Monday, December 21, 2020

December 21, 2020

To say No Man's Sky had a rocky start would be understatement of the year. The game that was intended as an artistic walking simulator was bombarded with hate by confused fans. There are not many games on steam that can claim to have received mixed reviews at release, only to climb to "overwhelmingly positive" today. It was deserved though. NMS started with fancy as heck previews and trailers like any other game. Except, the actual end result was nowhere near people's expectations. It could even have been classed as downright ugly and scary to look at. Much like Cyberpunk 2077 on PlayStation 4. It was such a long shot from what was advertised by the media that the fans had prepared the pitchforks, tar and feathers and claimed their refunds when possible.

But, the devs stuck with it, making more and more improvements in the form of free updates. Four years later, the game is currently close to what the media showed us in previews.

Get your hardware up to speed

No man's sky's initial minimum hardware requirements are "ok" (see below), but over the years the game has added a lot of graphical improvements and settings. You may want to reconsider if you barely meet the minimum requirements. Even the GTX 970 was kind of struggling.

I jumped into a friend's freighter. Rather, I should say I "attempted" to do so, as I was able to stay on board for about a minute before crashing. Three times in a row. Freighters are BIG floating space stations that hold several player owned ships, a ton of cargo and are a small mobile base with faster than light travel capacity. Imagine the starship enterprise was one. In the case of No man's sky there are plenty of times where you just feel insignificant and small. Meeting a freighter is one of those times. Getting your first jump drive and being able to browse your current galaxy will probably be another.

The last, is a bit of a spoiler so click at your own risk. There are 255 galaxies in No man's sky. There are 3 to 4 billion regions in each of those, each again consisting of 122 to 550 star systems. The numbers are simply staggering. Still insignificant to the actual number of galaxies we have out there in the real world - but you can blow your mind on that another day.

Casual Joyride

You start out on a planet with pretty much nothing other than your suit and a basic gun/mining laser. 10/10 it'll be a toxic environment, and you're warned your oxygen and toxic protection is low.

In other words, you're going to have to find some oxygen and or maybe a cave for shelter. The game's tutorial doesn't really help very much other than "find some way to survive". Much like it'll stab you, and tell you to go heal that flesh wound. Once you overcome the initial obstacle of staying alive the game starts to become very casual friendly however. Simply hopping from world to world investigating the local rocks and plants can quickly consume several hours and days. Until you're reminded there is actually a main quest / story to follow.

First, the game show you how to survive and build a base. Next you're given a ship - not a very big one, but a ship that will service you for the next few hours. If you are lucky you can even find crashed ships and claim those as your own. They will need some repairs, but pretty much anything will be an upgrade over your initial ship. Later on you can even get yourself a moon buggy to ride around in and upgrade much like any other vehicle in the game. Who needs space flight if you can moon race into the local wildlife.

If you have a VR set however, I highly suggest plugging it in. No Man's Sky has great VR support, and honestly nothing beats VR moon racing.

You are not alone

The one thing that somewhat irks me (initial crashes aside), is the fact that there is so much life out there. Every single planet has several species of animals, plants, rock formations. And there's at least 4 or more intelligent species who you will find aboard the various space stations. Every single planet has life, and every single system has a space station. All the space stations are more or less identical and every planet has the same basic formula.

All the planets are unique however. In terms of randomly generated content there's a good few parameters which make up every planet and the resources or life you may find. Scanning all the things on each planet will award you with some points and coin to spend. Random boxes littering the surface as well as buildings will encourage you to go for a random walk, ride, flight, cave dwelling or swim in any direction and discover potential alien wealth. There is a wealth of discoveries to be made on every planet and you're encouraged to take your time doing so. Alone, or with up to 3 friends.

Aliens, everywhere

One of the main joys of going into space is the sheer size of if all. In games like EVE online, you go out into the endless nothing. Can sit there for hours on end without ever meeting a soul. I like the endless solitude of space. Mine a few asteroids and get rich from valuable metals to bring back home. It is harder to reach that feeling in No Man's Sky because of the sheer amount of alien life everywhere you go. Buildings, drop boxes, pirates, aircraft overhead no matter where you go. It's a gigantic near endless universe to explore with countless planets to claim as you own and be the first to discover. But somehow there's always been some few alien NPCs that have already found the place and created an observatory, crashed an aircraft or build and forgotten some ancient ruins.

You can interact with the intelligent lifeforms, but you'll need to learn their language to really understand them. You can learn one word from every single trader/scientist/diplomat and most other NPCs. Or, you can find knowledge stones out randomly on any planet. Finally, there's also the universal communicator that you should construct because every alien language in this game has at least 200 words to learn. The communicator makes their language a bit easier to understand. The reasoning behind this is: You're in a remote building - the AI asks you a question. Do you vent the gas, override the airlocks or drop the core. Making the right choice will award you with some shiny technology. The wrong choice will prevent you from getting any reward or angering the local sentinels.

Free patches

It seems so obvious, when you release software that does not meet the customer's expectations you fix it. Most devs don't really do much other than a few initial stability fixes, and some don't even do that.

Then there's the devs that add a few DLC, ignore bugs and milk their product. I'll skip naming anEA names, but we all know who.

Then there's the devs that make a game and make it better, and better. Crosscode, Stardew Valley, Terraria and even Warframe are a few such games. Making your initial purchase worth every so much more valuable.

It's not hard to see where the No man's sky devs land in that ladder, as with Patch 2.4 they added controllable exo mechs, Patch 2.6 they added derelict freighters to explore in space. Patch 3.0 did a massive overhaul on the randomization of planets and most recently patch 3.1 did a massive overhaul on the graphics engine to make the game suited for PS5 and XBOX-SX. More updates are expected still. Keep an eye on this puppy during the steam sales.

No Man's Sky - Release date: 12 Aug, 2016

Minimum system requirements: 64 bit processor, Windows 7 and up, Intel Core i3, 8 GB ram, nVidia GTX 480 or better, 10GB available disk space.

It's highly recommended (for the sake of stability) to have hardware well above the minimum however.


BestaNegra said...

nice review thanks. I confess i'm intrigued by the game, after being put off by the launch

Credipede said...

More developers should be like Hello Games. It's amazing how much they improved the game after the disappointing launch - for free!

Silent92 said...

i love games like that.thanks for review

thesowut said...

Personally it's been my go-to game for a couple of years. I just find myself returning and reenjoying what it has to offer.
The updates have really improved the overall experience, though the game still feels lacking at moments especially with quests.
I'm satisfied with the progression that Hello Games have made and was quite happy to hear they won the game award for best ongoing game. The game is a blast when played with friend, I'll give it that!

shuvam007 said...

It's one of those sweet redemption stories. So many devs launch broken games and never bother fixing them. Kudos to Hello games for sticking to it!

GoldenStar said...

Great review! Thank you.

SonicPunk said...

Now that it has been patched and updated with content I will give it a try on Game Pass. Btw I recommend Outer Wilds, another great space adventure, but more narrative-driven than NMS.

ThalesOwens said...

I had it since release. It has gone a long way to repair it's initial reputation.
Good work on the dev's side

abwhat said...

It turned into another game really.