I’m a huge fan of all types of games and that includes slow, non-violent, unexciting games. I’ve spent over 40 hours trucking across Europe in a simulation situation where I can’t even go over the speed limit or bump another car without huge actually meaningful-to-my-progress fines being handed out for it – that’s not all though, I’ve also spent at this point almost 60 hours of trucking across America (well, currently only CA, AZ, and NV) in the exact same way and still play it on a regular basis. Driving back and forth on the same roads much of the time, seeing not much going on along the way, and loving absolutely every second of it. Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator are easily two personal top-favorite games of mine in no ironic or joking way. Yet, even after over 100 hours of trucking and still getting full enjoyment out of it every time I sit down for a trip carrying 10 tons of potatoes from Phoenix to Eureka, I was completely and utterly bored of No Man’s Sky within about 30 minutes – not to mention incredibly annoyed and frustrated by it.
Let’s start off with the most advertised and arguably most important feature of the game; the concept of being the first to ever see these planets, the plant life, the animals roaming around, and even the craters, gorges, and so on – all things you can name whatever you wish, leaving your mark on the universe for all to see. To get it out of the way; the discovery “servers” are constantly fucking broken, so you can’t upload shit 90% of the time anyway, that’ll work itself out with time as everyone returns this game within the next week or two, but it’s still ridiculous when it’s WHAT THE ENTIRE GAME IS FOCUSED ON and it’s BROKEN IMMEDIATELY. That’s far from the biggest problem with this aspect of the game though and is more like a sign of the disappointment to come rather than a serious issue.
The sense of “discovery” and “adventure” doesn’t exist at all in this game outside of the marketing and massive amounts of lies spread by the developer up until (and still since) release, thanks to multiple very fucking stupid choices on their part that render the concept of finding something before anyone else impossible to accomplish. They achieve this major fuck up through having magical Grand Theft Auto style space police on LITERALLY absolutely every single planet in the entire game who not only heavily populate these planets but magically appear if they aren’t already there (it’s very rare that you don’t see a couple nearby though) the moment you destroy too much stuff or attack animals. You aren’t discovering anything if there are magical space police here already flying and scanning everything which is all they do aside shoot you. It doesn’t stop there – there are also, on every single planet I’ve seen in my game, my brother’s game, and about 6 games by people I’ve seen playing online, multiple fucking outposts, trading posts, etc, and even npcs that you can talk to on every planet (rarely one with less currently in-use ones but still ones at all – have not seen 1 planet without a single outpost yet). Hell, even the markers for new areas such as a big canyon you can find or something (these are listed as discoveries) aren’t natural things but machines placed around by someone that you just hold a button down next to and “discover” the area for the first time in all of intelligent life’s history – how am I discovering a planet if someone set up a checkpoint marker, some cargo next to it, and there are 10 manned outposts within 3 minutes flying of each other and LOADS of space ships flying in the atmosphere and from planet to planet nonstop? I mean even absolutely everything is ALREADY NAMED when you find it, it’s clearly not only discovered BUT CATALOGED as something that is a known thing.
Beyond that, it wouldn’t even matter if they hadn’t ruined that aspect of the game entirely because, oops, there’s no fun in “exploring” and “discovering anyway” because THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO VARIETY IN ANYTHING, planets, things you find, plant life, or animal life – between my brother’s game, my game, coverage on giant bomb by two different people on two different accounts starting in two different places, coverage by various youtube accounts I skimmed through and everywhere else; pretty much everything the game has to offer is seen in your starting system (usually 3-5 planets). I’ve seen at least 5 different bouncing snake head aliens for example – 2 in one game and the rest in other people’s games, which shouldn’t be possible, also one planet was almost identical to the one Jeff Gerstmann (GB, but not their QL) found with the same plant life, animal life, biome, and even color scheme and topography. Something that with the officially promised “quintillions of possibilities” shouldn’t actually be able to happen yet did on day 1 even right off the bat.
