As the sun sets on this barren wasteland of a planet with only unnecessarily aggressive sentinels to keep me company and a completely full inventory, I realise I have seriously screwed myself over. Finding a crashed ship on ‘Thatcher Prime’, I was ecstatic at the idea of having a cooler looking ship with more inventory space, and in a moment of pure ignorance I decided to take it. But that’s when I realised I had to repair this ship from scratch, just like I had to do at the beginning of the game. This time, however, the resources of Thatcher Prime are nowhere near as abundant as my starting planet. Jet-packing clumsily across the landscape in search of plutonium whilst fending off flying drones and managing my inventory, I know I’ve set myself a trap that I’m going to be stuck in for hours. But I keep going, and eventually after recreating a much messier version of the 2015 blockbuster The Martian, I have escaped from Thatcher Prime with my brand new ship – with only one more inventory slot than my previous. All that time, all that effort, all that frustration just to have a singular place to hold the 4000th storage of carbon I’ve had. But I didn’t care one bit.
That moment is but one of hundreds of others I’ve already experienced, and with hundreds more to hopefully come, it is a testament to No Man’s Sky’s special appeal. That’s not to say that it’s a flawless masterpiece, because it’s far from it. Inventory management in No Man’s Sky is one of the most painfully stressful and annoying experiences I’ve ever seen in a game. For a game that opens itself up for you to traverse its ‘18 quintillion’ planets, it seems bizarre that I am constantly having to find somewhere to sell my excess resources after a 10-minute expedition. It’s clear to see the influence of survival games such as H1Z1 and even Minecraft within No Man’s Sky’s core gameplay, but the mechanics it employs to create a survival game experience don’t always seem to add up when simply staying alive is relatively easy.
The combat is also incredibly mediocre and even somewhat boring at times. The sentinels that seemingly ‘guard’ the planets range from ridiculously belligerent to strangely passive, amd no matter what their particular behaviour is, dispatching them is barely a challenge. Interplanetary dogfights can often prove quite troublesome when you’re faced with three or more enemies, but it’s more of a nuisance than an exciting occurrence. But these shortcomings are only found when the game is actually running. You may think this is an obvious point to make, but after nearly a week playing on PS4 I’ve had dozens of crashes, something I’ve rarely experienced with any other game on the console.
Granted, this is likely down to the procedurally generated nature of the game, which is where the appeal of No Man’s Sky truly lies. The promise of an open universe to freely explore with an insane variety of planet and creature design is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a game to date. Whenever I feel like I’ve been seeing essentially the same bipedal animal with very minor differences, I encounter something that looks like if Hidetaka Miyazaki tried to design a Vileplume as a Dark Souls enemy, and I am both amazed and, quite frankly, disgusted. Naming planets I’ve discovered is strangely one of my favourite things about No Man’s Sky, and I constantly just naming them stupid things or making digs at my friends that are permanently in place for all to see. It’s just a shame to think that, with over 18 quintillion planets in the universe, there’s a very strong chance no one else will ever land on ‘Alex Turner’s Dilated Pupils’, and that saddens me.