No Man’s Vast Lonesome Sky

No Man’s Sky is one of the most astounding games I’ve ever seen. There has never been an open world so vast. Its hidden lore is peppered in such a way that the more you play the more you want to know. Your effort translates directly into better gear and better ships that can take you even further than you could before. It’s a satisfying feeling knowing that every moment you spend exploring, you have unearthed new information, earned more credits, and improved your collection of up-gradable equipment.

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This game is not for me.

When I first heard of No Man’s Sky, my mind wandered to the beauty of everything I might discover and sharing that experience with my friends: looking up from a lifeless moon at the tropical planet on the horizon and preparing for another day mapping the lawless expanse of deep space. We would split up every once in awhile to do our own things of course, but at the end of the day we would agree to meet up and share our bounties. In a game this large, it just made sense to me that divvying up the tasks would help us get to the center of the universe faster. All with the help of my friends.

And then soon after, Game Informer grabbed the Hello Games managing director Sean Murray for an interview that quelled any idea I had about forming this close knit group of Galaxy Explorers. He was very clear that No Man’s Sky is not an MMO and you would have to work very hard for a very long time to reach wherever your friends are. Traveling across different star systems to a specific planet or a moon and then circling it looking for a person sized object on an Earth sized body is a daunting task.

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What’s left of the game for me is a resource management system with the ability to take pictures of native life for money and various encounters you can react to with one of a couple options. It felt like an endless chore with intermittent bouts of enjoyment. I did enjoy myself; I want to emphasize that. My day job involves coding so the very idea of how this game can be so very beautiful and vast astounds me. But that’s not enough to keep my attention.

While playing, I was reminded of my MineCraft days. I start with nothing. I collect basic materials to make better tools. I use my better tools to make better materials in an unending cycle. That’s a valid genre of game design rooted in feeling accomplished through constant improvement. Still, the sprawling landscapes and exciting discoveries of No Man’s Sky left me yearning for that social connection. Eventually, I would discover the most bizarre looking animal and internally shrug because what’s the point if I can’t share the experience. The most fun I’ve had with this game is watching people Live Stream it on Twitch or YouTube and reacting with them.

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The best advice I can give is a near echo of Sean’s interview: if you want to explore the galaxy with friends, play Destiny. If you want to explore the galaxy with companions that are intertwined with the mythos, play Mass Effect. If you want to explore a much larger galaxy in an open world and marvel at the beauty and vastness of it all, play No Man’s Sky. Don’t go in expecting more than that though, or you will be disappointed.


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3 thoughts on “No Man’s Vast Lonesome Sky

  1. Great write up. No Man’s Sky is definitely a strange egg to deal with. I feel like the communication between devs and consumers could have been better since so many people expected this game to be THE definitive exploration game. There’s still hope for it. Future updates can definitively fix a lot and, while it is flawed, this game does set the foundation for the future of the franchise as technology continues to advance. Who knows, maybe 10-15 years from now we’ll look back at this moment as the beginning of something extraordinary.

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    • I absolutely agree. It’s always tempting to compare new games to classics and I know I’m guilty of it. If this game was just a bit more like Skyrim/Fallout, if this game was a bit more like Destiny, if this game was a bit more like GTA. But on its own, NMS has done some wicked cool stuff. There are just so many amazing things going on and I can’t wait to see what this means for the future of gaming.

      For now, yeah, I wish they’d have listened to the consumers a bit more.

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  2. Yeah, I hear ya. Hopefully the negative backlash doesn’t ruin the devs forever.

    Also, do you blog with any other sites at the moment? I work over at Now Loading and we’re always looking for more gaming bloggers to join and share their content with our readers and community. If you’re keen on the idea, there’s more info/contact details on my blog 😀

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