There’s also a MASSIVE abundance of small outposts on each of these “undiscovered” planets which – on every planet, let alone all of the ones on the same planet 5 feet from one another in any direction – are IDENTICAL to one another. The outside design, the architectural styling, the actual building itself is just plopped in from a set of apparently 2 different options. Building A or Building A with landing pad. Otherwise they are 100% identical – same color, same design, same form, same shape and size, same to every minute detail. Not just the outside though, the inside is also the exact same though you do get some very slight variance in “will there be an alien that shits on my face if I pay him 10 carbon or not” and “which wall will the magical hole for magical trading be?”. That’s it. There is nothing worth playing to see, discovering it first or not, beyond what you’ll find on the first couple of planets you look at.
Speaking of NPCs shitting on your face, not only do they CHARGE YOU to speak to them, you also aren’t allowed with a full inventory. This is a huge pain in the ass because your inventory is ALWAYS fucking full because you barely have any space at all to store stuff because THE ONLY THING YOU CAN DO IN THE ENTIRE GAME IS MINING so of course your backpack and your ship are full of dumb fucking materials because there’s no other fucking gameplay but for partaking in that aspect you’re punished with a constantly full inventory that not only blocks you from collecting more – but blocks you from even talking to NPCs.
The writing is also undeniably godawful and plain embarrassing, it’s beyond flowery and straight into the type of shit you’d find a 13 year old who thinks they’re an author would put out there. It’s practically terrible poetry rather than actual prose – at every turn it’s shoving overly fluffed up nothings at you and the payoff for it is always nothing as well. Almost all your interactions with ANYTHING are like this. See an alien trader? Well read 6 lines with too many adjectives about how it’s literally farting into your face and giving you nothing but 1000 bucks for no reason. See alien ruins? Read 6 lines about how you’re convulsing and how amazing it is with too many adjectives before just learning a meaningless word in some alien language.
It was like a paragraph ago, but there was another huge very damaging aspect of this game; it’s aggressively getting in the way of you actually playing whenever it possibly can. Putting aside the “quintillion” glitches, bugs, and crashes, the game mechanics are programmed specifically on purpose to block you from even attempting to have fun with the incredibly boring and mundane tasks that are your only options of interacting with No Man’s Sky at all.
You have to hold down buttons to do anything 90% of the time no matter what you’re doing instead of “tap triangle to rename this animal” it’s hold it for 2 seconds for example. The fucking run button is R3 so that they can say they’re different even though gameplay wise it makes no sense (which is why no fucking games do this by the way). You’re forced to MANUALLY upload every single discovery instead of it automatically doing it – the concept behind why is probably so you can rename stuff first, but there’s no reason it couldn’t upload the discovery itself and give you the in-game payment for it and let you change and update it after that OR even just give a hotkey style button press when you discover something new to choose just to upload it if you dont care – like “press (probably more like hold for 5 seconds) circle to upload without renaming” because guess what? Naming shit gets old after your first 5 discoveries, aside that you’ll only want to spend time thinking up names for especially silly, weird, or cool (those last ones don’t exist) animals and of course planets and systems which are the only things worth actually naming. The magical space police don’t just ruin the idea of discovery but also keep you from attempting to even play the game. Oh, stuck on a planet because you need plutonium? Well the space police got mad from you destroying too many of the resource and are after you now! Shooting an animal because it’s attacking you? Here come the cops! Shooting a stupid flower? WOAH THERE, YOU’RE TREADING A THIN LINE AND IF YOU DO IT AGAIN THERE WON’T BE ANOTHER WARNING. I could keep listing examples but the ways the game impedes any attempt at “fun” just never ends.
And, on the note of “stuck on a planet”, well this game is insane about micromanagement in fact that’s arguably all this game is – a bunch of incredibly mundane, unfun, uninteresting spam notifications. Inventory full, health is low, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, life support is low, the weather is too hot, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, learned the Gek word for “friend”, the weather is too cold, inventory full, the air is too toxic, the planet is radioactive, inventory full, life support is low, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, inventory full, inventory full, inventory full, inventory full, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, inventory full, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, inventory full, technology upgraded, life support is low, technology refilled, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, life support is low: 75% (how is 75% low), the weather is now not too hot, the weather is now not too cold, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, learned the Gek word for “Phrontistery” instead of a useful word, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, inventory full, you don’t have enough lift fuel to take off, inventory full, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, learned the Gek word for “Gek”, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, inventory full, inventory full, you don’t have enough resources to make this, inventory full, MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHED, life support is low. This is what you deal with throughout every 10~15 minutes of play no matter what the fuck you’re doing – I don’t mean ONE or TWO of these, I mean all of that happening within every 10-15 minutes nonstop.
I want to be clear that I’m NOT exaggerating about those milestone accomplished pop-ups either which block your screen for about 30 goddamn seconds and pop up almost every 5~10 minutes nonstop even hours into the game. They were clearly going for a “hook” to get people addicted and feeling that “reward” for progress, something most games try to do in one form or another yet they even fucked THAT up by just over saturating you with something OBNOXIOUS instead of something you can feel good about. The “milestones” are a fucking joke so that all players can feel congratulated every fucking step of the way nonstop which will hopefully keep them playing the mind-numbing loop and instead it makes you want to shut the fucking game off because it just never stops. It REALLY never stops. The moment you do ANYTHING, even just walk a few feet, you will accomplish a goddamn milestone, and there’s no end to it. Milestone accomplished – walked 5 feet, milestone accomplished walked 10 feet, milestone accomplished walked 15 feet. I’m not fucking kidding.
Aside all of that there are still far more issues with the gameplay, like the fact that there’s no working economy – so you can’t even just be a ‘space trader’ which would be easily more fun than the absolute NOTHING you get to be instead. Or the fact you take a bunch of damage from very small falls all the time. Or how there IS ABSOLUTELY NO GAMEPLAY beyond mine stuff and…no that’s it, even adventuring around isn’t much of a choice because everything is identical on every planet and just as vapid every time, even the copy-pasted “ruins” that are just pointless empty towers with 3 words to learn. Or how the UI randomly shuts off because they think the game is just so pretty that nobody could want VITAL INFORMATION visible when they could look at the “beauty” of the world.
Which, yeah, real beautiful. The game’s STYLE is fine, but holy shit did they ever go incredibly cheap on everything beyond that. The textures are some of the lowest resolution turd-smears you could imagine, it’s reminiscent of the N64 most of the time with very stretched, flat, and unbelievably low quality covering every inch of every planet.
You’ve also got massive problems with pop-in which is almost made worse by them trying to hide it with dithering which just draws your attention to it instead. Your character can’t see more than 15 feet away on foot, aside some certain big trees and rarely a large animal – and if you’re in a space ship flying even very low and very slow over a planet you won’t see even the basic plant life just a smear of color over flatness which STILL has pop-in for the fucking basic topography. There’s also UNBELIEVABLE amounts of clipping and geometry clashing that they just didn’t fucking bother to worry about – you’ve got all the plants clipping through each other and objects (especially if you find tall flowers on a planet) and 90% of the time that you land your ship it’ll just embed itself into the ground (though this doesn’t do anything to it gameplay wise) – which by the way it lands on it’s own, fuck letting the player actually play.
Lots of floating nonsense as well – and I don’t mean gravity causing it, I mean they didn’t bother actually having gravity programmed in (and even every planet has the exact same gravity somehow) because you’ll find a big pillar of shit to dissolve away for material and if you just blast away the bottom the top will just stay where it was and if you blast at that it’ll keep little bits stuck in place as well, the same happens if you use grenades. Everything just exists where it is, it’s not an actual thing programmed to react to anything at all, even having it’s entire connection to the planet destroyed.
