Hello Games has finally released No Man’s Sky on Xbox One following the original PS4 just under 2 years ago. This game has had more than its share of criticism since the original launch but much has changed and I’m keen to see if it was worth the wait.
No Man’s Sky and its fame has been a rollercoaster of emotion stemming from the original concept video through to the initial release, updates and the finished product we see on our consoles today. But what can be said is that despite the timeline, what is now playable is considerably a more fun and engaging game.
No Man’s Sky is in essence a survival game with virtually unlimited boundaries. Your character starts out on a strange random planet with a broken ship. You must acquire different elements in order to make repairs to your ship, suit and mini-tool in order to both survive and venture out into the universe. Let’s start with your Mini-Tool which is your weapon and mining equipment. Amongst many elements, you can harvest Carbon from plants which are needed for your life support and hazard protection (more on that later). The tool itself can use Carbon or other material to recharge as well. Rocks and other local solids are sources for iron, plutonium and more. This mineral collection extends to all planets, their moons and asteroids, basically you should consider destroying everything to familiarise yourself with what you can harvest from what.
Your Exosuit has its own features which includes a shield, life support function and hazard protection which will need constant recharging to keep you alive. Hazards can vary from toxic atmosphere, to extreme cold or hot, and so on.
Your Starship also has rechargeable features like Deflector Shield, Proton Cannon, Pulse Engine, Launch Thrust and Hyperdrive. The main ones here are the Pulse Engine, Launch Thrust and Hyperdrive as without fuel for these, you will not be able to get off the ground, into Space or travel into different areas of the universe.
Aside from exploring and harvesting, you can identify the animals and plants with your scanner as well as developing your alien language skills for when you encounter a friendly alien. They are located in scattered base stations on each planet, trading posts and space stations.
What does this all mean for playability of the game? Simply put, you’ll be harvesting and exploring for the majority of it. Aside from weather conditions, the only threat comes from Sentinel drones which move around the planets and may attack you if you attack buildings, minerals and/or animals. They are not much more of an annoyance if anything. You can attack them back but each additional wave will be stronger and plentiful.
In space, things are a bit different. If you happen to be carrying valuable cargo, you could be attacked by rogue pirates. These pirates fly similar sized spaceships and can vary in quantity. Your only options are to fight back or flee, depending on your current situation, either can be a very wise decision. Fleeing will guarantee that you will survive with your loot but the enemy lives to attack you again in the future. Fighting however may lead to your demise. If this occurs, you will respawn at the nearest space station as a new generation and you can return to collect what you had on your person but any cargo in your ship will be lost.
I was pleased to see that base building has been added so as long as you have the resources, you have the freedom to create a whatever you’d like as a planetary base.
A previous issue I had with the game was that it didn’t have a story or direction for the character and that remains true to a point, however now that there is a quest log, the game seemed more structured so I could keep track of what I had to do. This also is true for universal travelling. There is a register of galaxies you have visited so that you can actually find your way back home now.
No Man’s Sky also includes the option to purchase other ships from NPC traders as long as you have enough currency but also, I happened upon a fleet of cruisers which I was able to take command of at no cost in order to despatch exploratory missions to acquire resources without manually doing it myself. This really gave me a sense of accomplishment and progression in the game.
Audio & Visuals
No Man’s Sky is heavily detailed to say the least and the graphics have only gotten better with the support of Xbox One X Enhanced HDR. Each planet has a definition unlike any other, no two are the same. Well that is the idea, clearly no-one has been to every one and unlikely to either considering how many worlds, regions and sectors are in the game. The benefit of that is that no region is familiar, they all vary in colours, topography, hazards, flora and fauna. Even in space, different regions have varying colour pallets. The ships, bases, animals and aliens all are very well designed and add to the visual presentation. There really was nowhere I ventured that didn’t feel foreign to me.
What really impacted me in this game was the sound. Aside from the standard wind, storms, movement, multi-tool, alien speech and ship sounds, the background music is all that is left. Nothing wrong with that in most cases, however in this game, the background music was almost too feint, almost non-existent and yet subtle enough to unintendedly put you to sleep. Great for ASMR, but not a game you want people to play for lengthy periods.
Multiplayer mode has finally made it into the game, but if you’re expecting to be in a “party” with your friends then you will be disappointed. Instead, your friends can join you in your game but they really just run independently. You can assist each other in your quests if you’d like as well as transfer items similar to that of your ship but communication will be essential otherwise it is very easy to lose each other. It is a nice addition to be able to play with friends but it feels like it has been done in the most minimalistic fashion possible.
Although a little reluctant to return to the game, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the new experiences that have been added. There obviously was a large portion of familiarity but with a new shine – like going back to a theme park you visited as a child. The new additions and UI have certainly enabled more direction and assist with completing tasks and even though it’s not fantastic, the multiplayer feature does check off another item that was sorely missed at the original launch. No Man’s Sky is a large game and has a lot to offer, especially if you have many hours to spare. It still suffers some original issues I had from the original release but is worth revisiting if you still have it on your shelf.