No Man's Sky Limited Edition
- Street Date:
- August 9th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- August 12th, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- Hello Games
- Hello Games
PS4 disc version reviewed as part of the 'No Man's Sky – Limited Edition.' LE content included the Photonix Core advanced ship boost, Trader Charisma bonus set of valuable resources, and Boltcaster SM weapon blueprint. The preorder Alpha Vector ship was also used. The day one patch (version 1.03) was used for the review.
After years of teases from Hello Games and Sony, 'No Man's Sky' descends onto the PS4 and PC. Armed with a spacesuit, spaceship, and multi-tool, the player has a seemingly endless array of star systems to explore. Prior to release the game mesmerized with its surreal art style and go anywhere promises. With the release, the time for teasing is over.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
I've reviewed a lot of games across various genres and platforms, but 'No Man's Sky' is the first game I can remember that straight up defeated me over the course of a review. It wasn't a tricky enemy or clever puzzle that stayed my progress, neither was it some enter the code off the box or use the frying pan type barrier. Instead, I just lost inertia, I lost hope, and I lost the willingness to just go through the motions.
Planet after I planet I chased mirages. I searched the same buildings and ruins, caves, and ocean beds for something compelling, but was routinely disappointed. But please forgive these words, as it is not intent to spread this sense of futility. 'No Man's Sky' is so immensely barren in terms of progression that writing about the game is an exercise either with or against vignettes. That is, it's extremely difficult not to just write from the perspective of my in-game character.
To put it another way, I was frequently reminded of 'Dragon Ball Z' and the planet Namek. Flying over endless water/land while looking for friends and foes, but just finding more water/land.
If I could be happy walking around scanning a muddled set of animals and plant life and occasionally fighting off some sentinels or learning a new alien word, then I think I could play this game forever. The planets can be stunning- like walking around a beautiful amusement park. But all the kiosks at the park offer the same stuff, and all the rides have been traded in for more sprawl.
It wasn't always hopeless, and in my early session things were looking up. I have a working theory about any game that has the player spending large amounts of time staring at inventory screens and managing inventory, and it's not a positive one. Inventory management in 'No Man's Sky' was pretty tricky at first. There are resources everywhere, but such limited inventory. And yet, I got comfortable with it. I knew what I needed to fuel all my ship, suit, and multi-tool systems, and I could craft what I needed to warp between stars. I maxed out my suit's inventory slots, but more importantly, I liked that the ship's slots could hold more resources than my suit. (The upgrade bonus for placing upgrades near systems needs more flexibility to it.)
Of course, I had to keep my ship nearby most of the time. It's remarkably easy to hop in the ship, fly 10 km (or 10,000 km) land (just about anywhere there is land) and hop out. The ship can feel slow over the vast expanses (even when warping) but there are no load screens, so it feels fluid. Extreme conditions like cold and radiation that assault the spacesuit are easily stayed by entering the cockpit. Even entering a rundown habitat provides a breather.
That leads to me to one of the game's more bizarre design decisions or limitations. Flying to a strange planet and proceeding into a lone building surrounded by harsh conditions, and inside there is an alien, or else the remains of alien consumed by a tentacle looking corruption. Either way, I'll just saunter in and pick up some carbon off a house plant or some credits off a stock terminal. What counts as an exciting find is maybe a trading terminal or a multiple choice question from an alien I can't understand.
Even more bizarre. The flying the robot sentinels that are always close by and freak out whenever they catch me mining, really dislike when I blow the doors off locked buildings. There's a whole system of escalation, where one sentinel calls in more and more. But after a few face offs with these annoyances, I realized that just walking inside a building would end their agitated state. And in effect in any of these endless buildings that dot the landscape, I have to put my weapon away.
There are space stations and there are other space ships to marvel out and try to buy, but it's all very inert. Gather resources, sell them, and try to upgrade. Finding blueprints, no matter how useless was ok, until I noticed that most are worthless duplicates. Even really useful upgrades are somewhat invalidated when they can be found anywhere at any time and will become disappointing "already known" ends to future endeavors.
With very little story and little to set one area, planet, or system apart from another, I had to do some role-playing of my own. So I made death the least desirable of all things. I scrambled for safety and cheated death over and over. My only death came because I stupidly let the game trick me into returning to a planet I had just left, to a building I already been in. (Scanning and following icons is buggy as all get out.) Frustrated, I returned to orbit, with the game still insisting I hadn't visited the same abandoned building I had gone to twice, two ships attacked me, and, having not used the weapons on the ship in some 15 hours of game time, they killed me.
Even death was anticlimactic. I came back to life, and I warped to next star (which is what I was going to do when the game kept insisting I go to the abandoned building). Although it was the next system, the resources I had lost were waiting for me at my "grave."
