No Man’s Sky is a certified phenomenon. The numbers confirm that Hello Games’ title has become one of the industry’s biggest PlayStation 4 launches ever, and its PC launch three days later has already nabbed the coveted title of biggest Steam launch of the year.
If you’re still hesitant to take the plunge, big numbers may not be enough motivation to pick up a title that’s got little-to-no story, essentially purposeless multiplayer — we use the term loosely — gameplay, and simplistic mechanics. That’s perfectly understandable. However, Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky is more than just the sum of its basic parts. It’s a special kind of experience that contains something for everyone.
The Technical Achievement Needs to Be Experienced
Much has been made of the algorithm that powers No Man’s Sky. The complex equation uses a vast number of procedurally generated components — everything from alien eyeballs to simulations of radioactive environments — to create a universe with more than 18-quintillion planets. What’s more, there are more species of life in No Man’s Sky than there are on Earth.
Even if you’re not a fan of math, those numbers are pretty damn staggering. Of course, knowing those facts and actually traveling from one planet-sized virtual planet to another and witnessing the myriad forms of digital life that Hello Games’ algorithm has created is a much different experience. The result is what game creator Sean Murray was aiming for the whole time, a sense of personal discovery that’s unique to your play through.
The Zen Garden Wants to Kill You
It would be misleading to say that No Man’s Sky is a peaceful endeavor. Some planets have environments so hostile that simply wandering too far from your ship can be a death sentence. Traversing open space will find you in the crosshairs of space pirates. Jumping from one cluster of planets to another may find you landing in the middle of a ferocious space battle.
Serenity is rarely an option.
Having to scrape your way from one eye-popping discovery to another just increases the satisfaction of finding new planets and making your mark on the massive universe.
It’s Your Path to Carve
Every other video game that’s been released since Pong has been a shared experience. Even games as complex as Mass Effect cannot keep their secrets hidden for very long when the gaming community gets hold of them. With rare exception, every time we’ve booted up a console or PC and dived into a virtual world, gamers have been following in someone else’s footprints, re-visiting tombs and cities, and living complete lives that have been traveled by countless other people before you.
In No Man’s Sky, the odds are good that when you set foot on a new world, that planet will be completely virgin territory (which you can subsequently rename and share with the world). The animals that wander its surface will be unique, the flora that springs from the ground will be found in near-endless varieties, and the sights and sounds will be brand new every single time. And, commonly, when you lift off in search of new discoveries, you’ll be the last person to ever witness the wonders of that world ever again.
And that’s kind of the whole idea. The point of No Man’s Sky isn’t difficult to grasp: It’s discovery. It’s about engaging childlike wonder and the joy of being surprised while holding a game controller, perhaps for the first time in a long time.