No Man’s Sky: Just Awful

I finally got around to trying out of the PS5 optimized update for No Man’s Sky, to see what the buzz was all about for the updated game, as well as to see what a PS5 optimized game looked like. Overall, my impression, of the game was very negative, and I quickly deleted from my PS5. So, what went wrong?

Overall, the game started strong, with me racing through a star field, with other star names coming into my field of vision. I wondered what did those star names mean? Were they places I could go in the game, or were they names of other players’ locations? After a couple minutes going through this fog, I found myself on a barren ice world, named Ouisbech XVI (spelled in Roman numerals, natch), that looked like Siberia, with an ambient temperature of -67.5 degrees.

Generally, I like my games to start with a modicum of hand holding that teaches me the way to play a game, while at the same time as holding back the full fury of damage that can be done to me while I am still a noob. This was not the case with No Man’s Sky. I was set down on the world, with a broken environment suit, and very little in the way of instruction as to how to make repairs to either my own gear, or the ship that I was in.

After messing around a few minutes, I discovered that I needed to walk a significant distance to get/steal/beg a piece of needed equipment to make my ship fully functional. About halfway there, a blizzard overtook me, and I bleed out of some nameless plain of Ouisbecsh 16.

Starting over, I landed on Ousagi Prime, which was even colder, with a bone shattering of negative 78 being recorded. This time, I didn’t waste time learning commands and interfaces, I immediately set out to mine for the needed elements and gear. As with Ouisbech, when I cut across open land to get the hermetic seal from a supply camp, a blizzard also set in, but this time I was able to, just barely, get to the supply camp and find shelter.

One thing about Ousagi was the AI generated flora and fauna. For an icy desert world, you wouldn’t expect to see trees that for all intents and purposes look like palm trees, nor would you expect to see massive lizards in such an inclement weather. You would expect to see animals with thick fur, and not much more than hardy vegetation that would sprout up in crevices where the wind could not get to it.

Furthermore, I was very frustrated with the spawning rate of needed elements. There was no clear regular stock that one could count on, leaving you to have to spend highly limited precious energy of your drilling device to get what was needed to repair your suit, to say nothing of repairing your ship. It led me to believe that the quickest way to get particular item or element was to not need it.

After 30 frustrating minutes, I was finally able to scrounge for the needed components and was able to make my craft space worthy again. “Now,” I said to myself, “now is where I will see what all the commotion was about,” as I blasted away from the ground.

If I was frustrated at the gameplay mechanics on the ground, being in space took my frustration level with this game to 11.

In my cockpit, I had no idea what I needed to do next, to say nothing, of knowing how to fly the damn ship. There was no tutorial, no indications as to what buttons to control the ship. Directional controls were overly springy, making it almost impossible to orientate the ship, I was just sitting there in the ship, waiting for something, or anything to happen.

Finally, I detected a signal, but from the planet I just took off from. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? Gritting my teeth, I attempted to land the craft back on the surface, hopefully near the signal. For a game the prides itself on realism, atmospheric re-entry was botched, with minimal transition from space to the atmosphere again. I would have expected to see thermal buffeting both outside the cockpit and via haptic feedback on my controller. That was not to be, and it was a very jarring miss on the game of the studio.

It wasn’t much longer when I just threw in the towel and quit the game. This was no proper introduction to the game and seemed like the beginning was rushed by the studio. It reminded me of the first Destiny, where once you got through the story missions, you had no idea what to do, even as Bungie kept telling you that this was “where the game begins.” The barrier to entry was just too high, a sentiment also shared by numerous other reviewers.

Regarding the PS5 nature of gameplay, other than stochastic mechanics taking almost no time to complete compared to equivalent PS4 timing, there seemed to be nothing about the graphics or soundtrack that set it apart from what I’ve seen coming from the PS4. Hello Games’ stated in October, that the PS5 would have an impactful update, promising “lusher, richer and more densely populated universes”, alongside increased planetary detail “with thousands more rocks, alien grasses, and exotic flora on screen at any time.” Maybe I overlooked something, but I still stick with that the gameplay I experienced was not fundamentally different than what I had seen in PS4 gameplay.

Hopefully neither Final Fantasy XVI nor Gran Turismo 7 suffer from the same criticisms.

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