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Game On: No Man's Sky Ongoing Review

Days 1 through 3: Scratching the surface of Hello Games' vast interstellar exploration sim

August 11, 2016, 6:30 pm

I regained consciousness, but I was confused and alone, the grassy landscape spreading out before me. As my exo-suit rebooted itself I was given information about my whereabouts: ambient temperature, coordinates, what to do next; repairing my starship was the first order of business, but in order to accomplish that, I’d need resources. Thank goodness, then, for my trusty multi-tool. Part weapon, part mining laser, this handheld gun-like creation will be my lifeline, and with it I’ll gather the elements I need to survive: carbon, plutonium, iron and so forth. As I wander the planet and break down matter with my laser a thought occurs: “I’m screwed.”

These are my first few minutes of No Man’s Sky, the long-awaited game of survival, exploration and resource management from British developer Hello Games (who previously brought us Joe Danger, oddly enough). It’s been years in the making and obsessively covered by media outlets, both those dedicated to games and those that usually are not. No Man’s Sky is a massive undertaking, a seemingly endless universe of star systems, galaxies and and estimated 18 quintillion planets to explore. Yes—quintillion. Because of its scope, NMS is practically impossible to review in our regular capacity, thus, we will be covering it as an ongoing feature. Along the way we’ll attempt to include handy tips and information and, before you worry about spoilers, keep in mind that almost no two players’ games will play out the same. Have a cool tip or piece of info? Let us know in the comments!

The first few hours of NMS are confusing indeed. When you begin, there is little information outside of some basic tutorials and acclimating to the control scheme comes with a learning curve. For example, the sprint function is tethered to the R3 button whereas most first-person games of the last decade have utilized L3. It’s not a huge deal, but it is obviously a challenge in the early moments to break old habits. Additionally, despite this sprint (which will need to recharge between short boosts), the default walking speed is painfully slow. There’s a nifty jetpack to help you access areas or flee from sentinel bots (thus far the enemies I’ve most encountered) which also requires a brief recharge.

In order to fix my starship, I’m prompted to use my multi-tool—a gun-like piece of tech that can be upgraded to include ballistic weaponry, grenades and, presumably, many other neat tricks—to break down everything in my path and mine its matter. Without delving too deep into how many options there are in terms of resources, we can say that there are A LOT of things to collect. No Man’s Sky even boasts its own fictitious periodic table. You’ll also use these elements and resources to upgrade your suit and starship which represents the bulk of the game (so far anyway) and through which you’ll be able to survive on hostile planets, warp throughout star systems and visit more planets.

Here are a handful of tips for (hopefully) making your game a little easier:

Collect Everything
It’s a good idea to break down pretty much anything you see. You’ll need this stuff to craft, and though the early bits of the game provide you with an irritatingly small number of inventory slots, you’ll eventually be able to carry a lot of stuff. From crafting to recharging your equipment, you’ll need a healthy stockpile of elements and resources to get by. You’ll find drop pods and chest-like boxes everywhere as well and these contain items that are handy for trading.

Try to Interact With Everything
No Man’s Sky doesn’t do a great job of pointing out what’s what to you. In fact, some things that don’t appear to do anything actually serve an important purpose. We’re talking save beacons and upgrade terminals and the like. There’s an intergalactic trading market that is accessible via terminals that don’t much look like anything, and this is one way to earn new recipes for crafting, upgrade your equipment and earn more units. 

Use Your Starship Like a Backpack
If your suit’s inventory is full, you can transport the materials to your ship at any time. This is essential, especially early on when you have limited space.

Go Everywhere
That one shed in the distance looks like nothing, but it might have something handy inside. In one such instance I was able to find a multi-tool with a high number of customization options. Don’t forget—exploration is everything in this game and it makes no sense to rush past things because, y’know, walking up to things is the thing you do.

Try to Learn the Language
I’ve met a handful of helpful alien buddies who have been so kind as to help me learn bits and pieces of their language. Taking the time to pick up new words will give you access to new items or the ability to heal or recharge your shields or lots of other fun little things. As of now, I’ve got about five or six words and I kind of can’t wait to figure out what these guys are saying to me.

Don’t Stray Too Far From Your Ship
Once you’re up and running, it makes more sense to travel the planets by ship than by foot. By all means, hop out and explore, but you’ll generally want to be pretty close to your conveyance in case you’re overwhelmed by enemies and need to make a quick getaway.

Catalog Everything
You can get paid if you catalog the flora and fauna of the various planets. This is something we’re just figuring out how to do now, but it’s entirely worth it. Experiment!

Be Patient
No Man’s Sky very well might not be for everyone. There’s the faintest hint of a story that is slowly beginning to unfold, but there’s no overt narrative or multiplayer modes (though a couple of players reportedly did run into each other already). It’s the largest world ever created in a game and if the spirit of exploration isn’t enticing to you, it may be worth passing it by or just giving it a rental. Don’t expect massive set pieces or even crazy graphics, but do expect No Man’s Sky to subtly call to you. Players are just beginning to scratch the surface and there will no doubt be tons of secrets and surprises to uncover in the coming months. 


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