In my time, I pursued both the central core path and the Atlas path. These were significant if only for representing the only purposeful part of the in-game map. I don't know if it's because the online part of the game has been entirely flaky all week, but I found backtracking in the game to be extremely difficult and just as fruitless/fruitful as going forward.
I really like the cute Gek race. That they are actually terrible makes them even more likable. As with the other races, learning words that helped me in future encounters was a real highlight. I admit I also enjoyed the mainly multiple choice puzzles. Unlike something from Telltale or Bioware or Bethesda, these multiple choice dialogue encounters have a logical correct choice. I wish the game had built on this more.
Limited Edition Content
As I wrote in my Limited Edition Impressions, the outer packaging looks to have been damaged through shipper (Amazon) carelessness. A cellophane wrapping might have prevented that, but at least the nice inner box escaped impression.
All of the physical goods of the LE make good use of the game's best characteristic, the art style.
The exception is probably the cover of the 'Adventures in No Man's Sky,' but I remain impressed by the inclusion of text and the quality of the paper used. The Steelbook is the monochrome part of the package which for some reason fits for me.
The digital content ended up being a real bust. It's worse than 'Destiny' in my opinion, but at the same time, it gives non LE owners no reason to worry. The Photonix Core Ship boost is the best item, but there are other similar boosts that are easy to get in the game. The trader bonuses were gone in blink of the eye. Boltcaster blueprints are everywhere. I held onto the preorder ship for a while, but noted early on when I picked the warp core blueprint.
(This blueprint appears to be at the root of the preorder ship bug which has caused so many players to reset their game. The in-game prompts for doing things like finding the warp core blueprint have a very tacked-on feel, and seem quite easy to break.) That leaves the PlayStation 4 dynamic theme.
I like themes and exclusive themes, but this is one of the more ho-hum ones I've seen. The lone image is nice, but no one should envy it.
Considering how I ultimately rejected the gameplay, having the physical LE content is a lot less desirable than it was five months ago. But as LEs go, this is one of the better recent ones. I dislike the 'Deluxe' editions that have crummy digital content for an extra $10. An extra $20 for these inclusions is borderline, but with the Prime discount and limited availability, the box, Steelbook, art book, and comic are welcome enough.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Finally we have a modern game that makes artful uses of material colors. This efficient use of RGB is one of the game's hooks and in small doses is excellent. Even something like a stark spaceship hanger looks look like a vision from 'Tron.' Sadly, the creativity is not sustained. Up to now, I've omitted talking about the flora and fauna up that riddle the rocky worlds, and I suppose it is because it's all scenery. These seem perfect for filling out stylish screenshots but not much else.
I'm normally flummoxed by games like 'Skyrim' due to their modular design and over frequency of kibble, but aspects like actual NPC characters, quests, enemies, locations, etc. are merely a dream here.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The game's short soundtrack feels at home here in 'No Man's Sky.' There is ambient sound as well, though it's often drowned out by the sound of a passing ship or an annoying sentinel. There are some creature cues, weapons/mining sounds, and UI. It's all quite minimal but cohesive. As with the rest of the game, it helps to be in a sci-fi mood. Without distinct places or people, (there are more distinct things to be found in 'FTL' by my view), it almost seems like the game needs a 'Metal Gear' like tape player to spruce things up. In-game audio log items may be a done-death feature, but a striking narrative would have been welcome here. As it is, I listened to 'Sphere' when not playing (a book I've read many time over the years) to help set the mood.
Along with the day one patch notes came the promise of base-building as a future feature. That promise, along with various is-it-working aspects like the online connection gives the game a very 'Early Access' feel. I was looking for a single player exploration experience, but wound up feeling as though I was searching my own backyard for trash. Such an empty feeling had me wondering if having had other people along for the ride (say searching the same planet) would help. (MP of some kind would help much things up for a bit, I think, but those mirages would persist.)
But here again, if either cataloging each planet to 100% or mining and selling endlessly is fun for a player and continues to be fun in spite of the complete repetition and seeming lack of greater purpose, that can go for maybe years and years.
For me, being able to pierce deep water and other harsh conditions only to find the same buildings, blueprints and general resources eventually caused any desire to play, to upgrade, or to go to the next system to ebb away. If the game had started life as a cheaper Early Access title and built towards having more important gameplay, I might have more to hold on to. I found gameplay loops that were effective, but then plateaued over several sessions.
In short bursts, 'No Man's Sky' is amazing, but going deeper, I found only a void. There's a great framework, and an arresting visual style to go with an ease of mobility, but in a short amount of time, I despaired of finding any more interactivity or progression in the all-too-similar horizons and star systems. My search for Nada ended in a whimper.
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