negatives about it. I don’t blame them at all, nor do I disagree; they’re not wrong. No Man’s Sky was a mediocre game.
Now, though, I think it’s a good one. Obviously, No Man’s Sky still isn’t “the perfect game” everyone hyped it up to be. Even after all the improvements, flaws still exist. Material gathering may be less frustrating due to the extra inventory space, but it ranges from quick and fun to long and grindy. Finding all animals on a planet is still a pain that can lead to hours of boring searching. Ground combat is still clunky, and some planets still look much nicer than others (particularly those with grass, which received a huge visual upgrade). Still, this time the positives outnumber these negatives. The Atlas Rises Update is something that was a huge step forward for No Man’s Sky, and I’m excited to see the next move Hello Games will be making to further improve the experience.
Despite its flaws, both past and present, I’m enjoying No Man’s Sky again. I plan to play regularly, regardless of what people think, because I’m enjoying the game. I took the time to see the changes made to it... and I’m glad that I did.
Thanks for reading!
I’m under no illusion that this short bit of writing from a random gamer like myself will revive No Man’s Sky, but if even one person gives it another look, then this article will have been worth it. The game has been greatly improved, and it deserves some positive feedback to contrast the abundance of negativity that has plagued it for years. Take a look below for some of the creatures I saw on my journey, and check back soon for something new.