No Man's Sky is incredibly unique as there's no other game like it on the market. If you were like me in 2016, it was exactly the kind of game that you never knew you wanted to play: an opportunity to explore a limitless universe.
No Man's Sky Overview
No Man's Sky is an impressive sandbox survival game. It's the only game of its kind, it looks great, and you can play in your choice of difficulty settings including Creative and Permadeath mode. Exploring different planets while upgrading your ship, building your bases, and such is very addictive. However, it does have a few negative aspects: it's pretty easy not to die so even Permadeath mode isn't difficult, some drops in frame rate are unfortunate, and planets can also look too similar as they only have a few different archetypes like hot, cold, toxic, radioactive, lush, dead, and desert. You tend to see the same vegetation on planets of the same type so they can feel repetitive. The animals aren't that varied but sometimes, you have some outliers that either look awesome or hilariously broken.
No Man's Sky Next
No Man's Sky Next is a free update to the galaxy-sized exploration game. Although the Next update brings a bunch of new features, I'll review No Man's Sky as a whole so you can figure out if it's is worth your time. With that out of the way, let's get to the review!
There are a couple of somewhat similar games out there; namely, Spore and Elite Dangerous. I never tried nor heard of Elite Dangerous and while I tried out Spore, its endgame failed to suck me in and I'm not quite sure why. Then, along came No Man's Sky and here we are two years later with a handful of updates including Foundation, Pathfinder, Atlas Rises, and the long-awaited Next under its belt.
No Man's Sky isn't cartoonish but it's not realistic either. Overall, I like how it looks as it's realistic when it needs to be (like when you're traveling faster than light) and at other times, it looks fantastical (such as when you're on the surface of a planet). Since No Man's Sky is a game about exploration, I'm glad it looks as curious as it does.
One thing that stands out to me is that No Man's Sky tries to fulfill a dream where you explore a vast universe and can go to any star. While it is a sandbox, it wouldn't be much of a game without resource gathering and it's a superb mash-up of survival and exploration. If you love space exploration and you're not turned off by the grind (or don't mind playing in Creative mode) then you're in for a treat.
No Man's Sky has four different game modes that substantially change the gameplay. I'm very happy that it offers modes for every type of player. Normal mode turns No Man's Sky into a relaxing exploration experience where you need to gather resources but just trying to survive on a planet's surface isn't that hectic. Survival mode is more difficult and ups the amount of resources that you need to survive while also increasing the penalty for death. Permadeath is the same as Survival but if you die, your save file is lost permanently. Meanwhile, in Creative mode, you can't die as it's impossible to take damage from anything and you also have infinite cash.
Having so many different ways to play No Man's Sky definitely makes it much more fun. You can even pick the mode that matches your current mood. If you want to waltz around an extreme planet without any fear of death then play Creative mode. If you want more of a traditional gameplay experience, go with Normal or Survival mode. Speaking of different ways to play, the Next update offers multiplayer for the first time. You can team up with your party and other players no longer appear as blue orbs. They actually have faces, hands, feet... you get the idea. You and your friends can team up to fight sentinels, trade resources, visit each other's bases, and much more.
You're free to do whatever you want and that's what makes No Man's Sky so fun. You can discover various plants and wildlife that are randomly generated so you never know what you'll find. Most animals look somewhat realistic but once in a while, you'll come across something that makes no sense like flying elephant things that shouldn't be able to fly because their wings are too small.
Base building is also a huge part of the gameplay and you can build your own base on any planet that you want to. Bases have plenty of different kinds of parts that you can build to make them the home of your dreams. They also have many useful functions like farming or exclusive quest lines. Making money and collecting nanites (an alternative currency) is another important aspect of the gameplay as having lots of money lets you buy the best ships, freighters, and other items.
Those looking for a more linear experience can follow the story. There seems to be two stories: one that takes you to the Atlas Interfaces and another that follows two explorers named Apollo and Artemis. While doing the story, it's fun to follow the lore but I wish there was more varied gameplay than just going from point A to point B or heading to the nearest Holo-Terminus. If you're not sure what to do, you can have a look at the milestone goals such as walking on foot, meeting aliens, learning languages, and such.
No Man's Sky Next isn't perfect, though. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to survive even in Permadeath mode. There's a ton of grinding in Survival mode but it's too easy to get away from dangerous situations which isn't riveting as it just makes it grindier.
Planets also tend to look the same even though they are split into the different types. If you go to a lot of planets, you'll quickly notice that some assets are used all over the place like huge leaf-looking trees that always appear on hot planets. You have to travel to red, green, or blue stars to come across exotic planets but it'll take a while before you get the required upgrades to do so. By the way, No Man's Sky Next suffers from some unfortunate drops in frame rate in some of the menu screens and I'm not exactly sure why.
No Man's Sky Next is a fun laid-back exploration experience and it has the unique honour of featuring the largest open world in all of gaming. However, don't go in expecting an exciting or challenging campaign because it's simply not either of those things.
- + The different ways to play cater to all kinds of gamers
- + Constantly has many things to do
- + Pleasing and distinct visual style
- - Gameplay becomes rather repetitive, especially during the story
- - Most planets don't feel varied enough
- - Survival mode is not enough of a challenge