Current Status: I probably should’ve written this down – I think I’m about 10 hours in, approximately 10 systems visited. I’m on my 3rd ship, my first exosuit is maxed out in terms of inventory slots, and my gun/multi-tool is built for mining, not for combat, which has proven to be somewhat of a problem of late (I’ll get to this in a bit).
Like most people, I had no idea what No Man’s Sky was going to be. And now that I’ve spent some time with it, it turns out that it is more or less exactly what I’d hoped it might be, which is a more in-depth version of the free-form exploration bits of the first Mass Effect.
Now, look: I knew that the free-form stuff in ME1 was dumb as hell, but I did it anyway; I visited every goddamned planet and finished every goddamned thing there was to do, because it made for decent XP. And I also did it because I felt that I understood what Bioware was attempting to do, and I gave it the benefit of the doubt on that score because I loved everything else, and ultimately I also knew that it would only take 30-45 minutes per planet.
NMS is a different beast entirely.
The size of this game cannot be overstated. Which is hilarious, because the game’s size has been the single-biggest selling point since it was first announced. But I truly couldn’t comprehend just how big the game is until I realized that each individual planet is bigger than every other open-world game ever made, times x10000. And considering that there are 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets, well, you get the idea.
This being said, the game’s size can be overwhelming – and a bit frustrating. As an example, let’s say you forget to stock up on plutonium before you land in the middle of an unexplored planet. And then, after you finish whatever task you set out to do, you realize you can’t take off because not only are you out of plutonium, but there’s no plutonium to be found within a literal 5-minute walk in any direction – which is especially daunting considering how slow your default movement speed is; well, at that moment, you can be tempted to junk the whole thing, delete your save file, and start over from scratch.
There are also some technical issues that have been frustrating, to say the least. I crashed to the PS4’s dashboard at least 4 times yesterday, even after deleting and re-installing twice. The game does do a somewhat decent job at checkpointing, but sometimes it crashes at very unfortunate moments – like after a 10-minute jaunt to find language stones.
Speaking of technical issues, my current task may possibly be bugged – or simply impossible. I’ve veered off the main path and am following some Atlas quests – I really want to open up all those locked doors – and my current task is to find something in an abandoned building. The building in question is about 50m underwater, and – like the other Abandoned Buildings I’ve run across – there’s no obvious way to enter them. And if I need to blow something up in order to gain access, well, I’m totally screwed because I focused my multi-tool on mining as opposed to combat/explosives, and while I’ve discovered dozens of multi-tool blueprints, I haven’t come across a new multi-tool with upgraded slots in hours, which means I have no idea what to do. Similarly, I’ve entered more than a few star systems that have Distress Signals in outer space, but I have no idea what to do when I find them; there’s nothing attached to the signal icon, and hitting L3 to search/locate brings up nothing.
Nonetheless, I am compelled by the overall experience. I’ve long expressed a desire to explore strange new worlds at my own pace and with a more-or-less pacifist bent, and that’s literally what this game is. I’m maybe not as crazy about the constant mining/survival aspect of the game, but it’s usually not that big a deal – there’s almost always something lying about that will fix whatever is breaking down.
The game’s rhythms, while repetitive, are enjoyable. And every once in a while I happen to discover something unexpected, and those moments are really fun and rewarding. The game’s mysteries are tantalizing, but I’m also just enjoying the scenery; I’m not necessarily worried about getting to the end as much as I am simply getting better stuff and hoping that something cool is around the corner.
And, well, that’s the thing, isn’t it: there are so many corners.