I’m Struggling With No Man’s Sky

I’m Struggling With No Man’s Sky
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All of this freedom to explore in No Man’s Sky is giving me a headache.

Landing on plant life is one way I’ve been utilising my time in Hello Games’ space exploration game. As a person who primarily plays linear, story-driven games in the form of JRPGs, the open world of No Man’s Sky has been overwhelming. I’ve played a few before but nothing of this scale.

I’ve been enthralled in the past by The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Sailing the open seas meant stumbling into danger — whether giant squids or storms on the stretch of blue skies coming in as unexpected thrills. Discovering new lands could prove futile, with the random purple rupee as teases. But even so, Wind Waker’s exploration felt rewarding for it’s exhilarating sense of adventure. Wind Waker felt big yet contained.

In No Man’s Sky, boldly going where no man has gone before is an understatement.

I decided to give No Man’s Sky a try because I’ve been on a mission to play games I normally wouldn’t. There are things about it that aren’t perfect — entries into planets’ atmospheres makes death flash before my eyes for making me feel as though I have no control, or that I’m heading for a crash landing. I’m an item hoarder, which is a no with No Man’s Sky’s initial inventory limitations.

But the hours I’ve spent on its many planets have been exciting, too. Discovering angry animals comes with hilarious uncertainties. Riling up sentinels is a wonderful game of “chicken”. Tempting fate by wading into toxic pools, and strolling in radiation rains are my latest exploits after enjoying the favourable weather of the planet before. Mining resources has become a steady chore of rinsing and repeating which is part of the rhythm to No Man’s Sky. It’s how I find myself playing — partially because the game demands those actions towards real progression, and because it’s comforting and I need that linear familiarity

Old habits die hard.

Even with all the freedom in No Man’s Sky, I am still playing it safely. I may have found myself venturing further and living a bit more dangerously but I need direction, and I latch onto it when provided. I need to seek out all the monoliths. I need for the Atlas to tell me where to go and what I should be doing. I could hyper-drive my rickety first spaceship off the beaten path but when I was recently given the option, I still found myself too unsure to take that risk.

No Man’s Sky is somewhat like the open exploration parts of many JRPGs — the freedom to explore right before the final boss. During these sections, the world is at your fingertips — usually via an airship. It’s the last minute stuff you could seek out if you want to, such as finding optional bosses or best weapons.

Take Chrono Trigger, for example. It’s a game that’s chock full of sidequest content. Before the final face off with Lavos, there are secrets to discover, and pasts to change to bring about brighter futures. A single life could be saved or an entire forest. Navigating Time in the Epoch is one of the richest examples of that specific feeling that comes in controlling your own airship. It’s taking to the skies in celebration of accomplishing so much and being rewarded for perseverance.

Sometimes, I enjoy those parts of JRPGs because they’re tiny bursts of uncontrolled narratives. The key word here is ‘tiny’. Those freedoms are limited because there’s the assurance that it’s all going to end soon.

No Man’s Sky does almost the opposite. The airship is handed to you at the beginning — in poor condition — and that’s when you’re told to persevere. It also has an ‘end goal’ at the centre of its universe. But being an open world game means having the leeway to do whatever the hell I want before getting there. The sheer size is proving to be way too much freedom for me because it lacks a clear assurance that I can control and think of as being tangible. And so I find myself meeting small objectives but feeling as though I’m not engaging in free will.

Didn’t I buy this game so I could get away from a strict Point A to Point B method of play? Am I actually doing a lot more exploring than I think? Even when I’m following the Atlas’ directives, there’s still a lot of in-between time of seeking out the oddities of space, right? Is that enough for me? Will I find much more enjoyment if I do seek out adventure elsewhere than the path I’m already exploring?

Something tells me I won’t. Another part of me thinks I’m missing out.

The next time the Atlas asks me to go somewhere, I might just go in the opposite direction. I’d like to create a narrative of my own as it’s something I haven’t really done before. I’m not even renaming my planets when uploading them for credits, and I don’t feel as if I’m truly leaving my mark anywhere.

Eventually, I do think I’ll find myself on the path of the Atlas once more — No Man’s Sky wants to tell a story of its own with the abundant teases of monoliths and language stones (one that may ultimately not matter). And I know I’m missing the point by getting weighed down by the finer details of routine — worrying about what I need to find versus the brilliant things I may just inadvertently discover.

I’ll keep trying to detach myself from a particular mindset. Truthfully, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’m getting better at it. I want my own experiences to be meaningful — I want to discover what others already have.

