3 Things I Like About… That Space Game No-One’s Ever Heard Of Before


Cards on the table, about twenty hours in, I’m liking No Man’s Sky. I’m liking it a lot. And because I love to share but try not to do too much work in the process, I bring you three (and no more) reasons why that is.

Procedurally Clever

If Elite: Dangerous has taught me anything, it’s that ‘procedural’ and ‘on-line persistent’ don’t seem to like each other. Not yet anyway. The workarounds, such as the horrendous P2P netcode, disconnected systems or aimless NPCs, expose Elite: Dangerous‘ critical vulnerability. Everything that resembles life, has an expiry date stamp.

Now, sure, there is a way to jump back-and-forth between two systems. But the way No Man’s Sky presents itself and the fact that it’s pretty damn difficult to actually navigate back, it’s actively discouraged. Likelihood of players’ scrutiny uncovering gaping design holes is minimised.

They do exist, no one’s denying that. But the game propelling me forwards rather than taking a go-wherever-do-whatever-shrug stance, they’re covered-up. A con? Maybe. I still think it’s bloody clever.

No magic is lost when the night falls.

The Journey, Not The Destination

I chose to take the ‘Altas path’ at No Man’s Sky‘s beginning so excuse my ignorance if things pan out to be different if you choose to ‘free roam’. But I can’t praise it enough.

American Truck Simulator is a game of thousands of journeys and not much of a destination. Elite: Dangerous is a game of billions of destinations and not much of a journey between them. But No Man’s Sky is a game of one gigantic journey to one mysterious, obscure, sacred destination. And that’s amazing.

Even if it does for a while, your ultimate goal never disappears. That may not make a whole lot of sense, but that’s the way No Man’s Sky makes me feel. The breathtaking vistas, the hard-to-come-by resources, the not-always-friendly life. You can lose yourself in all and any of it. Go bonkers as much as you like, take as much time as you please. Walk the path by not walking it.

This place was unexpectedly busy. My first planetary starport was just around the corner.
This place was unexpectedly busy. My first planetary starport was just around the corner.

Grind, But Not Really

Credits per hour. Gotta love that, especially in a video game. The min-maxing folk just don’t get it do they? Whatever the answer, there’s no denying that No Man’s Sky gameplay is suspiciously permeated by grind.

You need resources, constantly, and for everything. Your ship needs fuel, your multitool needs ammo, your life support needs… some… other… energy. Hell, when you finally craft yourself a sub-marine rebreather, even that runs on fucking zinc!

Here’s the… strange part though. It never, not even when I found myself stupidly stranded, feels like grind. Thus far, there has always been an added ‘bonus’ to the necessary chore, be it a discovery, emerging mystery, even something as silly as a screenshot beauty spot. As far as I’m concerned, there are no ‘walls’ that one hits and can only climb via mindless busywork, all ‘progression’ feels natural and fluid.

A lot of colour is used. But never overused.

No Man’s Sky is, contrary to the out-of-proportion and beyond-all-reason hype, not a Game to Rule Them All. Far from it. It has problems. Which, if I feel like it, shall be discussed in another lazy-arse opinion article.

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