My No Man’s Sky experience began a little differently.
Yours may have begun with a download, by opening a Blu-Ray case, or, if you’re lucky, through cracking open a collector’s edition box.
Mine started with a beautiful half-empty paperback book and a heartfelt letter from programmer and Hello Games co-founder, Sean Murray.
“I feel sick writing this,” it begins. “You are about to play No Man’s Sky and I don’t know what you’ll think.”
Showing some self-awareness, Murray’s goes on to mention the high expectations of the game.
“I don’t know if we can ever live up to the hype we’ve generated, sometimes knowingly, often not,” he wrote.
One has to wonder whether he and the rest of the Hello Games team had any inkling of the backlash their hype machine had set them up for.
If you’ve come to this review expecting another lashing over promised features that didn’t make it into the game, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Hello Games has also promised that after it has sorted out all the bugs that remained in the game after launch, it will add the ability to build bases and own giant space freighters.
Multiplayer may also make it into the game at some point, according to an FAQ in the book Sony gave to reviewers.
For now, I just want to talk about the game as it actually is, not what it could have been, or even what it might be.
I know my strongest memory growing up in the outback of Australia, seeing the stars at night, and feeling overwhelmed. Reading sci-fi and wishing I could escape into those worlds.
If for one small moment I can make some people feel that they have stepped through a science fiction book cover, or to think briefly about the size of our universe… then I’ll be happy with that.
Those were Murray’s final words to reviewers before signing off his letter.
I awakened on a strange planet surrounded by life forms completely foreign to me.
Who am I? How did I get here?
The only clue I can salvage from my ship’s wreckage is a distress beacon.
As I examine it, an entity, a vast red orb, communicates with me and offers direction, purpose. Do I accept its guidance, or spurn its offer?
I’m more than 30 hours into No Man’s Sky, and even though the gameplay is grindy and there are many repetitive elements on every planet you visit, I’m not close to bored with it.
In some ways, No Man’s Sky is a lot like an open world game. Every new planet you explore contains all the same basic points of interest that offer some kind of reward if you complete the activity they host.
However, most of the planets I visited have been visually diverse enough to keep my curiosity piqued.
What geology, animals, and (to a lesser extent) plant life will I discover when I land?
No Man’s Sky is an exploration game first and foremost.
The open world and survival game mechanics will bore you eventually, so if its basic exploration premise does not appeal to you, it is not the game for you.
For example, in my travels I have found someone whose Path of Atlas intersected my own, and I am incredibly curious to see what they found, if they came up with any interesting names, and where their path has led them.
As I follow the path Atlas has laid before me, I come upon the most amazing world.
The planet’s sun blasts it with almost unbearable heat, with storms that would cook the meat from my bones if not for my protective exosuit.
And yet it is teeming with life — the strangest, most beautiful flying creatures, terrifying pod-like beasts, and the most graceful giant quadrupeds.
For one small moment No Man’s Sky made me feel like I’ve stepped through a science fiction book cover.
It made me think of the size and diversity of just our little rock orbiting around the sun, and then left me in awe contemplating our ever-expanding universe.
And I’m not even done with it yet.