No Man’s Sky is a good game is often said to be more than the sum of its parts – a special, unquantifiable feeling that comes from seeing every mechanic working seamlessly together to create variety and surprises. No Man’s Sky, by contrast, is a huge collection of parts that can’t find that harmony. To its credit a few work brilliantly – specifically the unheard of scale and scope of its procedurally generated sci-fi universe and often striking interplanetary exploration that allows you to hop in a spaceship and fly seamlessly to the surface of another planet. But too many other systems are badly designed and repetitive, from its basic and dull combat to its toothless survival systems, and from its unwieldy interface to its lifeless alien races.
No Man’s Sky Gameplay
The vague, barely-there story starts each of us on a random planet (one of a claimed 18 quintillion) with a broken spaceship and the sci-fi equivalent of Minecraft’s pickaxe: a laser beam that slowly vacuums up a planet’s resources for you to feed into typical, simplistic crafting recipes. At first I was struck by the impressive world around me, which in this particular case was lush with colorful plant and animal life straight out of a Dr. Seuss book and rolling purple hills dotted with pillars of minerals. I named it Stapleton’s Landing and uploaded it to the server – though I’ll probably never see it again, another player might one day stumble across it and wonder who I was. (As far as we’ve seen so far this is the extent of No Man’s Sky’s multiplayer interaction in every reported test to date – even people who have gone to the same place at the same time haven’t been able to see each other.)
Other worlds I’ve visited since have run the gamut between similarly exotic and as barren and desolate as Mars or the moon, with interesting features ranging from labyrinthine caves to impossibly floating islands and otherworldly rock formations. Landing on a new planet is usually an impressive high point because visual variety is No Man’s Sky’s strong suit. However, when you start moving around some of that beauty is lost. Because the draw distance for high-detail models is so short you’ll constantly see objects phase in and out with a distracting dithering effect, and the frame rate frequently dips below the 30 it shoots for just from panning around the environment. Especially when flying fast and low over a planet – as you do frequently when hunting for rare resources or buildings – the pop-in is tough to look past. So are the crashes, of which I’ve experienced about a dozen so far. This is the most crash-prone PS4 game I’ve ever played.
But then you get in your ship and fly straight up off the surface and clear the atmosphere of a planet directly into space, then zip over to a neighboring world and land on its surface without any loading, and it’s hard not to be impressed. That’s an experience I’ve always wanted in games, and No Man’s Sky pulls it off. It’s a great moment of glory, and one that’s badly needed as virtually everything between those moments is a repetitive, frustrating, and confusing slog.
While the tutorial is sufficient to get you up and running with your handy jetpack, basic crafting skills, and a working spaceship capable of interstellar jumps toward the goal of reaching the center of the galaxy, there’s a huge amount of important information it never introduces you to. Things as fundamental as how to switch your multitool from mining mode to combat mode and back to more nuanced things like how ship upgrades depend heavily on placement to function best aren’t addressed at all. In general, No Man’s Sky does a poor job of teaching you how to play, so you should expect to lean heavily on external guides if you don’t want to waste time figuring out its opaque systems for yourself. If you like other games watch the review of Mafia 3 Gameplay and Review 2016