The hype surrounding the release of “No Man’s Sky” had been through the roof. Gamers, wowed by gameplay footage over the last few years, were eager to travel the stars discovering flora and fauna on the 18 quintillion procedurally-generated planets.
Perhaps tiny development house Hello Games’ first foray into the world of blockbuster games was a victim of irrational expectations, but public opinion rapidly turned against the game in the days following its release.
It’s hard to fault gamers’ frustrations, either. “No Man’s Sky,” for all of its impressive technological feats and promise of more than 100 hours of gameplay, gets old pretty fast.
The core gameplay is simple. Players control a faceless interstellar explorer on a mission to the center of the galaxy. To do that, the space traveler must collect resources on planets and in space to craft items that will power the ship’s hyperdrive to the next star system, inching closer to the endgame.
Along the way, players will upgrade their ship, suit and mining tool/weapon for enhanced capabilities in storing materials and items, defending against aggressive wildlife and robotic sentinels, and from inhospitable planetary conditions such as radiation or extreme temperature.
But “No Man’s Sky” rarely gets more interesting. There’s the occasional aggression on the ground, but aggressors are easily put down and offer no challenge.
Space pirates will sometimes attack when traveling from planet to planet, but dogfights have no sophistication. If you have a good ship, you’ll beat them. If you don’t you’ll be blown to bits and drop your materials. But don’t worry, you can go back and gather them, with the only penalty a waste of your time.
There is a story — quite a meta one, actually — but it doesn’t involve the player frequently enough and isn’t all that special anyway. You’ll interact with three alien races from time to time — and you’ll have to learn their language through collection — but it’s little more than reading text. Every one of the brief conversations is a bore.
If not for its technical contributions, “No Man’s Sky” wouldn’t have much to offer. However, its ability to create varied planets and allow gamers to explore them with no visible load screens is commendable. Hopefully other developers can utilize and improve this tech.
Ultimately, “No Man’s Sky” seems destined to be remembered as an overhyped disappointment.
“No Man’s Sky”
Review: 2 out of 4 stars
“No Man’s Sky,” published and developed by Hello Games, is out now for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC, $59.99