No Man’s Sky presents wonder without direction

Hyped to the hills, No Man’s Sky was the people’s saviour for video games. A heartwarming story of a small independent team creating a game almost beyond comprehension that would accomplish everything your heart desires and present you with endless wonder.

Unsurprisingly, it failed to live up to the astronomical expectations placed on it and in the end, it’s a solid outing that can pack a flashy moment but too often flatters to deceive.

There are some positives though and especially for the first six-to-eight hours, I was having a pretty pleasant experience. There felt like there were goals to get to, to find things to expand your ship and warp to the next system and explore what may be counjoured up next.

It was also exactly the kind of game that I expected, an adventure set at your own pace to discover. It was a little more relaxed than I had anticipated and in those first few moments, I enjoyed playing something a little more tranquil for a change.

That warm, fuzzy feeling eventually ebbed away from me and was replaced by a slog to the point of where it was a chore. I was getting materials to get upgrades to go to new places to see similar things to harvest the same things to get upgrades to take me to the next galaxy in a mind-numbing bend of grinding for the sake of grinding to the point that if you do it for so long, you’re bound to go soft.

From then, the experience becomes a little aimless. You head towards the Atlas storyline, only to find a sphere and four more galaxies in the way of your next answer. You then ponder heading to the centre of the universe, which looks like it’ll take an eternity and to learn that when you get to the party they send you back on your merry way defeats the point.

The fact it’s so tricky to return to those crazy planets where you saw flying bear rhinos or an atmosphere so toxic you could only last three seconds really hits hard. You want to explore but you also want to show off but there’s so little to find that you’re encouraged to keep going, which eventually makes them farms rather than caves.

That buries a little deep, especially when it had so much promise. We should not lose sight that it still has plenty if future patches expand on a decent foundation but with Sean Murray recently saying he was “naïve” about free DLC, it looks like it’ll come at our cost.

Murray has come in for a lot of flack for this and in some cases, rightfully so. His wishfully painting mind along with wanting to keep so much a mystery that he would give half-baked answers people saw as facts killed it stone dead, even though he seems so passionate about it.

The messages needed to be clearer but Hello Games were not helped by a juggernaut pushing them along the hype tracks. It came in a spot with little competition, got a huge amount of press and with such a small team working with an incredibly ambitious concept, they were never going to match the expectations the likes of VGX and Sony gave it.

At the same time, the hard-earned cash in their pockets won’t weigh them down too much at the same time.

Having said all of that, something that’s been missed a little is that I’m pretty glad something like this happened. A small, devoted team got to create something they dreamed of, got attention like no-one may have thought of and pulled off at least some of what they wanted, which is still pretty remarkable.

The real hope from this is that we learn, hype hurts and messaging needs to be more clear. However, the games industry learning is akin to telling a monkey to stop throwing faeces at you.

If it’s got a smile on its face, you are not stopping it any time soon.

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