No Man’s Sky Sandbox Game Review

No Man’s Sky, a procedurally generated space exploration sandbox game from Hello Games appears to have split the player base down the middle. Players seem to either love it or loathe it, and curiously enough it’s often the same reason that’s given for both of these opinions.

So, I bought it, installed it and got ready for a gaming experience that I knew would be innovative. However, is that innovation actually a good thing? Well that’s a more complicated issue.

Storyline

There isn’t any. Next!

Ok, fine. I’ll expand on that. When you start the game you come to, on an unknown planet next to a crashed vessel, wearing a spacesuit and with empty pockets except for a multi-tool. A series of brief tutorial quests take you through the basics, of how to mine, and gather resources. Ultimately, rebuilding your spaceship and warp drive and taking you through your journey to the centre of the universe, if you want it to.

No Man's Sky Space Ship

That’s the key phrase “If you want it to” and it’s why there isn’t really a story. The story is what you want it to be, and the game leaves it up to you to define your own story and how you are going to play the game. So, at this point as a player, you were either like a kid in a candy store not knowing what to do next and which magnificent discoveries you’re about to make, or you were just left feeling lost, a bit bewildered, and with a sort of ‘What do I do now?’ feeling.

Gameplay

No Man’s Sky has been created with four basic and rather general ideas, exploration, survival, combat, and trading so let’s look at each of these.

Exploration

The universe in NMS is literally quintillions of planets in size. It’s so big that Hello Games can’t see much more than 1% of the game being explored. That is huge, and it’s all there for you to explore. You can fly your spaceship to any and all of these planet, jump into warp, to visit far away solar systems and generally explore your hearts out.

Of course once you land on the planet you’ve got the entire surface of the planet to explore. Each planet comes with its own climate, weather, flora, fauna and structures. Though a fairly good attempt is made to generate new and original lifeforms and plants on each planet, the structures are not so original. In fact the entire universe seems like one architect supplied all the buildings. That aside it’s still a lot of fun, exploring these planets, learning the four alien languages, and discovering new technology to help upgrade your multi-tool, suit and ship.

Every solar system, planet, flora, fauna and fungi can be renamed and uploaded to the game’s server for some free credits.

Survival

So far, I haven’t really found anything to really challenge my survival though I haven’t warp travelled many times. Your ship, suit and multi-tool all need various resources to keep them charged and functional. For example, your ships launch thrusters need an amount of radio-active isotope such as Plutonium, your shields need zinc and other stuff needs carbon. You soon get to know which your most important elements are. However, unless you’re very unlucky with your starting point, there’s usually a fair amount of most of those within a short walking distance. No trouble surviving so far, but I am still quite new too it. I mean, I haven’t even explored 100 solar systems yet… pfff newb!

Combat

No man's Sky Space Travel

The combat is the area of gameplay that seems most bolted-on, there’s a lot they could have done to make it a key part of No Man’s Sky, but as it is now combat, both space combat and ground-based combat is little more than a fairly primitive dodge and shoot affair.I think it’s in because something needed to be in, but you never really feel engaged with the combat and as yet, I’ve never felt like I was fighting to survive. That is unless, you decide to pick on the sentinel ships, then you’re fighting to survive, but unfortunately not for very long.

Trading

As you can imaging,  with an infinite amount of planets to explore and harvest / mine there’s a great potential to earn huge stonking piles of credits. Mine the ore or isotope on one planet, fly to another where the sell price is higher than average, sell your stock, lather, rinse, repeat. That’s trading in a nutshell, and it doesn’t get much more complicated than this, but you know what? It doesn’t have to be. My main issue with, well not trading, but the whole financial element of the game, is that the only reason to accumulate credits is to buy bigger ships, or components for better gear, oh and elements selling at crazy low prices for selling on. It would be nice to know that if you accumulate enough cash, you could buy a space station, or start a fleet, or a settlement but sadly not. Well, not yet anyway.

Graphics

No Man's Sky Flight Screenshot

Graphically there are gaps in No Man’s Sky. The procedural backbone of the entire story takes its toll on the graphics and how quick things can be rendered and a large amount of stuff needs to be drawn at fairly short notice. When you’re hurtling towards a planet’s surface, even NASA computers are going to struggle to draw and shade everything quick enough to provide a smooth graphical experience. That’s where it falls down. As you walk, things tend to keep up fairly well, but go at speed anywhere and things really struggle.

Sound

The sound is well designed and in the most part goes on accentuating the gameplay without standing out too much. The music and sound generally give you a feeling that are alone, and the (presumably) procedurally generated animal noses are alien and in the most part not too annoying.

Replayability

The verdict of its replayability is going to be firmly split into two very opposite camps. The first group would get huge amounts of replayability value from visiting more planets, accumulating wealth, renaming an entire planets species simply to be Bob#1-16 purely because they could. They’ll keep coming back because No Man’s Sky will always provide more things to discover. The second group, would likely play for a few hours, or days and wonder ‘is this it? Is the game purely just flying around scanning and renaming stuff’ and they’d hot-tail it out of here.

No man's Sky Korvax Alien

Verdict

You’re either going to love this game or hate it. If you love being thrown in to a sandbox environment and just being told to play and make your own fun then you’ll likely get on with the approach of No Man’s Sky. If you want something with a little more structure then you’ll struggle with the game and all you’ll see is its faults. No Man’s Sky has been the victim of its own hype-train. The almost insane level of hype and publicity the game ended up getting would challenge larger companies to keep up with it, let along a smaller indie software company. However, if you put your expectations aside and just see what there is to offer you’ll find an original and highly inventive sandbox game. Plus, who knows what else will be included with the game in the future.

    • Storyline – 10%
    • Gameplay -80%
    • Graphics – 50%
    • Sound – 75%
    • Replayability – 90%

Final Verdict -65%

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.

So what do you think?

%d bloggers like this: