Okay, so you’ve probably already heard all about No Man’s Sky, and how it has let down its rabidly-enthusiastic fanbase after not delivering on the promises from its 2015 E3 demo.
Having successfully avoided much of the moaning that heralded the game’s launch, I managed to pick up a copy last week. Since posting a review so long after release feels a little late, my editor and I came up with a plan to provide readers with some first impressions at the weekend – oh, and this gave the developers time to release their second patch for the game.
I was, in fact, quite enthusiastic about No Man’s Sky, having seen Nick play it a bit in the office. I thought “What a nice, gentle, relaxing game of resource collection and discovery; I bet I’ll really enjoy it!”
By the time I booted it up the second patch had dropped, which promised to fix many of the technical issues the first patch didn’t. So the version I played (PS4) was as stable as it could be.
Sadly, after having spent some of my weekend playing, stability turned out not to be the game’s biggest failing. Even after the second patch, my time with No Man’s Sky was, shall I say, trying. So trying, in fact, that I eventually just gave up and went and did something else, even though I hadn’t even left the starting planet yet. Yes, really.
Nick asked me to keep a diary of my playtime with the game, so I did. Here’s what I came away with after around two hours of play. I know, I know, only two hours, but bear with me and you’ll find out why I just couldn’t make it past that point.
o:00 – 0:03
Wow, this is impressive! The planet I’m on is so colourful and pretty, let me just look at it for a bit. Oooh, shiny, pretty. This is all procedurally-generated? Looks great!
Okay, that was nice… what is there to do? Oh, you want me to repair my ship? Cool… how do I do that? Fix it with resources, you say? Sounds good (and pleasingly logical) to me.
Right, where do I find all of these resources? There looks to be a bunch of plants and rocks around… how do I figure out what ‘s what? Oh look, a scanner… let’s see what this does.
0:05 – 0:10
Ah, I see now… the scanner highlights resources using little icons that appear over the top of the UI. Looks like… red things with lightning bolts, presumably that’s energy. Blue things with laboratory beakers on them, maybe that’s… who knows? And these yellow icons that look like slabs of butter… another mystery. Oh well, let’s go take a look at what’s what.
Wait, what’s that voice saying? My health is low? Um, 75% is “low”? Okay then… (I put it on the back burner because clearly it’s not THAT much of a concern yet and head out to gather resources).
0:10 – 0:30
I walk up to a plant and discover that it’s carbon, and that carbon is an energy source that recharges some of the equipment I’m carrying. I must “mine” it by shooting it with my laser thingy, after which it explodes into chunks and adds itself to my exo-suit’s inventory. Rocks are iron. Some plants are platinum (yes, really), and crystal shard-like things are anything from plutonium to gold. Great. Harvest, harvest.
Soon, my exo-suit’s inventory is full, but fortunately I have the option to transfer stuff to my ship’s inventory.
What’s that? I’m too far away from my ship to transfer inventory. Seriously? Okay, let me get a little closer. Fine, now I’m closer and I can transfer stuff.
Oh look, now my ship’s meagre inventory is full and I only have another four open spaces in my suit’s inventory to fill with whatever. Gathering everything I need now looks like it’s going to be a lot less fun than originally thought.
0:30 – 0:58
I return to my ship and start poking around its contents to see if my bountiful harvest contains enough resources to successfully repair my ship’s thrusters. And… no. I need something called Heridium, which my 20-minute resource-gathering binge did not yield.
Fine. What is Heridium, exactly? I have no clue, and all my scanner shows me are icons of the resources in my immediate area. So I need to go looking. Damnit.
Before I set off, I decide to create four iron plates needed for some of the repairs… and then realise I’ve now just filled my four available inventory slots, and have no space to carry any new resources. Do my iron plates stack? No, they take up a single inventory slot each. Because OF COURSE THEY DO. Cue eye-roll.
Can I repair anything with just those plates? No. Can I put them in a container somewhere for safe-keeping until I come back? If I can, I can’t find a way to do it. So now I have to DESTROY ALL OF THE PLATES MADE to make space, meaning I must in the near future gather the iron needed to make them again, and again have more slots in my inventory to accommodate them.
Geez, really guys? Fine, if that’s what I have to do, I’ll do it.
Since now I have space for the bloody Heridium, off I trek across the landscape to see if I can find it.
