When No Man’s Sky was released two years ago, I—as many others were—was really looking forward to it. I even considered buying a PS4 just so I could play it. However, negative reviews and blatant lies from the developers meant I didn’t bother.
Two years on and it’s just dropped on the Xbox One along with the ‘Next’ update, which has added most of the things they promised would be included at launch, with the most important being multiplayer. So, I forgave and forgot about the untruths from Hello Games in the past and picked up a copy to play with my friends; we can finally live out our dreams of being astronauts.
First impressions were great; you can’t really fathom how big the game is until you play it, you can say 18 quintillion planets as much as you like but it means nothing until you see it. The first time I opened the galaxy map and saw hundreds, if not thousands, of coloured dots on my screen—all of which were different solar systems with several planets inside—I was impressed. In fact, I was more than impressed, I was amazed, and these were just the solar systems in my viewport.
The game is beautiful, both in space and on the ground. I’m playing on an Xbox One X so am seeing everything in full 4K, which obviously made it look even better. However, I have had to cap the frame rate to 30FPS to help maintain performance as I noticed it being a bit choppy when left uncapped; even when locked in at 30FPS there is occasionally a bit of stutter but this is something Hello Games should fix in an upcoming update.
The multiplayer works mostly well, however there are a few things missing that we would liked to have seen, but overall it all works smoothly and it’s great fun exploring and building bases with friends.
Now, onto the not so positive. Overall, the game is great and will keep you entertained for hours on end, however, there’s a few things that stop this from being a great game – the resource generation, the features missing from multiplayer and the combat.
The way you gather resources on No Man’s Sky takes far too long and quickly becomes boring
Let’s start with resource generation. As with any crafting/survival game, resource gathering plays a key role. However, the way you gather resources on No Man’s Sky takes far too long and quickly becomes boring; I actually found a great spaceship crashed on a planet—which I duly claimed—however it needed a lot of costly repairs that I didn’t even consider making because it would have taken upwards of 4 hours just to get it off the ground without even repairing the weapons or the hyperdrive, so I left this amazing spaceship just lying there to burn out.
There’s 4 ways to gather resources in No Man’s Sky; you either buy them, hold X to collect them or the most common way is to use one of two laser beams to either mine resources from the ground or objects above ground which then explode and give you their materials. For the first few hours this is fine, but it quickly becomes tiresome. We haven’t played the game for too long yet, considering it was only released on Friday, so we haven’t been able to craft a ‘Autonomous Mining Unit’ yet, our worry is it will take too long to get one of these and by then I will already be finished with the game.
Something that makes resource generation even more frustrating is the ‘Sentinels’, these are little robots that fly around the planets making sure no one does any damage to it – if they spot you blasting any of the ‘above ground’ resources on any planet such as rocks or trees they get their knickers in a twist and attack you (it is possible to avoid being attacked by simply stopping), this seriously hampers the speed at which you can gather key elements, especially Ferrite. The strange thing is that they are more than happy to let you continue digging massive holes in the planet in order to mine the resources, you just can’t mine anything above ground.
Still on the resources, another thing that is frustrating is the ship fuel, especially at the start when you haven’t got the resources to upgrade your ship to lower the amount of fuel needed. So, for the first however many hours, you have a total of 4 take-offs with a full fuel tank; this means you can’t simply fly around the planet stopping off at resource points without also mining the materials for fuel. Fuel isn’t particularly hard to craft (especially if there’s Uranium on the planet) and doesn’t require many resources but it just adds another barrier to free flowing exploration and progress.
The second place No Man’s Sky falls a bit is the multiplayer. Yes, you can team up with your friends and it’s all smooth and works well, but it’s limited. For example, you can’t both get in the same ship, which is annoying because it means you still have to keep stopping for fuel and when you’re travelling you have to keep communicating where you’re going; sure, you can tag people so they appear on your compass and view port but it’s not exactly easy to keep track of people this way.
There’s also no random encounters with other players. The server has a cap of 16 players, the chances of running into anyone else is slim. So far in our many hours of playing we haven’t seen anyone else, however we have seen people on YouTube and other sites robbing peoples bases so maybe we were just unlucky.
The same problem with resources still exists in multiplayer; it’s still boring to mine them, albeit it is quicker with two or more of you and at least you have someone to talk to. There is a good amount of fun to be had as a group though, it’s just for every hour of fun you have you then have an hour of boredom when you have to mine resources in order to continue the fun.
