Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon and Mega-Man; these titles went down in history as games that made major advancements in how games were played. No Man’s Sky will go down in history as a game that pushed the boundaries of the scale games can reach.
Released on Aug. 9 for PS4 and the 12 for PC, No Man’s Sky is a space exploration game with a Minecraft style crafting system. Like Minecraft, No Man’s Sky is largely open-ended in game objectives, allowing the player to decide what his or her goals are.
This open-ended mission structure is paralleled in the game’s universe. There are over 18 quintillion, yes quintillion, planets that the player can discover and explore in the game. Each player exists in the universe at the same time, meaning that two people could theoretically run into each other, although it’s unlikely.
This level of scope is unparalleled and unprecedented in video games, making it the largest video game ever made.
No Man’s Sky can reach these lofty numbers because of the algorithm that makes up the game. The development team, called Hello Games, created templates of planets and solar systems that are procedurally generated when a player first warps into them.
This means that whenever a player first arrives in a new solar system, the game randomly generates entire worlds and fills them with natural resources, water and wildlife that is unique to that planet. No two planets in the entire galaxy are identical. The player can then name and upload his or her discoveries to the universe, permanently leaving their mark in the game. When another player visits the solar system, the information generated from the first player will be used to show the next one what the planets are like. Hello Games essentially created a giant template for everything you can see generated on planets and players actively create the universe as they play.
There is currently a solar system named The Appalachian, which is approximately 180,000 light years from the center of the Euclid Galaxy.
No Man’s Sky is without a doubt the largest game ever devised. But its size doesn’t detract from its issues.
There are a few alien races that the player runs into throughout the game that trade and interact with them. After a few hours though, the aliens appear the same. This is probably due to the limitations of the algorithm for the game which recycles common features of how aliens look, and reassembles the specific details of facial structure or body shape. This sounds great in theory but the player can recognize these component parts without much effort.
The same can be said for the planets themselves. Each one is randomly generated and no two are identical but there are hundreds that are alike. This distinction is worth underscoring because there seems to be an endless stream of similar planets from the start of the game until many hours in, when the player acquires the ability to warp to unique solar systems. This change is great and it shakes up the gameplay enough to get the player interested again, but it comes way too late to be effective.
The player is alone for most of the exploration on planets, only occasionally running into alien lifeforms. These long stretches of being alone and interacting with non-aliens might indicate the developers are trying to convey a message that interacting with others is special and thus makes the player value their time with them. If this is the case, it failed colossally.
Endlessly trekking across vast swathes of planets and space is lonely. The only times the player gets a break from this is through meeting other lifeforms, but again, they begin to feel repetitive. The result of this strange, artificial isolation gives the player the same feeling as someone dialing a customer service line only to be heard by robots and recordings.
At arm’s length, No Man’s Sky seems like the game to end all games. It’s enormous, has a robust crafting and resource gathering system and is amazingly beautiful at times. But upon further inspection the game feels shallow, hollow and empty.
No Man’s Sky is a great party game or something to play for a few hours to admire the beauty, because it is truly beautiful if nothing else. Unless Hello Games makes drastic changes through game updates and patches, No Man’s Sky will be lost in a mass void of other games that it so perfectly replicates.
Story by: Mike Hebert, A&E Reporter