Backpocket

A bumper two week special.

No Man’s Sky

I come to. Looking round I can see a ship, some spare parts and strangely coloured fauna. I also hear warnings but I want to explore.

I wander around not knowing where I am or what I’m supposed to do. I find an orb which will help me…or will it?

So I guess it’s helping, I need to mine stuff and fix the ship and keep my life support going and so many other things….but I just want to explore. I guess I can mine and explore.

I see a lifeform. Some sort of cross between a beaver and an antelope? I move closer and it runs away. I start mining as there’s lots to fix. God I wish my suit could carry more.

After 20 mins I have the ship repaired but I want to see more of this planet before leaving for sunnier shores. It’s massive and so much seems untouched. I’m seeing lots of new species but not making any discoveries like I expected. I’ve also upgraded my mining laser to a gun. Fight time.

Or so I thought. Mining with the gun is difficult, not a great upgrade. I’ve also attracted the sentinels. Fight or run? Fight of course…then run and hide as they bring in reinforcements.

I scrap the gun and go back to the mining laser as I’ve one last bit of fuel to get…and I guess thats whats marked in the distance. It’s quite a harsh planet so it’s on the limit of my suit surviving and about 3 minutes away. I finally get there, get the fuel and head back to the ship. On the way I fire up my jetpack for the first time. Woo-hoo….then ouch as there isn’t much but time.

With the fuel onboard the ship I can finally take off. I say goodbye to the planet and head for the stars….or asteroids. There’s so many of them. But there’s a space station, lets head there.

Landing was easier then expected and trading looks like the best way to make a fast buck. So many ships too, maybe I can buy a bigger one to get more gear slots. I tried a few and although they are for sale I don’t have enough credits. On to a new planet.

This one is more friendlier and has all the parts and fuel I need to enable a warp drive. It takes another hour or so to get everything I need before I fly off…time for warp. Who knows what the next system will hold for me.

3…2…1…warp.

Error, contact Sony with this crash.

What? Elon Musk was right. We are living in a simulation.

That was my first 3 hours with No Man’s Sky which was revealed to the world at the end of 2013. At the time I loved the concept. Everything procedurally generated, a whole universe to explore and so many elements that appealed to me – space travel, trading, on and off planet fighting, stylish graphics and the trailer featured music from 65daysofstatic. This had come out of nowhere and promised so much. Give it to me now!


No Man’s Sky revealed to the world at the end of 2013

It stole the show at VGX and at the next E3 the updated trailer and the hype increased. It was now a PS4 and PC exclusive. Sony were pushing it hard, but it seemed to be promising almost impossible things.

Sean Murray is the face of Hello Games, developers of No Man’s Sky. While the video’s promised so much, could Hello Games, whose history included Joe Danger on iOS (and other platforms) and whose team size in 2014 was…4…really deliver this game? By 2015 the team had grown to 13 but it still seemed tiny compared to the teams delivering COD, Battlefront etc. Hundreds of developers all working on delivering a game that looks great, has atmospheric audio and has a compelling story…with very little bugs that get in the way of the game.

Bambi
Bambi

That was my biggest fear throughout the development. I loved the concept and each demo only convinced me more, but interviews with Murray and the team were vague, almost evasive at times. Were they keeping the game a surprise or was there a reason why not much was said?

Roll on to 2016 and we finally get to play No Man’s Sky in all it’s procedural goodness including procedural music from 65daysofstatic. Does it deliver on that early promise?

No Man's Sky - My trusty ship
No Man’s Sky – My trusty ship

Apart from reading early interviews and watching the big show video’s I’ve kept away from what No Man’s Sky really is. I wanted to be surprised. There were four video’s released in the run up to launch that showed what the main focus of the game is – Explore, Fight, Trade and Survive. That was enough for me although I did wonder….what is the story?

In the first few days of playing the fighting aspect has been seen the least with explore, trade and survive taking priority in that order. I’m up around 10 hours of playing and I’m still enjoying it which is unusual for me as multiplayer is king and No Man’s Sky has no multiplayer at all.

