No Man’s Sky: a Preview
Instead of reviewing a game for my second entry, I’ve decided to write a short post proffering my apprehensions regarding the upcoming release of Hello Games’ sci-fi adventure No Man’s Sky. Much of the response to the release has been unequivocally positive, increasing to levels of childlike excitement every time a new gameplay mechanic is publicised – something I don’t quite understand.
For those who don’t know, No Man’s Sky is a game centred on the exploration of an entire universe of procedurally generated planets and alien lifeforms which, according to Hello Games, gives players the chance to explore approximately 18 quintillion worlds (that is a real number). This, in turn, should allow each and every player to discover something unique to their experience with the game.
As great as this sounds, however, I worry that the difference between worlds and creatures will be far less inimitable than people are anticipating, resulting in something more akin to Spore or a modern Final Fantasy game i.e. a small stock of basic animal templates with nothing more than a simple colour palette swap to suggest diversity and individuality.
The second aspect of the game garnering attention is the freedom to play the game in a variety of styles (which is becoming an increasingly common selling point for games). Although there is a defined goal, in this case, to reach the centre of the universe, the way you achieve it is entirely subjective. You can be a trader, conqueror or scientific explorer as you make your way to the universe’s heart, depending on your preferences. Indeed the developers have stated that it’s possible to complete the main story without once setting foot on any planet if you had such a desire. Titles such as Spore and Heavy Rain, are but two examples of games that have attempted something similar (Heavy Rain in a narrative sense) aiming to give the player complete freedom and the ability to forge a unique experience. Both games fell short, however, eventually delivering something which is no less restrictive in terms of style and narrative than the majority of games, implying the implementation of such a style in video games is something the available technology can’t quite realise at this stage.
Finally and for me, most disappointingly, current trailers show graphics that pale in comparison to other PS4 releases such as The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid 5. Now in a game that’s heavily focussed on exploration and discovery, I feel this is a major flaw. Demo videos showing players traversing interstellar space depict interstellar space in a far less majestic and impressive way than last gen games such as the Mass Effect trilogy. Lastly, the use of a garish, saturated colour palette exaggerates this less than impressive style and makes the animals look like caricatures.
Ultimately, this isn’t a great disappointment personally as I have a rather large list of games I’m itching to purchase for my PS4 in 2016, however as a fan of science fiction and astronomy generally, I sincerely hope my trepidation proves to be premature and incorrect.