No Man’s Sky (Frontier Patch) is a fun game of exploration and mystery that wowed for hours, but in the end fell flat as being a mile wide but inch deep.
NMS has seen itself to a financially successful launch during the summer of 2016, but it faced a failed reception by fans and major backlash across the internet for, in many people’s eyes, being less than it promised to be. Well, recently the game has been updated with its ‘Frontier Patch’ which offers dozens of changes to the game to better meet the demands of those who felt wronged by the initial release. The following review will not be about the drama or the failures that came before, but will instead focus on the game as it stands now and nothing else.
Plot and Character
You are a, mostly, silent protagonists in a universe full of vendor characters with little life to their manners, and great mysteries you’ll either never solve or discover are nothing special to be touted.
NMS opens with your character, nameless and voiceless, having crashed landed on an alien planet and needing to repair your ship to set out across the stars. The only bit of story to be had at this point in the game is a strange red orb, it sends you a message to follow its guidance and identifies itself as ATLAS.
There is some overarching plot to be found about ATLAS, but ultimately it boils down to cryptic messages and only more mystery – but in the moments that you are reading about your discoveries it can be quite immersive. Otherwise, the story of the game is the story of the universe. You’ll find abandoned research outposts with bits of flavor dialogue given as monologue in text form, and you’ll encounter relics of alien races that relate bits of their histories. That’s pretty much it.
Mood and Atmosphere
NMS is a very zen game. Everything from the bright and smooth color pallet to the relaxing sound track is designed to put you at ease and into somewhat of a meditative state. Even in moments of tension I was never too panicked, as the price for death in NMS is a simple respawn and needing to run back to get your belongings – and perhaps needing to repair some broken equipment.
In a way, being able to relax and just experience the game was nice. I was able to smile at cool new worlds, be wowed by awesome space sights, and have fun cataloging a planet’s animal species all without the slightest bit of worry or apprehension. The only problem with that though is that nothing was all that exciting either. Despite the many hours I sunk into this game, and enjoyed, I often found myself questioning why I was playing it.
On the positive side though, the game features a nice mechanic of seamless planet to space travel that was a very nice touch and helped give the illusion of a full universe.
NMS is a resource grinding simulator. There is a lot of window dressing to make it feel like something more, grand mysteries, aliens, and fighting on rare occasions, but the only part of the game that felt like it was fully realized was the mining for and crafting of supplies you need to travel onward from star system to star system or build better tech for your omni-tool and spaceship.
There is nothing wrong with resource grinding games, Minecraft has shown us all its appeal – but that game came with a free or super low cost to enjoy, whereas NMS was marketed and sold as a full priced AAA game.
As far as crafting and resource management goes, you can mine many different types of materials planet side – all of which are automatically dumped into your inventory, and then use said materials to craft what you need. Personally, I enjoyed seeking out and finding that last bit of rare compound I needed to do a big upgrade – but the limited inventory space was a hassle and nothing more than an annoyance.
It needs to be mentioned that this game is almost entirely procedurally generated – meaning that the worlds you explore, the creatures you find, and the galaxies you traverse are created on the fly by a complex equation by the game’s programing. It makes for a unique experience as each thing you find and see is unique to yourself. There is value in artistic placement though, and sometimes the equation used comes up with some rather odd creations.
Another big addition of the Frontier Patch is the ability to build player bases. You can claim a home base on a planet that you enjoy, and via a series of quests can make a base as big and sprawling – or as small and compact – as you may wish. I enjoyed this component to the game, and it was welly designed – but without multiplayer to show off your bases, or more world and NPC interaction, it too comes out lacking soul.
I both loved this game, and feel that it is pointless and not worth the cost. You’ll have fun with NMS, but it will never quite feel like enough. Had this game come with a much cheaper price tag, I would grant it a Need to Buy title, but as it stands, I’d give it a pass for other more developed games in the survival genre.
No Man’s Sky was developed and published – with aid from Sony Interactive Entertainment – by Hello Games studio for PlayStation 4, and PC to be released in 2016.
Interested parties should head on over to Steam for PC to pick this game up for $59.99.
Overall Score 5/10 | Plenty to See, Not Much to Find – BY ERIK PILLAR