The resource issue could be alleviated if there were more inventory spaces from the start
The resources wouldn’t be a massive issue if you didn’t have to run for 10 minutes (slowly) just to reach them; the Exocraft (the car) is way out of reach during the first many hours of gameplay and as mentioned previously the spaceship fuel is a pain to keep in stock so you really have no other choice other than to run. The resource issue could be alleviated if there were more inventory spaces from the start, yes you can upgrade your exosuit with more slots and yes you can get bigger ships to store more, but all of these things take time – if you had more inventory slots from the outset you could spend a few hours mining Uranium for example so you didn’t have to worry about ship fuel for a long time, but with the inventory limitation this isn’t possible until later in the game.
Now before I get a 300+ hour No Man’s Sky veteran having a go at me, I would like to say that after the first 15 hours or so (maybe less if you’ve played it before) you do get to a point where you can simply buy most of the resources you need, as credits aren’t hard to come by; once you get to that point, upgrading your ship, exo suit and multi tool becomes a lot easier and quicker which in turn takes away a lot of the more boring tasks such as resource gathering, limited inventory slots and fuel – my ship can now take off using a lot less fuel and the hyperdrive fuel also lasts a long time which make exploration fun instead of a chore. So, the resource issue isn’t an issue for the whole game and once you get to this point it’s a much more fun game to play, hence the 7/10 review score.
Next negative – the combat is lackluster. When I imagined space battles, I imagined it as a lot of fun. But instead, what we have in No Man’s Sky is just, well, no fun. The AI seems to always do the same thing, there’s hardly any variety of weapons and there’s no way to avoid it. I actually got to a point where if another ship wanted to fight me I would simply fly past them and dock in the space station which would end the battle, while just letting them shoot me from behind on the way.
And if you choose to fight the annoying sentinels on the ground, you’ll kill one easily, but then reinforcements come and you’ll be stuck with what seems like an infinite amount of sentinels to deal with – if you escape to your spaceship you’d think you were safe, right? Wrong. They send ships after you in space, which again just keep coming unless you can get to the space station. You can, however, lose aggro of the sentinels on the ground by losing sight; this is easily done by using your miner to dig a cave and then locking yourself inside until the timer goes down.
And the final negative is the empty planets. Now don’t get me wrong here, the planets actually have a lot of life on them in the form of animals and nature, however, there’s hardly any intelligent life on any of the planets – sure, there’s a few bases here and there which comprise of one large building or 4 or so smaller ones (all of which look the same on every planet) but that’s it; considering the amount of ships you encounter in space you’d expect there to me more on the planets. I was expecting to see large cities for me to roam but it seems like in this universe almost everyone lives in space.
I know this sounds like a lot of negatives, but there’s a lot of positives too. For example, there’s a lot of upgrades and ships for you to spend your resources on, and the new base building is pretty cool with lots of different items for you to craft. It won’t be long before there’s plenty of videos on YouTube of people showing of the size of their bases. The addition of portals is a great one too, as it allows you to quickly travel between systems and bases without having to fly and mine resources for warp fuel (which is even harder to get hold of than the regular ship fuel).
Another positive is the amount of wildlife found on the game. The mobs are generally different on each planet and some of them are really funny; for example, I saw giant pineapple type animals running around, which made me chuckle until I realised I still had about 4 minutes of walking left until I reached my copper mine which I then needed to spend another 3 minutes at to mine it while every 60 seconds re-charging my laser beam.
The game as a whole is good, and fans of exploration games will love it, it’s just a shame the whole thing is slowed down at the start by tedious resource gathering and barriers which make things harder than they should be to get. I can craft a new warp drive quicker than I could a land vehicle, which to me just doesn’t make sense. Would I recommend it? Yes I would, because behind the resource gathering are beautiful worlds filled with scenery and life, masses of content, tons of things to craft and a lot of fun to be had in multiplayer; I’m just not sure how long the game will last unless more things to actually do are added. I would especially like to see more things to do on the planets, like sprawling cities with NPC’s to talk to, though I do understand why these are not part of the game at present; the sheer amount of planets would make doing this near on impossible, but maybe they could have just a few solar systems with large cities on the planets that people can use the portal to reach?