No Man’s Sky has probably one of the most notorious launches for a new game of the last decade. Soaring on hype, the game failed to deliver on almost everything, leaving gamers crushed with buyer’s remorse.
Now, over four years after the initial release of the game (and several large, free updates), is it worth playing after all this time?
What’s the game like in 2022?
The core gameplay loop for No Man’s Sky is the same as many other survival/exploration-based games in the genre. You’re a person, in a world, and you harvest resources to build a base, upgrade your character to explore farther, and fight increasingly tougher enemies.
One of the biggest reasons why I could never truly get into Minecraft and its kin was exploration.
The different biomes were neat, but they didn’t make me inclined to stick around if I didn’t immediately find resources or points of interest. Especially for Minecraft’s sake, most of the game is spent underground anyway, making the change in biomes hardly noticeable.
With No Man’s Sky, you’re instead greeted with the same key resources on almost all planets. Some planets will not have these resources in abundance, which means you may have to stock up and come prepared for some planets.
These planets are completely procedurally generated, while they may still fall under similar biomes to other games, they end up being completely unique every time.
Between zooming from planet to planet, harvesting resources, and building bases across the galaxy, you’ve still got to explore space as well.
Space Stations serve as trading hubs between you and the local system’s economy, with different prices being offered depending on where you are. Here you’ll meet the three prominent races of the galaxy, learning their language to communicate, trading resources, unlocking new technology, and even buying better starships.
Environments That Leave You Breathless
Space – that is where the game truly shines in the graphics department.
Seeing these vibrant, colorful worlds in different systems and configurations often leaves you breathless. Systems with multiple stars, ringed planets like Saturn, even the sheer size and closeness of planets offer awe-inspiring views that can’t be replicated in other games.
However, survival games such as these always fall into the same issue: Is the core gameplay loop enough to keep you entertained?
Just like Minecraft, the core of the game resides around harvesting resources, exploring new places, maybe building a base, and then going to another planet and repeating this cycle. No Man’s Sky offers some breaks to this via space travel, missions, managing your fleet of ships as you travel system to system.
And The Bad News?
The game doesn’t come without any faults, however.
No Man’s Sky has a fairly unimpressive story, which isn’t unlike other games in the same genre. Games like these offer little in the plot department, and instead opt for players to forge their own stories through their experiences while playing and exploring the game.
Gameplay gets repetitive as well, especially if you have bad luck and end up seeing similar planets in each system you jump to – which really ruins immersion when you’ve seen six Acidic planets in your last three jumps. This may be a personal beef though, as I don’t intend to land on every planet I see as other players may.
My final gripe with the game is the lack of difficult combat. The primary “enemy” of the game, Sentinels, are pretty dumb enemies. They offer little challenge after a certain point, and just attack in endless waves if you don’t actively run and hide from them to drop your “wanted level”.
All in all, the game has little to offer for downsides if you are already a veteran of the genre. There may be some struggles in Multiplayer that I’m not aware of, as I have only played solo so far.
For me, I’ve never been more hooked in a game of this genre. I’ve already dumped over 70 hours into the game, including a 3 hour stream. The game continues to offer new free updates every few months, which keeps players like me anticipating what comes next.
Getting through 2020 was a little like riding a bike. If that bike was on fire, had square wheels, and had a barbed wire seat. It was a tough year on billions of people around the world, and it was extremely difficult to find even the smallest storm bunker of positivity in all the tornadoes of negativity.
One thing was for sure, however. Gaming popularity was on the rise in 2020, as we have seen throughout recessions and other global crises. The industry grew 9.3% in 2020, generating $159 billion, an unprecedented growth in a dumpster fire of a year when the shiny next-gen consoles sorta successfully launched, toilet paper became a currency, and mask wearing became a political stance.
The pandemic also meant that people were “working” from home, and would have opportunities to play more games in lockdown. Picking up where you left off in that epic RPG, or unraveling the mysteries of a multi-part, sprawling saga seemed more possible than ever before. Between Zoom meetings and conference calls, people were picking up their controller, or firing up their dusty gaming PC and getting back to what they loved.
The Data Don’t Lie
Another interesting data point for 2020 was the number of indie developers who decided to actually begin their journey. YouTube saw a massive increase in views and subscribers across a variety of genres, with more people turning to the platform for free education. Game development channels like The Game Maker’s Toolkit, Brackeys and Game from Scratch received an influx of new patrons and viewers. It seemed that there was no better time to follow your passion in game development.
There are some who think that a massive influx of inexperienced game developers could be a bad thing for the indie gaming industry, with newbie devs flooding the market with games that are full of bugs and issues. I’m sorry; did you not hear about the Cyberpunk 2077 launch?
Here’s a newsflash for the uninitiated: the indie game industry thrives on mistakes, errors, bugs and problems with games. Unlike AAA titles, indie games tend to be played by a community of gamers, rather than a market. This effectively means the players provide constant feedback to the developer and improve the game (or later iterations).
With a community behind them, and a direct line to their audience, indie game devs get better over time. They are constantly absorbing both the positive and the negative comments that they receive, making games that are usually free to play (or close to it) until they consider themselves ready to take people’s hard earned cash.
The ecosystem is a phenomenon, with incredible success stories and spectacular failures all rolled into one industry. Putting out a few trailers of your game on Reddit (Song of Iron), or serializing your journey on YouTube (The First Tree) can mean the difference between a hundred downloads and a hundred thousand. There is no industry like it.
It doesn’t always work this way, though. Just when you think a game is going to ultimately succeed (because it got a huge round of upvotes on Reddit), the Kickstarter launches and then fails. Slayers For Hire is an example here. Although Kickstarter remains the staple crowdfunding platform for indie games, continuing to grow, irrespective of the many trials and tribulations of 2020.
Back To The Future (of indie gaming)
There are many conclusions to be drawn from last year. There are also so many positives as we move forward into 2021, and see the fruits of developers’ labor. All those folks who picked up their keyboard and mouse last year to finally create that game could be posting their trailer on Reddit or YouTube very soon. We know the community will rally – as it always does – and support those diamonds in the rough.
The inspirational flame of originality in indie gaming is still burning bright. A beacon for us all to head toward, in our darkest moments. Not to be confused with the dumpster fire that was Sony, Microsoft and CDPR in 2020.