No Man’s Sky
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Game Reviewed: No Man’s Sky
Publisher: Hello Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Hello Games
Platform: PC, PS4
ESRB Rating: T
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Few games have been as hyped as No Man’s Sky.
The basic concept was to base a game on an algorithm that would randomly generate not just dungeons, like the classic Rogue, and not just worlds, like Minecraft, but entire planets, entire solar systems, and ultimately an entire universe. In simpler terms: a game that could, by itself, create a universe that players could explore down to every inch of every planet.
The results were staggering; literally billions of planets, more than would be physically possible for players to uncover even if millions of people worked at it constantly for decades. And since these were generated by the computer, even the creators of the game wouldn’t know everything that existed in their own game. The potential was enormous, and gamers had an absurd amount of excitement for this ambitious project.
We’ll talk about how well the game succeeds in a bit, but for now let’s establish what it is: an exploration game. You can fly to any planet in the system, land anywhere on it, and explore it to your heart’s content. You can find flora or fauna, also randomly generated for each planet, and name it whatever you want; if another player comes to the same system, they’ll see your names for everything. You need to find and gather resources in order to keep flying from planet to planet, and can eventually move to another solar system. You will occasionally run into one of two alien species, whose language you slowly learn as you discover ancient ruins of their civilization.
Most of your time in this game is spent simply exploring the surface of new planets, soaking in the unique scenery, gazing up at alien skies of strange colors, and collecting the resources necessary to continue doing so. It’s not action-packed, it’s not fast-paced…it is just you exploring a universe.
What Parents Need to Know
You can be attacked by hostile creatures or robots as you explore the game’s infinite planets, and you can fight back with a laser weapon; attackers die bloodlessly. Similarly, you can occasionally be attacked by pirates while flying around in space, at which point you must fend them off with the weapons on your spaceship; ships explode, no graphic violence.
There are elements of the game with a spiritual tone to them, such as the entity who beckons you to the center of the universe, but it’s implied these all date back to ancient alien races rather than spiritual entities.
No Man’s Sky has been a very polarizing game. Not everything Hello Games promised made it into the final game, and ultimately there’s not much to do in the game aside from visit new planets and get enough resources to go visit other ones, which is sure to bore some players.
But for all its boring downtime, a few baffling design decisions, and Hello Games’ unkept promises, No Man’s Sky has transcendent moments that make it all worth it. When you look up at an orange sky and see another planet looming in the distance, then get into your ship and fly straight to it, there’s a sense of awe and smallness that no game has ever made me feel before. I can’t think of anything that has so effectively made me feel--not just realize, or intellectually know, but really feel--how big everything is and how small I am. When No Man’s Sky is on point, it’s an awe-inspiring and humbling experience.
Unfortunately, less patient players will likely not enjoy the process of play enough to experience these; but fortunately, that impatience is likely the only reason you have cause for concern regarding your children. No Man’s Sky has only mild violence as any kind of concern, and if your child enjoys simply exploring, or doesn’t mind a slow, quiet game, there’s little stopping you from picking this one up for them.