Was No Man’s Sky wait worth the hype? Or is Sean Murray’s magnum opus another video game that simply can’t execute its lofty promises? Inverse writers Justin Andress, Nicholas Bashore, and Eric Francisco discuss.
Justin Andress: In just a week of playing No Man’s Sky, I’ve lost happy, uncounted hours simply cruising through the galaxy Hello Games has created. After over a year of hype, the indie studio’s accomplishment is pretty incredible, not because they’ve managed to use math to create an expansive, unpredictable universe, but because they managed to execute one of video game history’s most impressive hype balance beam dismounts.
Throughout its time in the spotlight, Sean Murray and the rest of the development team showed us everything in the ambitious little title. However, with each new reveal, the studio promised there was something you’d never seen before. Hell, they promised there were things that they’d never seen before and will never see. On release day, that tantalizing secret was unveiled, and players were given a vast playground and a comparably crude set of tools with which to explore it.
However, No Man’s Sky isn’t cheapened by its shallow mechanics, it’s strengthened by them. The brilliant maneuver keeps players focused on the worlds around them, the new sights, weird creatures, and self-created set pieces that make your path through the universe yours and yours alone. Somehow, the game manages to do what Destiny and so many before it never could, in my opinion. It managed to surprise everyone in the world without exaggerating a bit.
Nicholas Bashore: For the past week, I’ve found myself enamored by the universe Hello Games has created within No Man’s Sky. On the surface, it seems both very vast and very similar, filled with planets that share the same ecosystems or culture — but the more I continue to explore, the more I’m impressed by the sheer scope of the game. Each time I feel like the experience is getting stale or repetitive, all I have to do is jump a few systems over and suddenly everything’s fresh again.
Like any other video game, No Man’s Sky presents players with a few core objectives. But instead of encouraging us to follow those objectives and burn through our experience, the game encourages us to explore the world around us and learn as much as we possibly could about the universe we’ve been placed in. In a way, No Man’s Sky has been one of the most liberating video games I’ve seen. Sure, it may have shallow mechanics and a very basic gameplay loop, but what’s more important is the miraculous sense of scale the game’s universe provides. There’s plenty of questions yet to be answered and plenty of planets yet to be discovered, with each holding the possibility of monumental discovery — and that’s the catch that will keep me exploring for months to come.
Eric Francisco: I think I’m more fascinated by why people are enjoying themselves than the actual game. As one of the few who played the game days before it was officially released, I think I tired myself out on the whole experience in one evening.
Don’t make me out to be a party pooper or some contrarian. Hello Games made a stellar game unlike anything I’ve ever played before. I am awed by its scope and its delicate majesty. I will never stop loving that I can look up at the stars, see another planet, and then get there within minutes. That’s incredible.
But that’s where the majesty ends, for me at least. Last week, two No Man’s Sky players met on the same planet at (roughly) the same time, and did not see each other. That’s disappointing. No Man’s Sky never set out to be a multiplayer game — the logistics for that would be a nightmare — but it’s a genuine bummer it’s not.
There’s nothing to experience together. There are no stories to tell. Imagine encountering dick animals and hostile sentinels with your friends or people you’ve met along the way. Imagine exploring space all together.
Maybe it’s because I’m kind of a social creature, but I find the isolation in No Man’s Sky both terrifying and boring. And with not much of a narrative to speak of, I’m not sure if I’m willing to keep flying.