No Man’s Sky Gaming Review: Dancing out in Space


No Man’s Sky artwork. Photo credit: Hello Games

“This planet looks promising. As I enter the atmosphere and approach the surface, green landforms and bodies of water are visible. If nothing else, this planet should be able to support life unlike the previous two inhospitable planets I have explored. As I initiate my landing sequence, I see a pink hue washing over the landscape and the situation becomes clearer. I exit my cockpit and set foot on ground, my exosuit scanner detailing the extreme weather, reading smouldering temperatures and finding no signs of life.

I stand on a small peak and survey the vast, desolate landscape beyond. There is a moment of clarity and beauty in the sense of isolation and discovery. I am the first person to ever see this, and it is likely no one else will ever see it again. The choice to leave is an easy one however, as the planet doesn’t offer hope of any interesting discoveries. I am kept grounded for the time being though as I find the lack of fuel in my launch thrusters and set off to find the resources I require.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-2-28-37-amNo Man’s Sky artwork. Photo credit: Hello Games

I have no choice but to stay here, but the planet wants me gone. As I press on, the weather continues to fight against me, with extreme heat depleting my life support systems rapidly. Plentiful stalagmites of plutonium, the fuel I am in search of, mark the entrance to a vast cave network. Their bright red luminescence a beacon signalling a refuge from the weather, as the temperature stabilises as I venture within.

A large underground lake sits deep within the cave. Curiosity at the potential for life under the surface gets the better of me and I dive in without hesitation. As I swim on through the system of tunnels, I only reach the surface beyond moments before my oxygen is depleted. While my end goal was to leave this planet behind, I have been invigorated to explore further.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-2-26-33-amNo Man’s Sky artwork. Photo credit: Hello Games

I choose to continue walking away from my ship, a dangerous prospect on the best of planets, when an incoming storm hits. As I’m buffeted by harsh winds and the temperature continues to rise, my exosuit systems drain more rapidly than before. I’ve come too far to return to the safety of the cave, but a colonial outpost is visible in the distance. By the time I have traversed the large ridges and ravines between myself and my destination, the storm has passed and a calm settles as night falls. The weather eases, and a deep blue washes over the landscape.

My exploration has only just begun.”

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-2-27-01-amNo Man’s Sky artwork. Photo credit: Hello Games

These are the experiences that make up No Man’s Sky. The recently released and much hyped space exploration survival game from developer Hello Games is an ambitious artistic endeavour in which the game is driven by the player to create unique and individual moments. The game provides the galaxy as a canvas to create your own story upon.

To dwell on repetitive gameplay mechanics, at times obvious randomisation in plant and wildlife or visible procedural generation of the landscape would be to miss the point. The simple beauty in the game is found in the quiet moments relishing feelings of isolation as you observe the vast landscape beyond (enhanced by the perfectly fitting soundtrack by Sheffield band 65daysofstatic), in discovering an ancient monolith and expanding your knowledge of an alien language, or in wandering aimlessly from your starship regardless of the risks. Where you find enjoyment is up to you and the way you choose to experience the world presented before you.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-2-27-13-amNo Man’s Sky artwork. Photo credit: Hello Games

While the game provides two objectives to the player; follow the path to the centre of the galaxy to reap rewards unknown, or pursue the mysterious Atlas path pulling you in the opposite direction with promises of answers to the questions of our existence, the third and perhaps most enticing objective is to explore the galaxy with freedom, creating your own experiences and stories as you journey across an infinite universe.

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