No Man's Sky
After 2 and a half years of waiting for No Man's Sky to jettison into our hands and save the world forever and ever amen, it's finally here, and boy is it boring. Look at me, I can barely write an introduction for this space sim about collecting space trash and chocolate pearls. No Man's Sky is, all in all, a very boring "point A to point B with a notepad, documenting bullshit" situation.
You start NMS with a laundry list of shit about fixing your ship. You mine things, as you will ad infinitude in this game, firing a laser into rocks and minerals to get crafting materials. You do this over and over so you can make energy or life support fuel for your suit and ship, both of which are things that guzzle resources. So you explore the random planets, looking at weird animals and weird plants and strange weather, looking for shit to continue your journey and move onward. You will eventually find lone aliens at small trailer park outposts, with whom you can trade doodads for more items, new ships, or artifacts. In the environment, you can found strange language stones and learn more about the 3 races you commune with. When you're done fucking around the planet, you can launch off and fly around to the next one, doing the next minuscule objective to craft or find another thing.
This is what you do in No Man's Sky.
I've heard people say this is a chillout game and you can listen to a podcast or whatever while playing, but I can't really equate "chilling out" with "incredible tedium." Moving around the planets is painful, as your plodding pace and miserable jetpack stretch out any activity undertaken. You can expect to amble all over planets, but no matter how initially interesting a planet seemed at first sight, I was always brought back to reality once I took a tour of the area. Truthfully, there is barely anything to "explore," as people are wont to say. There's legit better exploration in Witcher, Skyrim, Xenoblade, MGSV, you name it--all being games where new and engaging shit actually happens. The procedural generation in NMS is a hindrance that hurts the overall experience, as the random planets will all have common things to unplumb and uncork again and again.
I was especially frustrated with the godawful inventory, which kept reaching its pitiful limit. Sure, you can upgrade your cargo or suit, but these things take time that I'm already using just doing *whatever*. I'd go further into the various elements and items you mine and collect, but who gives a fuck about the differences when they amount to "one fuels shit, another shields shit, and another crafts gun shit."
One of the most disappointing things in this game is that the wildlife AI is literally dipshit level. Every animal adapts to the same arbitrary running away in panic, or angrily bumping into you with aggro. Having them all be dependent on procedural generation also sucks; I just see chicken head on cow body, lizard head on cow body, just this parade of mix and match shit. Even the zoos and random wildlife in MGSV were moderately interesting; here, the animals might as well be cardboard cutouts to modestly distract you while you trundle across a shitplanet towards your next whatever who gives a fuck objective.
Am I disappointed there isn't more to do? Sure. I came in with no expectations, save for the fact that my appetite for exploring cool worlds and secret caverns would be satiated. I've landed on a handful of utterly joyless plazas, watched as nothingness yawned and folded up empty chasms, sighed as flat vistas rolled on for miles. I've landed my ship, activated a beacon, and groaned as I realized I couldn't reach anywhere without wasting another launch of my ship thrusters. Even the abhorrent Xenoblade Chronicles X offered quick travel and several swift modes of locomotion; NMS has you choose between the on-again off-again dance of using your ship, or trekking endlessly to get anywhere or do anything. Don't even get me started about "combat" in this game--there is none. It's the most rudimentary shit you could possibly shoehorn in, and the game's pacing and UI is completely unsuited for any kind of dogfighting or gunplay.
I'm sure in later updates, there will be a bit more content, but only just enough to layer on top of an already tasteless cake. However, it's not even worth the salt to cry about something like NMS when there are other, better games coming out that will render my memories of this one void. I don't even have some kind of venomous hatred for "what might have been" like Evolve or Just Cause 3, partially because NMS is what it is, and the hype surrounding was the fault of the masses. What did we learn from all the previews over the years? Mostly nothing, as evidenced by how shocked people have been at the emptiness. Still, NMS has already made shitloads of money, putting itself in the realm of The Division, Watch Dogs, and Destiny for best IP launch. Naming those other 3 games is all I need to say, given their critical standing and longevity.
If you like playing NMS and digging for treasures in the crust of these planets, go ahead and go nuts--I won't vilify you. However, when it comes to open-ended games, I've played enough of them to know that you have to bring your A-game; Witcher 3 was an example of bringing an A+ game, meticulously crafting hundreds of new diversions, missions, and characters. You can even get away with relatively standard maps if the gameplay is excellent, which is what you experience in MGSV and its emergent strategies. NMS, in my opinon, offers neither exciting moments of discover nor any kind of dynamic gameplay; it is merely a skeleton of a greater idea, hidden almost as far as the nearest galaxy as you try in vain to race across the cosmos towards something grander. The ability to shock and surprise players can be found in Bloodborne. Tightly-constructed hubworlds and mission-oriented dioramas can likely be found in the future Deus Ex and Dishonored games. Almost any other critically lauded universe can do more than NMS has. Ultimately, I can't justify wasting my time with such a mediocre effort.
Space may be an endlessly curious entity, but No Man's Sky offers very little in the scope of providing interesting questions--or, at the very least, answers as to why I should play it.
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Amazing and topical!