Finally, we played one of the most controversial modern gaming experiences. Indie game No Man’s Sky has endured a troubled history like few others, with the procedurally generated sci-fi epic garnering all manner of hatred due to British indie studio Hello Games’ various false claims about the product. Hmmm… let’s take a look.
No Man’s Sky
At its heart, the title is about exploration. The concept is dramatic – revolutionary, even. The idea is you can travel through the galaxy and visit endless, varied planets you come across. Endless space exploration! Thrilling, non?
An incredibly ambitious game for any studio to take on, the small indie team in Guildford (south of London) really had its work cut out. And after seeing initial previews – and hearing about what the game promised – the press and gamers went mental.
Unfortunately, No Man’s Sky’s 2016 release met with mass criticism – gamers felt they were lied to as the end product didn’t deliver on Hello Games’ claims.
The game was clearly unfinished. Worse still, apparently that first version of No Man’s Sky was boring. A mediocre, glitchy survival game in a sparse, lonely universe (kind of like real-life, really, but not so entertaining for a £40 video game).
Now, and ever unfortunately, a lot of gamers are massively over-entitled and obnoxious sorts. So it’s often difficult dealing with their volatile nature. And when something like No Man’s Sky happens it really hits the fan.
The result was Hello Games received the usual batch of death threats across social media and all of that. How very grown up. Because true gamers are so mature, you see. But in response the developers worked hard and began releasing a bunch of patches.
The reality is the added pressure of gamer and media hype led to some false promises. And when the game launched, it wasn’t the revolutionary, exceptional title gamers expected – but it happens. That’s life.
Yet in their disappointment many reacted like psychotic morons, embarrassing the entire industry in the process.
Since 2016, No Man’s Sky has enjoyed a bunch of patches and DLC to address some of the content issues present.
So the 2018 version we have is a massively overhauled game to its initial release – version 2.0, if you will. And now, with the dust having settled on the controversies, we caught up with the space-roaming epic.
Alongside the survival elements (meaning you have to gather materials to keep yourself ticking over) there’s combat – space battles being a big draw – and in-game trading to develop your ship.
With its ravishing looks and promise of infinite space exploration thanks to the deterministic algorithms and random number generators (i.e. procedural level generation), it’s an almighty concept.
But No Man’s Sky still falls a bit flat. The DLC and patches Hello Games has added do make it engrossing. But only sporadically. And whilst it’s all very pretty, and there’s a suitably ethereal soundtrack, within 10 hours we were a bit bored.
The game still feels like something of a work in progress.
Certainly, we enjoyed the sense of solitude and peace as we travelled through space. And you may well love that, too. But that’s set alongside a lot of endless mining for materials that triggers off mental RSI.
However, if you want to give it a whirl it’s available on the PS4 and Steam. Worth a punt if it’s captured your imagination. Just don’t go in expecting total brilliance.
Other indie studios can learn from No Man’s Sky – don’t set overly ambitious targets you can’t meet. This was the type of project a major AAA developer needed to manage. But kudos to the, as always, ever creative indie scene and Hello Games – you dared to dream.
Just set realistic targets in future. And don’t lie about features you don’t have the workforce power to include. It’ll only make teenage gamers send you death threats.
And, finally, a message to the members of the international gaming community. Do you even realise how good you’ve got it at the moment?
All these wonderfully imaginative games you can play and, if one goes a bit wrong, you resort to death threats and juvenile entitlement? It’s time to grow up a bit. Got a problem with No Man’s Sky? Get a refund. It’s not difficult, dears.