Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Game Diary - No Man's Sky.

All the screenshots you'll see, here, were captured from my PS4.

I play games.  I get new games on the reg, and my fellows are aware of this - but No Man's Sky has elicited an unusual response from my work and gamer associates.  Everyone in my office who even kinda' plays video games wanted to know, when I came in this morning, how No Man's Sky is.  Chamberlain and Alex both fired emails at me demanding I stop leaving them in suspense, and advise on the game's quality.

Chamberlain presented Jim Sterling's glowing endorsement of the title to me (which garnered such a positive response from the gamer community that they subjected his site to a DDOS attack, and it's still down), along with this quote from the Google cache:
"No Man’s Sky effectively portrays the loneliness of space by providing so little for the player to do that it’s tempting to flush one’s self out of an airlock just to break the tedium.

Not that you can do that. That would be too interesting."
-Jim Sterling
To which I could only reply,
“Look at this useless cat. It never barks, or fetches my slippers. This cat is a terrible dog.”
So I went ahead and read Sterling's review via the cache.

And told Chamberlain that
"He’s correct about almost everything, but his ire is built on a promise he seems to have imagined the developers made which (to my knowledge) they never did – that there would be like crazy procedurally-generated quests and procedurally-generated meaningful interactions with alien truckers and alien militias.  He seems pissed off because Hello Games aren’t adhering to the thesis statement he’s invented for their game, and now he’s pissed off that the cat doesn’t bark.

It’s a laid-back game about exploring a gorgeous retro sci-fi galaxy, and it accomplishes that.  It’s so gorgeous.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe – and things no one will ever see.  I’ve hunted the Xorliphent on the second moon of Ploxyfeem, and watched a green sun rise across the badlands of Truxzursen.  It’s successful in its actual objective – not the imagined ones of Angry British Guy."

No Man's Sky does not give you the... the Call of Duty experience of being led by the nose through a series of curated action and story beats.  I'm sure they'd love to, but the tiny team of Hello Games just don't have the personpower to even begin to approach the random-event content of your Grand Theft Autos or your Elder Fallouts.  As such, No Man's Sky is as mind-bogglingly broad in content as it is focused in ambition - it offers you one thing, one huge and tiny thing.  In No Man's Sky, you can choose a star from eighteen quintillion others (of the ones your current warp drive can reach), and go.
When you get there, you can fly down to the surface of any planet orbiting that sun.

Once you get out of your ship, you will see things you have never seen.

Things no one has ever seen.

And it will be breathtaking.  Or desolate.  Or vibrant.  Or terrifying.  It will never be the same, ever.

In terms of your own actions, Sterling is generally correct.  Hello Games couldn't let you maroon yourself by not sort of including everything you need to survive and escape a solar system to your next waypoint - so each and every one has the silica you'll need to run your exosuit's life support systems, each one has the plutonium you need to power your blaster/mining laser and your ship's VTOL thrusters, and in the emptiness above you'll find drifting rocks thick with the fuel you'll need to jet across the system to the next planet or the next space station.

He's right - your actions can be samey - but I'm cool with it.  I'm fine with it, because while No Man's Sky is a languid, mellow yellow, backstrokey kind of game - one that won't surprise you with what it asks, or what you find yourself doing from one moment to the next - it's also precisely what it sets out to be.

And that's important.  Really, that's the most important thing.  It's okay that Shadow of the Colossus's platforming was weird and floaty and controlling Agro felt like crap because it accomplished its unique, singular goal to a profound degree.  It became legendary.

Often, it's reasonable and prudent to compare a game against others of its ilk.  It's worthy to compare Sleeping Dogs to Grand Theft Auto IV on PS3 in in the same way to was reasonable to compare True Crime: Streets of L.A. to Grand Theft Auto III back on the PS2.

But what did anyone compare Grand Theft Auto III to, when it arrived?

It was incomparable.

That's why it was okay that the driving physics were pretty fucked and the graphics were kinda' meh and the shooting was atrocious, because oh my God you get to drive around a whole goddamned city!

Grand Theft Auto III earned the series' place in history despite of all its lacks because it offered something no other game did.  Because it had its own, totally unique objective that no other game could offer - and it accomplished it.

No Man's Sky didn't sell itself as your next Bethesda game fix, or as Far Cry in space.  It never promised Jim Sterling a smorgasbord of procedurally-generated quests and alien interactions - I have no idea why he expected it.  It promised... exactly what it is.  It's a sublime game of retro sci fi exploration, and aesthetic appreciation.

Like legendary, seminal gaming titles that come along once a generation - your Grand Theft Auto IIIs, your DOOMs - No Man's Sky isn't beholden to the expected trappings of a genre.  It doesn't need to measure up to any other game out there.  It doesn't bear comparison.

It’s a laid-back game about exploring a gorgeous retro sci-fi galaxy, and it accomplishes that.  It’s so gorgeous.

It's incomparable.


  1. He's coming more from the place of a guy who's played hundreds of half baked survival games on greenlight and NMS didn't seem to be that much of a step up for him.

    Personally I could spend hours feeding turkey tyrannosauruses and watch them hobble along on goat hoofs

    1. I was on a big red planet with more water than I'd ever seen before, today, and there was a... orangey muppet dinosaur thing, about the size of a bison. Its behavior scanned as "unpredictable," so I ignored it until it tried to take a bite out of me.

      I switched my multitool to combat mode, blasted it in the face a couple times and it ran off.

      Then it immediately came back and I had to kill it.

  2. Was there an abundance of ferns growing on that planet? Did those ferns also happen to be red? ;)

    1. If that's a reference, I don't get it.

      And probably, yes.

  3. Thank you! I've been saying that this game is not really comparable to anything else for quite some time. It's pretty much in a league of its own, and isn't my cup of tea, personally. I tried it for a while, but I'm finding myself wanting to play Overwatch more nowadays. Haha. Great post!

    I’m actually the Community Content Manager for, and I would be thrilled if you considered cross posting your stuff to our platform. If you don’t know much about us- we’re the same team behind, and push to give awesome writers (like yourself) the exposure they deserve. Feel free to email me!