Perhaps the most impressive set piece a developer can create for its consumer is by showcasing brilliance without the need to force the audience into their perspective. Many games do it, most not well, and for No Man’s Sky it is one of the better aspects of the ambitious game.
When you first load up the game there is no menu, no options, but just a start screen that takes you directly into the game. Standing among the alien environment with unfamiliar landscape stretching from all perspectives, strange fauna layering the land, and strange, sometimes comical, creatures lumbering throughout the planet imitated perfectly what exploration could be. Learning how the game functioned was amusing. The player is stranded on a mysterious planet with a ship laying in disarray. Elements gathered from the planet is required to fix the starship back into working order. Of course, the game doesn’t tell you this directly, it required the player to explore its surroundings. Seemingly endless elements gathered before your eyes and can be quite overwhelming, but honestly, that is where the mystery stops because once the player does fix the ship and leave the planet it instantaneously becomes clear how redundant it all was.
Among its three pillars, No Man’s Sky boasted its survival mechanic heavily weeks leading up to its launch, but does it hold on in actuality? The short answer is no. Resources are so abundant to the player that running out and dying from overexposure or lack of fuel would have to be intentional, or otherwise a glitch in the game’s programming. For example, there are planets that have extreme temperatures that threaten the depletion a player’s life support at an alarming rate. The only way to survival is to build a special modification for your suit especially for this one planet or continue to pour a single resource to recharge your life support back to full. This is meant to be challenging for the player, so they had to balance their greed for natural resources for their safety. In theory anyways, because while the game has the guts to strain the player life support, it does not, however, have the guts to limit the resources to recharges them. Therefore, any sense of peril is completely overridden by a cheap exploitation done easily by anyone with half a brain. Even without this trick the game’s alternative solution is laughable.
This game is built with every mechanical in mind so they would all tie together. That is true. Since the survival aspect is boring than it really shouldn’t be surprising that it’s gathering mechanical has also been ruined. Mining in its essence is uninteresting, slow, and downright unfulfilling. The player mines for the sake of buying the upgrade to mine more to buy even better upgrades to further increase their resource gathering abilities. Now this might sound similar to an MMO. Probably because it is the same mechanic. In this case, however, No Man’s Sky provides no immediate threat to gathering resources, and when they do, they are afraid to press too hard in case the player might actually have to face a problem. So all the player has to do is stand there while looking at this giant chunk of whatever element and hold down a button to wait for the giant rock to disappear. Seriously, does this sound anyway challenging or fun? Challenging and fun should go hand in hand if a developer fails to capture both then their game will sink faster than the titanic.
Thank you, readers, for sitting through this jumble of the mess I claim to call writing. This rant of No Man’s Sky will continue next week with the dissection of their combat mechanic. And by dissection, I mean an absolute massacre.