At the very least, I have unsettled business to take care of in my ongoing war with the flora, anyway. I’m going to keep at it.


    • And yet, it is a fun game. Depends on how you play it. I like to use it as a chill-out game. Play for an hour or so, exploring a new planet, and then move on.

      If I find a planet with some great resources, I’ll mine it for a bit. If I find a planet with interesting wildlife, I’ll put on my hunter cap, and try to scan for them. If I find a desolate planet, I’ll track down monoliths and knowledge stones, improve my language knowledge, and discover a little more on the history of the three races.

      I’ll do the above for a little time, and then move on. Always moving on. A new planet every session keeps it short, sweet, and simple.

  • Its taken 40 hours but Im finally done. The bare bones paper thin insides of this game are such an amazing foundation but this is more an open alpha than anything else.

    Id normally return the game but honestly I still have hopes that in the future it will be better so I will shelve it for now and come back in 6 months or so. If nothings improves fuck it an Sean Murray right in the balloon knot!

      • EB has a 10 day return policy. Why should I not use it as much as possible to get the most out of an experience to help form a complete and fair opinion of the product? Especially something of this scale.

        • Im not saying you shouldn’t get enough to inform your purchasing decision. I’d just argue that would be a lot shorter than 40 hours.

    • Returning a game after 40 hours of play?

      That’s like eating at a restaurant, finishing your entire meal but for a single leaf of salad saying you didn’t enjoy it and asking for a refund.

        • Honestly 4 hours is more than enough to form an opinion. I was one of the people clinging desperately onto the hope something more was there. Sadly I was wrong.

          Down-votes from people seem a tad excessive though…….

      • No, no it’s not. It’s like buying a car (everyone’s favourite analogy!) driving it for ten years then selling it becuase you want something a little sportier, or roomier. Or it’s like buying a DVD, watching it ten or so times and then selling it because it’s no longer interesting.

  • Omegon is killing me.
    A resource you get rarely get from feeding animals…
    45 minutes the other night feeding animals on 3 different planets to get 10’ish bits of this resource. What a grind.

    I enjoy the game over all in short bursts, an hour per session at most. The grind is ridiculous however… A Korvak grabbed my multitool the other night (he said) and broke a system…on my ship… so off I went to find the materials for 2 special items, 200 gold and something else. That was my whole session, jump, space station, broken Tau hyper drive, fix. 1 hour+… damd.

    • I got my Omegon from crashed ships. Find a ship, look to see if it has +4 upgrades, and if so switch to it. Deconstruct those +4 components, and get exotics. Move on.

      Pretty sure you can go back to your old ship as well once you’ve done that, though I havent confirmed it myself. Someone can though.

          • When I change ships my old ship always stays where it was as an “Abandoned Ship” The only 2 times that didn’t happen was the preorder ship and landing on top of an abandoned ship sitting on a trading post bay caused it to despawn.

    • You can get Omegon from plants on rare resource planets, spent ages farming it and had a stack of 500 in my ship.. realised once I had all the upgrades having that much was useless and sold it.

  • I wouldn’t worry too much about the restrictiveness of the Atlas line. When you finish the Atlas line you can still openly explore or continue your journey to the centre of the galaxy (which will take you several months by which stage you’ll be a little bored of the whole exploration thing)

  • I haven’t played it yet, but it’s interesting reading everyone’s views on if they consider it fun or not. Personally it looks like the game puts the burden of “finding the fun” too much on the player.

    Whether you agree with that or not, I think it’s a clear failure that the game’s core mechanics seem to actively work against the people that have managed to find the fun. The game is about exploring the galaxy, but the people enjoy it seem to stick to fewer planets. If this is the best way to play the game it should have mechanics that encourage this behaviour.

  • Sometimes I feel excited about exploring new worlds in an infinite universe.
    Other times I feel all I’m doing is standing around shooting rocks.

  • I think that NMS is the game that should start the very necessary discussion “there are different kinds of gamers, and none is better than the others”. I believe that because gaming was kind of an outcast among the initially more widespread and “normal” entertainment, we gamers huddle up together for warmth and to fight the pressure and from that, we got the idea that we are all one and the same… which brings us to the rift this game is causing among us.

    There’s a group of players that loves the game (despite undeniable technical and design issues) and a group that hates it. Who is right? Does the game suck or rock? The answer is neither. There are just different kind of gamers and NMS caters to only a certain subset, without compromising (which is something many games do, in order to increase their potential playerbase, which in turn contributes to the idea that all games are supposed to be enjoyed by all gamers). And that’s a fine thing.

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