Game review: No Man’s Sky is a wonderful but tedious world

No Man’s Sky will appeal to players who enjoy simple exploration, and it does provide moments of awe when you arrive in a new star system or land on a fresh planet.
In No Man’s Sky, the gamer faces the task of making it to the centre of the galaxy, one planet at a time. Hello Games via AP Photo
In No Man’s Sky, the gamer faces the task of making it to the centre of the galaxy, one planet at a time. Hello Games via AP Photo

No Man’s Sky Hello Games PC, PlayStation 4 Two-and-a-half stars

If SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk is correct, our entire universe is a computer simulation. Fortunately for us, that sim is running on some seriously high-powered gear, not to mention software sophisticated enough to generate something as weird and unpredictable as the human race.

No Man’s Sky is not quite so powerful – you can run it on a PC or a PlayStation 4, and it was developed by a tiny 10-person team. Given those restrictions, it does a fairly convincing job of building a massive universe, with – it is claimed – 18 quintillion planets.

The question for the average gamer, then, is: what could you possibly want with all that real estate? Over the course of about 40 hours, I’ve visited a minuscule fraction of those planets – maybe 100 – and I’m sad to say there’s not much going on.

Sure, they look great, whether you’re exploring a balmy paradise, a frozen tundra or an overheated wasteland. The friendlier climates are teeming with wildlife, from adorable, docile mammals to fearsome, hungry behemoths. At the start of No Man’s Sky, you’re stranded on a planet with a broken spaceship. Your first task is to dig up the elements – iron, carbon and zinc, for example – needed to repair and refuel your vehicle. Soon enough, you’ll stumble upon some weird alien monoliths and abandoned laboratories, and flying mechanical sentinels start to notice your activity. No, you’re not alone, but fans of sci-fi epics such as Mass Effect will be disappointed to discover there are only three intelligent species in this sprawling universe.

The overarching goal of No Man’s Sky is to make it to the centre of your galaxy. However, the gameplay eventually devolves into a rather tedious loop: land on a planet and mine the elements you need to power your ship’s warp drive. Travel to the next Atlas Station, where you’ll be pointed toward your goal. Warp to the next star system, make landfall and start mining again.

Now, I’m the kind of gamer who loves fiddling around with inventory and crafting new gear – but even I grew weary of tinkering and just wanted to get on with the journey.

No Man’s Sky will appeal to players who enjoy simple exploration, and it does provide moments of awe when you arrive in a new star system or land on a fresh planet.

But it’s a lonely journey that offers few new thrills after its first few hours. Now that Hello Games has figured out how to build a universe, I hope they fill it with more compelling stories.

* Lou Kesten / AP

Published: September 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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