Countless games promise to create an experience so unique and creative that people will treasure their moments with it for years to come, and more often than not, it doesn't work out that way. No Man's Sky is one of those games. Live E3 demos, developer tweets, and threads on online forums are just a few things that factor into the unreachable expectations of No Man's Sky. It was made out to be the final video game; a game you could practically play for the rest of your life because of the infinite universe it holds. A wild statement, but so many people actually believed it. In reality its more like a less charming version of Minecraft in Space.
Exploration takes a back seat to survival in No Man's Sky - which is surprising because I thought the crux of a game with infinite worlds would be travelling the wild and wacky planets you come across. That exploration does happen every once in a while, but it's the byproduct of constantly recharging stat bars and tiresome mineral management.
The Galaxy is Lonely
The endless space adventure has you start out on the middle of a randomly generated planet which you have to scavenge for resources to fix up and fuel your ship. It's haunting. I felt so alone on that planet, an emotion that survival games don't usually get out of me. It could've been from watching the millions of other planets before I crash landed, or maybe it was because of the built-in defense systems on planets called Sentinels, which are floating eyes that attack you in swarms if they catch you collecting resources. Whatever it is, No Man's Sky produces an uncomfortable atmosphere whenever you attempt to explore and it's hard to shake.
Being forced to quickly grasp surroundings also means that you have to quickly grasp the controls which are another interesting part of No Man's Sky. On the PlayStation 4, the "run" button is mapped to the right stick and the "scan" button is on the left stick, which is completely bizarre to me. It's been standard for games with a running option to have it on the left stick, and people have gotten used to that over the years. It's just intuitive. Making such a weird change to the control stick norm while introducing so many new mechanics exclusive to No Man's Sky, made for a clunky, awkward first 15 minutes.
No Man's Sky has so many different planets, but a lot of them look the same. I've flown to many different planets, but flora and rock structures look almost identical, the only species I've seen diversity with is the animals, but I'm not complaining because they look fantastic. The first creature I met was a small crab with rabbit ears and a lion's tail, the most recent creature I saw was a gigantic armadillo with scales and a multi-pronged beaver tail, and I honestly burst out laughing looking at them. Having the ability to rename settlements, plants, and animals is great because it really enhances the personal part of the experience. I saw a weird dog thing and I named its species "Ugly Boys", now all of them are going to be called that forever, and if anyone ever stumbles upon my planet they will know about the carnivorous Ugly Boys, which I think is pretty cool.
The scenery is also just breathtakingly beautiful. It's so bright and vibrant, and while you're soaring through a planet's atmosphere, gazing below at the undiscovered land, it makes you feel like you're actually flying a spaceship around. That's where No Man's Sky shines the most.
I don't know if I'm having fun when I play No Man's Sky, but I do know that I'm constantly captivated and intrigued by what could possibly show up on my screen next. Its definitely not a game I'll be playing forever, but I know that I can always boot it up if I'm ever in the mood to explore an unknown galaxy.