Today is the second anniversary of my video game reviews on Facebook and I’m celebrating that today with a review of No Man’s Sky: NEXT. For the first year or so of the game’s existence I was pretty bitter about it not being on Xbox One and knowing that the PC version would have made my poor old PC crap itself in shame. After getting my new gaming machine in December it never occurred to me to look into NMS until news of the NEXT update dropped and suddenly there was a story beyond, “Find the Galactic Center” and multi-player support. Combine that with my recent conversion to Steam and it was time to join the galaxy.
No Man’s Sky is made up of multiple components enabling varied styles of game play. Included are several time management aspects, space exploration, planetary exploration, combat, trade, base building, and terminal style missions just to name the most prevalent.
There are also multiple stories with the NEXT update including the original Atlas Path, the quest to find the center of the galaxy and The Ghost in the Machine which tells the story of your character as a “Traveller.” You start, awakened on a likely hostile planet (miserably hot for me) trying to get your bearings and remember who you are. From the moment you awaken until you find your starship it is a race against hostile weather and occasionally hostile sentinel drones that puts you on the path to communicating with another entity that says it is a traveler like you; a metaphysical title that is unclear if it is a race, sub-race, or something akin to Jedi. The story has an epic scope but can be frustrating as it always comes back to basic tasks and occasional fetch and return style questing.
The game’s greatest asset as far as story is the looming sense that something unseen is going on and it is MASSIVE. In fact, at times it seems quite sinister.
No Man’s Sky’s graphics are beautiful and surreal. Trippy may be among the best words to describe them; a fantastic blend of traditional next gen graphics and early style 3D rendering that reminds me of the early days of computer graphics but better filled out and better animated. It is very easy to get lost in the generated worlds and vistas of space. I’m as many hours into what I spend in most other games and I think I’ve only seen five systems; and even just a fraction of those five systems!
The sound of No Man’s Sky is a mixed verdict. The music and sound effects are top notch. The music brings in mind the exploration of space; reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001. The sound effects are just as good though simple in many ways. The voice acting is…well…other than your suit’s computer there is none. And that is disappointing. Thousands upon thousands of aliens and they have no voice. No sound. This is the part of the throwback to 1990 that jars the player out of the created universe.
The controls can be a convoluted mess but when you get used to them they’re okay. My advice is to plug in a One controller and use that. Once you get the hang of the cross button and what the keys do you’ll be happy with it especially for space flight and combat. The mouse in space is too laggy. At times the lack of ability to save is frustrating so it is smart to keep a portable save point on you at all times. A really cool feature is the discovery system where you can upload what you’ve found to a server and earn in-game nano currency for them. And being a sandbox nothing says you have to follow any path at all. My current favorite activity is finding wrecked space ships and claiming them. Sure, I’ve got an ugly shuttle but it holds more inventory than my suit and my fighter put together!
Speaking of inventory: If there was one truly frustrating aspect of the game it is inventory. My God it is too easy to max your inventory out just on one planet’s exploration. And it becomes quite the chore to store it. And if you’re anything like me you’re afraid to sell or dispose of ANYTHING.
Overall, the biggest hazard of No Man’s Sky is how much time passes while you’re playing it. More than once I’ve said to my buddy, “Oh shit, I have to get up for work tomorrow,” as 12:30 AM rolls around and I’m nowhere near my ship, freighter, or base. Did I mention always carry a portable save point on you?
Story: 3.5/5: The story that is there is intriguing but boy is it a slow burn. I appreciate the sandbox quality of the game but a little more oomph to get people started would be great.
Graphics: 5/5: It is a treat to see the visuals in NMS. Hopping from planet to planet-more importantly the SEAMLESSNESS of everything shows what modern systems can do but it does it with a little bit of a retro look that I’ve found that I really enjoy.
Sound: 3/5: Great music and sound effects but no voice to go with it. I think it is a huge missed opportunity.
Control: 3.5/5: A little wonky to get used to. Again, best advice is to pop in a One controller. It is one of the few occasions I prefer a controller over the WADS keys.
Playability: 3.75/5: Despite some bugs in the multiplayer (including the upsetting falling through a friend’s freighter floor after warping) I could, and have, waste an entire day on just my tiny corner of the explored galaxy. What’s out there is daunting and exciting and my hardest decision is what to do NEXT! (See what I did there?) I don’t know about the console version but if you grab the Steam version don’t be afraid to keep an eye out of Aurachad in multiplayer. Feel free to drop in!