Animals
Animals

The planet variety so far, even though I’ve been to only 7 planets, has been excellent. Unique species, fauna, environments. One almost dormant planet, another really harsh with cold nights. I’ve also seen and done so little in the grand scheme of things, that’s whats keeping me coming back for more.

Graphically it’s been good on the PS4 although it does kick in the fans more than other games. You see a bit of pop on planets as you fly around and even when running or using your jetpack but nothing that destroys the game. The audio is also decent but on the slightly repetitive side. Maybe that will change as I visit more planets.

On my second go I found some buttons and options that I’d totally missed first time round. On the multi-tool, triangle swaps between gun and mining laser. Doh! Pressing L2 analyses the environment so you can discover and upload species for credits. Tempting to fly back to my starting planet but instead I’m sticking with this new system and trying to max out each planet. One was pretty barren with not much to mine but the next one was much colder and has a lot to see and do…and earn.

Also starting to see some story elements unfold which I won’t mention here to keep it spoiler free. The game is doing a nice job of adding in some backstory and prodding you to move on, but it seems you can take things at your own pace.

Warp
Warp

There are a few niggles though. The controls are a bit…weird? Sprint on R3 seems wrong and there’s no options to control turn speed. It’s so slow and can be a bit frustrating. Not sure if thats a console specific issue and you get some more flexibility on PC? Your height in the world also seems low. Maybe it’s just me but there have been a few times already where I feel like I’m looking up at everything. I guess alien worlds will mean lots of different heights?

One other issue is that it is a bit crashtastic. I’ve had two already and Hello Games have posted on launch issues stating they are working on it and have brought in a large QA team to help. They’ve also posted some help for those stuck. You can theoretically get stuck on a planet with no fuel, but you can go back to an older save to get you out of a pickle. There’s also a sameness to some of the bases found so far. Nothing disastrous but hopefully something that changes as I journey across the universe.

Alien!
Alien!

Something that’s clear from reading forums over the last couple of days is that there are many not happy with the game. It doesn’t deliver what Hello Games promised, it shouldn’t be a full price game which is bollocks (due to team size?), it has no multiplayer which has been promised/hinted etc etc. They are delusional. The game lets me land on a planet, roam around for hours finding…stuff…and then lets me take off and visit any of the stars I can see in the sky. Any! Thats fucking awesome as long as you aren’t a Greenpeace member and are quite happy raping planet after planet for your capitalist gains.

I have been wondering why this game appealed to me so much from the first showing back in 2013? Why would I get a kick out of travelling across a universe in a solo adventure? I think back to when I was a kid with my Amstrad and three games that I loved that in some ways No Man’s Sky pay homage to.

Elite
Elite

Elite is know by everyone. It was the daddy of space adventuring and everyone who had a computer at the time gave it ago…and many probably gave up when they couldn’t dock. What a bastard introduction to the game made much more easy when you upgraded to the auto dock. But that sense of scale, with such simplistic graphics, stuck with me for a long time.

Mercenary
Mercenary
Mercenary was another science fiction title that I loved. You started the game having crashed on a planet and the goal was to escape the planet. You had to trade, upgrade to better ships and fight. Spot the similarities? It was one of the few games that I felt compelled to complete a few times as there were different ways to succeed. Graphics so simple but your brain filled in the rest. The final game that No Man’s Sky reminds me of is Captain Blood.

Captain Blood
Captain Blood

This was a great looking but bit of a weird French game that involved talking to different alien races, flying to different planets across the solar system and trying to find clones of Captain Blood. I never really got into it but loved the concept.

So tie those gaming memories together with the likes of Star Wars and the possibilities of a massive sandbox environment with a story makes for a compelling game. That was always the promise and Hello Games have delivered. I’m sure there will be frustrations along the way and so much still to discover, like space combat this morning and the joy of mining asteroids – who knew! And the best bit is it’s my game, my planets, my story. Congratulations to Hello Games in delivering a game that does meet the hype. Onwards.

Backpocket

Bit later as I’ve a week off work and last night was Olympic watching time. Lot’s of videos this week too.

Backpocket

Backpocket