After months of anticipation, No Man’s Sky has finally landed - unfortunately, not in time to have a full review up for release. Thanks to a large day-one patch, The Independent, along with many other publications, received a copy of the game on the 8 August, meaning only the formative hours of the game can be commented on.
These are only thoughts on the first few hours of gameplay - updates will be made accordingly until a time when we feel confident we’ve played the game enough to post a full review.
DAY 3: There's no denying it: No Man's Sky is stunning. Travelling at light speed between planets looks fantastic; exploring the green surface of 'Jacktopia' (a personal favourite, named by myself) was often awe-inspiring - on looks alone, No Man's Sky would be outright perfect. Well, almost perfect. Unfortunately, the game suffers from a relatively low draw distance for minor details, meaning when you speed across the surface of a planet in your ship things occasionally load out of nowhere. It's a minor gripe, but can occasionally be distracting.
With any game of this magnitude, there will, of course, be glitches and other problems; for instance, when landing, my ship - which is slowly growing in size - went through a huge building. Again, it's a minor thing, and to be expected with a game that creates planets using a formula, but it is still noticeable.
As noted in my day one observations, I was worried about the game running out of substantial goals to reach. However, having spent a few more hours attempting to get to the centre of the universe, the mystery behind the Atlas is enthralling - every monolith contains new information to piece together. It's not so much an in-depth story, but a cryptic puzzle to figure out and one I want to explore much further.
Having learnt more about the game, survival has also become easier; instead, the focus has moved to the other three cornerstones of No Man's Sky: exploration, combat, and trading. The latter is probably the least exciting, while the former is integral to enjoying the game. Combat, meanwhile, has still only been touched on; I've only had two space battles, one of which was close to a planet while the other was in space by a galactic station. No doubt these situations will be more fun with an upgraded ship, yet even now, the planetary battle was a particularl highlight of my playtime so far.
In conclusion, No Man's Sky remains enthralling despite my hesitancies and I cannot wait to once again head out into the unknown.
DAY 1: So, how do the first few hours of the most anticipated games of the year play out? Quite slowly. As mentioned numerous times in the promotional material, No Man’s Sky is built upon four gameplay aspects: exploration, survival, combat and trading. That second point - survival - has dominated gameplay so far.
Being flung onto an anonymous planet with a broken ship, your first goal is to fix yourself up, collecting raw materials from the surrounding area while staying alive. By mining trees and rocks, you collect the likes of iron and carbon, both of which are key to getting your character’s equipment working again. Once the basics are covered, you can scan for more elusive materials, such as plutonium and zinc, found in crashed cargo containers and intricate flora.
That only really scratches the surface; to fuel your ship, build newer technologies and upgrade your character you’ll need to mine for heridium, titanium, emeril... the list goes on. Importantly, you’ll need many of these just to survive various terrains. For now, the only real threat in No Man’s Sky is the atmosphere.
My adventure started on a freezing cold planet, covered in trees; to keep my temperature steady and my weapon/mining tool charged, I needed to spend various materials. There is no denying gathering resources can be a little tenuous at times, but it’s all for a greater purpose. Once the initial time is spent getting to grips with which rock/flora mines which material, the exploration can finally begin.
First of all, planetary exploration is quite wonderful; while one planet may lack wildlife, there's still treacherous terrain and various caves to explore, as well as outposts to reach. Best of all, if one planet doesn't take your fancy, once your ship is up and running with the right materials, you can zoom off to another.
While it takes a little while to travel from planet to planet, knowing absolutely everything you pass is accessible is quite mind-blowing. You see a planet, you can go there. During my time playing, I visited four planets and a trading station, each of which was completely different. Least favourable was a gloomy one with an acidic atmosphere, requiring different materials to survive. After using my thruster fuel to take off from there, a luscious green planet awaited; while there were few lifeforms upon it, there were some bizarre hostile creatures that led to me jet packing aimlessly around trying to run away.
For now, there are goals to all this wandering; first, it was to get a hyperdrive. Then, my mission was to discover how to create anti-matter for the upgraded engine, all in earnest of reaching the centre of the universe. During these first few hours, these missions have somewhat urged me to explore particular planets, but for how long the game will give me pointers, it is unclear, especially without any definitive story.
Reaching those checkpoints is not really the point in No Man’s Sky, though. Already, my sense of wonder has been thoroughly tickled, the drive to discover new planets, new species, even learn new languages, is quite substantial. Hopefully, even without pointers, this will continue, but it really is hard to say at this stage. The only other game that compares to No Man’s Sky is Minecraft, but even then shared points are fleeting. So far, it really is like nothing else out there. Updates will be added in due course.
No Man’s Sky on PlayStation 4 is available now from retailers across the UK, including from the PlayStation Store
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