Like many, I’ve been anticipating No Man’s Sky for years. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I’ve been waiting for this game for my entire life. It is not perfect by any means. Most of the time, I would even classify it as “boring”. However, its monotony isn’t bothering me at all. I am perfectly satisfied with what the game is — a slow-moving, survival game set in a vast, but ultimately empty, galaxy. I have spent many hours in the past three days walking and flying around aimlessly, desperately trying to manage my tiny inventory. Even with its sluggish pace and numerous flaws, I just can’t seem to keep No Man’s Sky out of my head.
The game is undoubtedly going to disappoint everyone, due to the massive amount of hype that has been building over the years. An ambitious idea by studio Hello Games has been blown way out proportion by the media and fans ever since its initial announcement. It had been repeatedly stated that No Man’s Sky is an exploration and survival game, yet that description failed to stop people from assuming it was a huge space MMO. I, like many others, would be ecstatic if the game featured player-populated hub areas, trading, and other multiplayer elements, but I grounded my expectations and paid attention to what Sean Murray and others said about the game.
It’s a lonely, isolated experience and I’m happy with that. Yesterday, I must have played for 7 hours straight and accomplished hardly anything (both in-game and in my real life). The majority of my time was spent grinding resources and walking in one direction hoping for the slim chance that I might find something interesting. Sounds boring, right? That’s because it is boring. And yet, I’m absolutely in love with this game and cannot stop thinking about it. It’s a tranquil experience filled with wonder, even when I realize that I’m probably not going to find anything amazing.
This game has its hooks in me. I want to upgrade my exosuit so I don’t have to walk so painfully slow around every barren planet. I want to upgrade my ship so that can warp to different parts of the galaxy. All of this requires immense resource grinding, which is only made more difficult by the limited inventory space. No Man’s Sky needs to be a bit more lenient with the item management and running speed, but I can bear it for now.
Even with all of these prominent criticisms, I am still eager to play the game at every waking moment. To answer my own question back in March, the game isn’t particularly “fun,” but it is awe-inspiring in its own ways. The small subtleties are what keeps me playing. My current obsession in the game is trying to learn the language of the Gek race. Like everything else in the game, this is a painfully slow process, which consists of locating ancient Monoliths and Knowledge Stones. For every one of these that you find you learn, wait for it — one word! Since there are roughly one million words in the English language, I suppose I’ll have to find a million of these things to understand the entire Gek language. Wow. And yet, here I am still trying to find as many as possible.
The only other sentient race I have found besides the Gek is the Korvax, though I am just focusing on the Gek for right now. I am slowly learning about them, which I find utterly fascinating. In my limited communication with them, I have learned that they emit an odorized gas when speaking to other beings. It smells either good or bad, depending on your standing with them. As I become more friendly with the Gek, more benefits are open to me, such as trading opportunities and informative conversation. It’s a slow process to establish a connection with this race, but I have all the time in the world to do it. This, above all other things, is what makes No Man’s Sky a very special game.
Progress has been dreadfully slow, but I’ve only been playing for three days. It’s hard to say if I will become faster at gathering resources and relating to sentient beings as I improve my equipment. My guess is that it will always be a slow grind for survival. I imagine myself being able to mostly understand the Gek language in a few months, which should make things a bit easier. I have accepted that everything within the game is going to be slow-moving and gradual. Accomplishment (whatever that means in this crazy game) will require long periods of slow building.
No Man’s Sky is far from perfect, but it’s on my mind more than any other game in recent years. I am thinking about it throughout the day, eager to go home and see what I uncover next. Review scores are not going to be in the top tier, but I really feel that this game is what you make of it. Unfortunately, it cannot be anything but a victim of its own hype. I’m content with the state of the game and the experience it provides. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some exploring to do.