The promised (and still advertised officially and by the developers on personal channels) multiplayer does not actually exist. Two players have been confirmed to have met (again, even the devs confirmed this as true and not a case of people bullshitting) on the first day…and neither one existed in the other player’s game or had any impact on the other player’s view of the world. They couldn’t see one another, couldn’t interact, and if you did anything to the world it was not reflected in the other player’s version of it. This is fine except the first part – promising and advertising the concept of “it might take days or even months to meet another human player but they will be there and so it’ll be rewarding to finally come across someone” – which is complete bullshit because other real players don’t exist. The worst part is the defense force (people shilling the game now that buyer’s remorse is setting in and they’ve already talked about how amazing the game will be and don’t want to back down and ruin their reputation with either friends or readers/viewers depending on who they are) are somehow defending this and saying it’s still a meeting even though they didn’t meet at all. If you turn on a single player game, stand in a spot, and another person goes to that same spot in their single player game – are you meeting? Fucking no, and that’s all these guys did. On top of that you’ve got an ending that’s been reached which, apparently, just went from going to the center of the universe finally to…new game +, not really the promised mind-blowing finale people were told their possible years of game time spent trying to travel there would reward them with.
That same group of people also defend, well, every aspect of the game. They’re even so desperate that half their arguments are even admittedly made up lore for things like pop-in textures being “because my visor is having a problem” and aliens not getting out of their ships “because the door on their ship is malfunctioning”. Which yeah, they didn’t bother programming any aliens to actually exist in the game aside if they’re sitting in a chair or standing in a single spot and ONLY inside one of the billion outposts you’ll find on a planet – never just around, doing anything, or even simply walking and ones in ships just land at a landing pad occasionally and then leave.
There’s also absolutely no incentive to DO anything aside just try and head to the center as fast as possible. Sure, you can catalog a whole planet…but why? “For fun”? Well, sure, if the whole thing about them ruining the point of “adventuring” by ruining the discovery aspect didn’t happen maybe, and maybe also if they actually had real content. Every planet, every living creature, it’s all soulless and completely fucking empty beyond “this exists”. These animals don’t have a life, they don’t have thoughts or emotions or wants and needs, they just are THERE for you to hold L2 at them and put them in the database even though they already are there because the planet has outposts, intelligent life living on it and flying around it, and police all over it. This isn’t a game where you can, say, follow a herd of animals around and see how they live and what they do. What they “do” is run around in circles and that’s kind of it, as far as I know they don’t even sleep – they’re just constantly acting like dumb shits in a small area they’re leashed into. There is seriously nothing to do. Going to a new planet is exciting for the first few hours and the moment you reach any of them that dies right away and it’s boring within seconds of breaking through the atmosphere or, at most, within a few minutes of landing and you repeat this again and again until those first few hours are over and you hate all of it. All you want to do is get off the planet and go to a new one because aside that there’s really nothing doing but to grind materials until your inventory is full (so about 2 minutes).
I love games like what this promised itself to be – I don’t need loads of shooting, action, explosions, or even a deep story all the time. Things like Space Engineer – a literal “Minecraft in space” are even something I’ve spent over 50 hours in (in this case, specifically SE) – let alone the aforementioned trucking sims among plenty of other slow, action-less, story-less games. No Man’s Sky though is just…it’s nothing and the few things it “is” it fails to do anything remotely entertaining, enjoyable, or interesting with. It feels like an old actual pre-alpha build of a game, the type of thing where they’re about 15% through development and only the staff see this build in order to see how the very very very basic elements will work, instead it’s a full $60 “completed” release.
I abhor this game. Yes, it’s shit but it’s WORSE than that, this is easily one of the only games I’ve seen that comes close to being on par with Ni no Kuni and Time & Eternity – the two games crowned as the worst games ever fucking created. It’s not just bad, it’s fucking aggressively and offensively terrible and devoid of anything positive. The most enjoyment you’ll get is if you go around looking through “professional” reviews of this game and realizing they all REFUSE to review it because they only have bad things to say. Every single one is a “review in progress” or “pre-review” because “well, Sony gave us a bunch of money to say this is great but this is bad beyond what I imagined possible, let’s just not finish this review ever so they don’t get angry” while filling up these pre-reviews and reviews-in-progress with nothing but hate and vitriol aimed at the game making it clear they can’t stand it either. Even finding the fucking awful worse-than-Spore procedurally generated creatures gets boring a couple hours in because you realize it’s already repeating 90% of the same body elements.