No Man’s Sky notoriously had one of the worst launches in video game history. Unfulfilled promises, a crazy amount of hype surrounding the game’s release, and a game that definitely wasn’t worth its price tag on launch. But this didn’t stop Hello Games. Despite the extremely negative reception, they pressed on; day after day, hour after hour. For the next five years, the team behind No Man’s Sky set out to finally fulfil those empty promises from launch and make it the game that it was supposed to be at launch. And they didn’t just do that, they went above and beyond, adding even more content than originally promised and planned and resulting in one of the biggest and most amazing comeback stories in video game history.
In its current state, No Man’s Sky is an incredible, incredible game that has gone above and beyond what it was originally supposed to be, and has hours of fun things that you can do. You can build insane looking bases, build exocrafts to travel around planets, do community missions to help towards unlockables, and so much more. It’s insane how much more there is in the game than that there was at launch. Five years ago, I would have adamantly said that the game wasn’t worth its £40 price tag, but now? It’s absolutely worth the money. The fact that it goes on sale often is already an incentive to buy it, but I would suggest buying it at full price simply to support Hello Games, who have put so much effort into making it the game it was meant to be, and more.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a space-survival-exploration game without planets, and a lot of them. It’s not surprising that No Man’s Sky won the GDC Innovation Award either – every planet that you go to (and there is A LOT of them) is different from each other. Every plant, every creature, the way they look, all drastically different. In my almost 400 hours of playtime, I don’t think I’ve seen one planet that has looked the same as another, and there’s millions upon millions of planets in the game.
And that’s not just all that’s on planets – you can encounter several different types of outposts and ruins or monuments where you can find different aliens, find rare items or even just discover something beautiful looking. Some of these alien encounters might have shops where you can buy or upgrade your items and occasionally they’ll even have a better buy/sell rate than the space stations that are found in each star system. The newest update even added proper settlements to planets, meaning you can become an overseer of a small settlement and run things just the way you want (though you’ll have to deal with some enemies first).
One of the cooler things about planets is how different they really are – they don’t just look different – even their environment can be different and challenging. Some may have no atmosphere that’ll affect you, or some may extreme atmosphere that’ll wipe you out in ten seconds if you’re not fully equipped with the correct upgrades on your exosuit. Outside of the planets themselves, you’ll need to obtain different types of materials to build a hyperdrive extension to be able to warp to star systems with different colours such as red or blue. The game definitely isn’t as easy as it looks from just watching it!
I remember seeing IGN’s review of the game, citing it as being “monotonous” with “dull combat” and that it doesn’t “fix the grind” and I thought to myself: “Isn’t that the point of survival games?”; games like Minecraft, Rust and No Man’s Sky will undoubtably have you grind for materials to stay alive. That’s the nature of the genre, always making sure you have the right resources at all times and that you don’t run out. Sometimes the combat in the game can be a bit dull, but when the game is so much more focused on exploration rather than just attacking every person you see, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. The space combat against other spaceships is fun, and reminds me of Star Wars Battlefront which is a good thing, but of course when the only ground enemy are some of the wildlife and different tiers of sentinels (on a GTA-esque “Wanted” system), then it can be boring and only worth fighting when you absolutely need to but it doesn’t ruin the game experience for me.
The fact that the game goes in-depth in so many places is what makes its gameplay so satisfying and makes the hours pile on. The base building has incredible potential (as seen from community creations), there’s an entire campaign storyline that I haven’t even done, there’s the Anomoly that has daily challenges and missions, a massive variety of different ships and freighters that you can buy, missions that you can do for different alien races and for different factions. My favourite thing is that there’s an entire encyclopedia and catalogue for the materials that you pick up and find from the actual materials themselves to the trade commodities, to base-building parts, curiosities, equipment and craftable technology. Right next to it on the menu is a “discoveries” page that lists all the solar systems and planets that you’ve found, alongside their fauna, animals and minerals discovered which can be uploaded and given rewards for finding.
Normally I don’t like to compare games, but No Man’s Sky really feels like if Spore’s space stage was made as a standalone game. It feels like a modern take or expansion of what that gamemode would be like if it was taken to its fullest potential. With the seamlessness of flying on a ship to walking around a planet and dozens upon dozens of things to do while on or off the plant, my younger self would be so happy to know that this game exists because there are millions of planets to explore, all different and unique with a multitude of ship upgrades and people that you can meet on your way while either doing specific missions or trying to get to the center of the universe.
Despite its incredibly rocky launch five years ago, No Man’s Sky has exceeded expectations and has become a satisfying, fun and invigorating showcase of the unlimited potential of space exploration, right down to the miniscule details on planets as well as gifting the player with a large variety of things to do that ensure that you’ll never get bored. With time, I think the game can become even better and if it hasn’t already proved itself worthy as being one of the most fun space-themed games out there – it probably will soon enough.