No Man's Sky Part 5 - summary and verdict


shoemaker without legs
Addon Developer
Mar 19, 2008
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between the planets
No Man's Sky carries all the signs of a product that was assembled out of great ideas at the last possible moments with way too little time. In effect, I think the devs stumbled over the same problem that everybody that tried to make a procedurally generated game has stumbled over: They couldn't figure out how to put a constrained game into an unconstrained universe.

The No Man's Sky we got has some decent gameplay here and there, but it's all but disconnected from the generative core of the game, and many features that were talked about during development that would have required a decent conectivity between gameplay and core generator are simply missing.

Here's what I think happened: The devs got a bit carried away by the hype themselves, and decided that their product might actually be able to compete with AAA titles. This much is obvious in the price tag of the game, which turned out to be one of its biggest issues all by itself, but more on that later.
Anyways, in order to reach this goal, they had to optimise the hell out of that engine in order to push the graphics, then got into trouble with overly obvious pop-ins, which forced them to resort to mind-bogling decisions like not letting the player fly below a certain altitude, a "feature" which has pretty much ruined planetary flight, and completely ruined planetary dogfights.
But in the end, they realised that they were simply not going to make it, cut large features from the game that would have required too much work to be ready for the deadline and put together what they had into something that had the semblance of a finished game.

It kind of worked, but not for 60 bucks. And this is a really annoying issue, because basically that is what most the hate is concentrated on right now. The easy way out for me as someone who still loves the game after sinking almost 60 hours into it would be to say "it was worth 60 bucks to me", but that is besides the point.
The fact is, yes, the game does provide enough content to go head to head with other questionably priced titles like Elite:Dangerous (which, by the way, is also an indie game if you haven't noticed), it certainly beats disastrous cashgrabs like street fighter V hands down, but when compared to what are considered good games, like mass effect, the witcher 3 etc., it just simply doesn't cut it. Not even close.
It doesn't matter that I like this game more than the Witcher 3 because I'm a weirdo. The amount of content delivered per dollar is simply not comparable.
Without all the hype surrounding it, it could very well have launched in this state as a more expensive early access title in an advanced state of development for maybe 30, with the full price of the final game on release in maybe 2 years being a well-justifyable 40 to 50 dollars.
But 60 dollars for what is delivered right now is clearly inadequate, and while I don't think it was a cash grab, I do think the devs screwed themselves over pretty badly with this decision.

For all that's been said and done this month, what remains to be seen is what will now happen to this game. Hello Games certainly have an abundance of financial resources right at this point, and it remains to be hoped that they will put that to good use over the next 2 years and make NMS the game it was supposed to be. Because even if I love to play it at its current state, I very much would love to play the game I was actually expecting, too.
But Hello Games seriously need to step up their game, by which I don't mean working around the clock. As far as I can tell, they're already doing that. No, what I mean is communication. There's still no statement out whether that malfunctioning "multiplayer"-feature was due to server issues at launch or if it's simply not implemented yet, and that silence has basically started the currently ongoing crapstorm. Hell, we still don't have the patch notes for that first stability update. Comunication like that is almost trolling, for crying out loud!
The longer this confusing silence about the future of the game lasts, the more frustrated players will become, and the more difficult it will be to make this game what it was supposed to be after the fact. Get your stuff together HG, put up a roadmap on how you're planning to put the stuff in we know from demonstrations you have still lying around, and make some apologies for the misleading launch trailers, though I'm not sure how much impact HG had on their production. But things need to be said at this point, or this whole thing will go to hell, and I don't want that. I still love the game, even for what it is right now, as it is the closest to deliver a modernised starflight experience that I've seen.

Final verdict:

The game is glorious in some of its aspects, but rushed, unfinished, unbalanced and unpolished in most others. If you're not a weirdo like me that perfectly enjoys to simply travel around in a procedurally generated universe uncovering its history and a mystery or two, without any real narrative cohesion and only very limited interaction with the game world, it is not worth what it currently costs.
My main question, "can you make a good game that makes use of the possibility space a procedural generator provides", remains as of yet unanswered. In many ways, this game suffered similar problems to Spore. I like it a lot more than spore because it can at times be very atmospheric, immersive and chill, with a true sense of mystery and wonder, a thing that spore never accomplished, nor ever tried to accomplish. But The actual connection between generator and gameplay might in fact be inferior to spore, when looking at it objectively.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd really like to get back to the game some more!