*Trudge, trudge, trudge, jump using piddly little jetpack to get over annoyingly-contoured terrain. Finally make it to the location of an energy source icon.*
Is this Heridium? Nope… this is just more carbon.
*Walk for another age to another energy source.*
Nope, this is Plutonium. Is Heridium maybe marked by a buttery yellow icon?
*Walk for what feels like a kilometer of real distance to a blue icon*
Is Heridium a silicate? Maybe, but it’s not this one. So where the hell is it?
*Sigh in slight but growing irritation.*
0:58 – 1:14
I’m losing interest in gathering resources, so I decide to just wander around for a bit. I find what looks to be an interesting cave full of mushroom-like growths (Carbon), interestingly straight-edged protrusions of rock that the game tells me is iron, and a few crystal shards that turn out to be Gold and Plutonium. Yay! Gather, gather… inventory full. Balls. Destroy some iron to make space.
I exit the cave and look around, and spot a huge blue-ish monolith protruding from the planet’s surface in front of me. The scanner tells me it’s HERIDIUM! Oh praise the flying spaghetti monster! I make space by destroying several other minerals I’m carrying that I feel I have too much of, and proceed to mine the hell out of that blue-ish monolith.
While I am mining away joyfully, thinking I might be mere minutes away from repairing my ship and getting the hell off this irritating planet, two flying robot things appear in front of me, and start to attack me. Apparently, they’re Sentinels and I AM TAKING TOO MANY OF THE PLANET’S RESOURCES!!
REALLY, Hello Games? You make harvesting your game’s bloody resources such a chore and then YOU PUNISH ME FOR GETTING IT RIGHT?
Un. Fucking. Believable. At this point, my irritation isn’t slight anymore.
So I shoot both flying robot things with my piddly little mining laser thing, eventually taking them both out. The fight wasn’t fun, it wasn’t enjoyable, and getting a handful of resources for destroying them both didn’t exactly feel like a reward.
Thank the FSM I actually managed to do it, though, because if they’d killed me I’d have been spirited back to my last save when I hadn’t mined any bloody Heridium yet, because the game only saves when you make certain discoveries and when you climb out of your ship’s cockpit, and I hadn’t done that in a while.
*Trudge back to ship, now miles and miles (and miles) away, mumbling and having homicidal thoughts.*
1:15 – 1:47
I finally get back to my ship, and perform the necessary repairs. I make sure I repair the components that need the rarest resources first, and run around collecting iron for more plate things once those are done.
Sadly, I now need Theradium69 because that’s the fuel my thrusters use, and I need to bloody REFUEL THEM before I can use them. Because of course I must.
Cue more trudging around the now-annoying alien landscape, examining the energy sources highlighted by my scanner to see if they were Thepatrium956 or whatever.
This one? No.
That one? Of course not.
Third one’s the charm? Don’t be stupid, it’s just more bloody carbon.
Eventually, after trudging around an area that seems to be orders of magnitude larger than it actually appears, I find the stupid sodding Theraldamidinium1886 to refuel the SS No Fun Here.
Cue the trudge back to the ship. At least the icon is always on my HUD and it’s impossible to lose the thing. Hooray.
A good few minutes later I am back with my ship, and I refuel it. Finally… FINALLY… I am ready to take off.
1:47 – +- 2:00
So I take off and fly around a bit, preferring to explore the planet a bit more from the air than to head straight to space. Honestly, I think I was just overjoyed not to be bloody walking anymore.
I must say, seeing the planet sprawled out below me is quite nice, so my irritation levels subside somewhat. Thinking I should see if this side of the planet has any new resources, I hit my scanner, and in a stroke of what seems like luck at the time, it finds another ship – one that’s slightly better than my starter ship.
Sweet, I think, an upgrade! So I land, and hop out. I take a look, and while it seems a little junkier-looking than my current ship, I see it already has weapons and mods installed that – presumably – make it better. Inventory space is about the same.
Thinking my working thruster and booster thingies will transfer to the new ship automatically, I don’t comprehend the game’s instruction for me to manually transfer everything from my old ship to my new ship, and just take ownership right then and there.
Of a ship that doesn’t have working thrusters.
And is grounded.
And needs repairs.
Which require resources that I no longer have.
And my repaired ship has mysteriously vanished so I can’t even scavenge from it.
Goodbye, No Man’s Sky. It’s been a slice. Of Hell.