No Man’s Sky
When I was a kid I used to always visit a used book store around the corner from our house. After perusing the numerous dusty books for an hour or so, I’d usually settle in on few fantasy, horror, or science fiction novels. I remember that the science fiction books in particular had some truly bizarre and outlandish covers. Some featured weird looking aliens, while others had buxom, scantily clad women, holding laser pistols or some other futuristic weapon. The overall effect of these sf paperback covers would contribute to my healthy imagination and lengthy bouts of day dreaming, usually involving distant solar systems and ancient alien civilizations (and *ahem* buxom space hotties). I’m sure all of that had something to do with me developing my very own science fiction novel series as an adult.
When I’d first heard about No Man’s Sky, I was immediately intrigued. A gaming friend of mine who is also a science fiction geek told me about it, and after checking out some of the game’s YouTube videos, that intrigue quickly transformed into excitement. Yeah sure—the vids did seem a little hyped up, and yeah, their narrators did indeed make a few lofty proclamations as to the game’s capabilities. But, I’ll admit that I was one of the many gamers out there that bought into the developer’s hype. No Man’s Sky’s marketeers talked about virtually limitless possibilities because of the game’s much-ballyhooed procedurally generated universes. They had also mentioned that multiplayer would have a role in the final release.
By now, I’m sure that most people have heard about the whole missing-multiplayer-component fiasco, so I’m not really going to get into that. I’d rather cover my impressions with No Man’s Sky, and what its release has meant to me and as well as what other gamers could expect. Here are my experiences with the game…
I started off in the boots of a spaceship pilot who had recently crash landed on one of No Man’s Sky’s quadrillion or so planets. My first task was clear—harvest enough resources in order to repair said vessel, and also re-fuel it. From there, I figured I’d able to blast off into space and explore the surrounding star systems.
No Man’s Sky certainly starts off impressively. I was quite taken aback by the strange alien landscape of my starter planet. After wandering around for a bit, I discovered a number of odd looking alien creatures, which I found out I could also document and later claim rewards for. Likewise, the trees and other vegetation on display brought back the fanciful days of my gazing at 70s science fiction book covers and letting my imagination run wild.
Upon assembling the required resources, I hit the power switch on my humble little spaceship, and listened to its thrusters roar. It was an exhilarating feeling, knowing that I’d just conquered my first task and was about to embark on what I’d hoped would be an epic journey into the unknown. I remember scanning the planet’s horizon for one last time, as I sliced upwards into the planet’s upper atmosphere. Why weren’t there any other people busily scurrying about on its surface or flying around?—I wondered.
As I entered space and took a gander around, I noticed that there were quite a few planets and moons within close range of one another. It then dawned on me that No Man’s Sky’s procedural universe wasn’t composed of actual solar systems, but of planetary bodies more or less bunched up together in rows. Hmmmm…perhaps I was in some sort of parallel dimension—I’ll roll with that.
After engaging my hyperdrive thingamajigger (you always have to have those in these types of games, after all), I torpedoed towards another interesting-looking planet. After a harrowing descent and landing, I plopped down onto its surface and scanned my immediate surroundings. I spied what I thought were completely different aliens flapping around through the air, or traversing the purple grass- dotted ground. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that each “new” species that I came into contact with were merely amalgamations of aliens that I’d already encountered back on my original planet. In other words, they were just different assemblages of the same alien parts.
This time, I inspected the planet’s surface in its entirety, which took some-odd four or five hours. I came into contact with some hostile alien groups, and scouted out and investigated crashed alien vessels and ancient complexes. In all, I catalogued the entirety of the planet’s alien species, and garnered a handsome reward for my efforts. It was all good fun, but I wanted to see what else was out there—what other alien factions were out in the universe, perhaps at war with one another. Maybe I’d meet up and ally with other actual human players. You know, all of the exciting stuff that I’d dreamt about as a kid. I thought: Now technology has finally caught up to the outer limits (no pun intended) of one’s imagination.
I re-launched my ship, flew around through space, and touched down on the next planet. Same ol’ story—different looking aliens assembled from now familiar parts. The flora was impressively bizarre though, as well as gorgeous to behold. This time I found an alien trading post which was inhabited by one of the game’s three alien races. Well, he was just a single representative of the race. Oh, and he couldn’t get up and walk and talk with me. He was just sort of stuck there, blabbering at me from behind a counter as you’d imagine an animated puppet does at an amusement park. I still didn’t see any other real humans around.
By the forth planet, after eerily similar experiences, I was more or less like: Been there, done that. But, that little kid in me still held out a smidgen of hope, so I persevered. That wasn’t wise. Over the course of the next couple of days, I surveyed a couple dozen planets (I’m stubborn I know). What that revealed to me was that my hunger for discovering such things as black holes, nebulae, white dwarfs and red giants, gas giants, wormholes, alien cities, volcanos, lightning-imbued storms, dangerous interstellar creatures, flying through canyons, galactic love and interstellar relationships with uber-hot space-babes, and other fanciful collected musings, were never going to happen in No Man’s Sky. You can’t even crash your ship into anything, including a sun.
Instead, you have an almost unlimited amount of content which falls into a rather narrow band of parameters. I’m not sure what sort of algorithms that the developers were boasting about, but whatever they consisted of delivered an almost limitless amount of same-y-ness. Perhaps if they’d reduced the scale of their ambitions to only a few solar systems, or heck, even a single procedural star system, things would have turned out to be more diverse. But as it is, No Man’s Sky is very confined in its attempt at variety.
Don’t get me wrong, No Man’s Sky’s visuals are certainly gorgeous. I’ve landed my ships on hilltops and looked down over vast pink oceans and shimmering fields of silvery brush, just to gaze at their beauty and grandeur. The game’s graphics did remind me of those old novel covers, especially on my souped-up gaming PC. However, I guess an accurate metaphor for my experience with No Man’s Sky would be akin to picking up a classic, brightly colored and alluring science fiction cover, only to discover that there isn’t an actual novel beneath it.
No Man’s Sky has some spiffy graphics going for it, that’s for sure. However, you have to have an equally fast gaming PC in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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