The infinite, procedurally created space exploration simulator in development at Hello Games, No Man’s Sky, is probably the most collectively hyped game of 2016.
It’s finally drawing near like an asteroid that’s about to blow us all away, with a predicted impact of June, 2016.
Having watched anything and everything No Man’s Sky related, I actually can’t believe how incredibly absorbing and progressively expansive this wonder of a game is.
Obviously, I didn’t want to spoil too much of what’s in store for myself, but honestly when you have a whole galaxy to explore, this sentiment is redundant. And Hello Games have also done a wonderful job keeping the crux of No Man’s Sky concealed.
Either way, with over 18 quintillion (1.8×1019) planets to land on, a lot of them with their own unique flora and fauna, you can basically kiss your old life goodbye. This isn’t open world, it’s open universe.
Just imagine all of the profoundly varied biomes and atmospheres waiting to be encountered – from the pleasantly picturesque, to the hellishly uninhabitable. Planetary environments will range from the scorchingly arid, to the blizzardous and snowcapped, to the toxic and irradiated. At any stage, you can hop into your ship and leave the planet.
Most planets will apparently be barren, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t relics of bygone existences to investigate, crashed space ships to loot and all manner of landmarks to check out.
The nature of a planet depends on its proximity to the sun, much like our own solar system. The further away a planet is from the sun, the more icy it will be; the closer ones are more likely to be arid, desert-like and scorched. Planets at the perfect in-between distance will sustain life forms.
Hello Games developers have described the various play-styles one can enjoy, from being an intergalactic merchant, to a freighter-raiding space pirate, to a sci-fi Charles Darwin. Obviously, you are free to do as you please; just remember that many systems and planets will be guarded by organized authorities.
There also various factions populating the galaxy and players decide which to attack and turn against and which to become allies with.
Attacking a particular fleet will result in a massive dogfight you definitely want to have a robust and capable ship to engage with. You can look forwards to titanic space battles console players don’t often get to enjoy. Look out for space pirates too
Speaking of authorities, initiating plasma-fuelled shenanigans on a planet will commence a space-GTA ‘wanted’ system, with little symbols on the top right of the HUD replacing stars.
Beginning with tiny wizzing drones and building up to giant, stomping mechs that will atomize you in no time, you might want to respect your surroundings until you’re a high enough level to counter autonomous security.
Culpable offences include abusing the wildlife (even if a creature attacks you first) and overexploiting the resources of a planet by mining too fervently.
Players continually scan and identify organisms and other points of interest as they explore a planet. All newly discovered planets, creatures, equipment and organisms can be named by the pioneering player, with a filter blocking names such as ‘xX420goblinXx’s Dick’.
There will be a filter. But the human race is very ingenious, they find a way. They always find the way to write the name of genitals for a planet. That will be the name people will see and that’s not just for planets. The same goes for creatures, discoveries like types of ship, type of weapons. All of them are procedural, all of them have their own names.” Sean Murray – Hello Games co-founder
Newly identified life is uploaded to ‘The Atlas’, an omniscient Pokédex that will allow your discoveries to be recorded and shared with all other players.
One gameplay demo showed the player blasting crystal spires protruding out of the earth of a planet with his gun to retrieve resources, elements of their own version of a far flung periodic table.
With these elements, players can upgrade their equipment, weapons and spaceships (provided they have the relevant blueprints). This allows you to delve deeper into space with a boosted ship, explore more corrosively hostile environments and take on more fearsome enemies.
Whilst you are free to play the game solo, via offline play, if you’re a social gamer, you can share coordinates of some peculiar planet you just discovered with a pal.
They can then fly across the galaxy to find you and together you can quest about the surface. You can form your own litte Star Trek squads, hopping from planet to planet.
That is if you’re prepared to wait an extended period of time in the same position as a friend begins a lengthy journey from the other side of space to try and find your planet. He or she will then have to try find you amongst rolling mountains and spanning oceans.
Developers have emphasized that No Man’s Sky isn’t Destiny, nor is it an MMO. Whilst you will be sharing this universe with many other players, the distance between everyone emphasizes its stratified and unfathomable nature.
“If you want to play a first-person-shooter-sci-fi-run-around-on-a-planet game, play Destiny. It’s a really good game. Go play that. We’re not trying to do that.” Sean Murray – Hello Games co-founder
This titanic sense of isolation will ensure that players have a completely tailored and individual experience.
In many ways, I’m happy it’s not going to be like Destiny; an antithesis to this claustrophobic, overcrowded and ultimately disillusioning waste. No Man’s Sky seems to finally bring to the table what we all hoped Destiny would.
I did, however, see a strong Destiny influence in things such as gun design and menu overlay.
There is no story or characters, players are meant to trailblaze their own course. There are no set objectives or orders. There isn’t even a real endgame here – the game continues even after the suggested climax of ‘finding the center of the galaxy’.
A gameplay demo showed the fast-travel map – a zoomed out view of the galaxy – glowing orbs scattered all over the place representing individual systems. An initial set of linked stars were the player’s currently restrained limit of travel, an augmented hyperspace engine allowing further navigation.
As the person playing was lead developer Sean Murray, he had the freedom to further pan out in the map and take us on a journey through the shimmering mists of their galaxy, an absolutely gobsmacking preview of what could very easily be one of the most immersive explorers ever created.
Few words can describe what No Man’s Sky promises to be. We’ve been disappointed before by overreaching efforts attempted by the Icaruses of the gaming industry, but Hello Games seem to provide tangible evidence for what could be one of the best games ever made.
I’m just hoping players will come across Stephen Hawking-esque wonders like black holes, wormholes and all of the other magical anomalies beyond our sky.