Your eyes open. The surroundings are cold. Snow is everywhere. A warning sounds in the suit you’re wearing, it won’t be long before the cold overwhelms you.
Then the baby woke up. I paused the game (or thought I had) and trundled upstairs to settle him. By the time I had returned, the game had continued in my absence and I was dead. Start again I thought.
This time I awoke to completely different surroundings. The air was filled with musty green dust; spores in the plants around me emitting poison. A completely new hazard for my enviro-suit to object to. Of course, I had heard the talk from Hello Games founder Sean Murray about procedurally generated worlds. To see it in action was another thing entirely.
Snow storms often quickly envelop ice worlds meaning you have to take shelter quickly. On the toxic planet on which I started the second time around, the local fauna will often try and munch you or explode as you walk past. It’s early days of course and I may find the world I am on repeated many time in the course of a game, but for now, my first hour, alone on a planet with no idea of who or where I am was an utterly spellbinding experience.
The time since has done nothing to lessen the wow factor I’m absorbing from No Man’s Sky’s universe. I often balk at the early hours of survival style games. Ark: Survival Evolved was completely inpenetrable to me and I bounced right off as a result. Not so here. You’re fed little tiny tidbits of information about what to do next; enough to encourage exploration of your surrounding area.
Then you craft your visor and all of a sudden the land around you is filled with points of interest. A Trade Post here, a crashed freighter carrying long abandoned precious cargo there. It’s an absolute joy to traverse these planets on foot, with the aid of your jetpack. And then. And then! you gather enough resources to make your previously devoid of life spaceship move again.
There are no loading screens in No Man’s Sky, or at least none that I’ve come across so far. Want to go into space? Just point your ship up. Emerging into an asteroid field with a dozen other planets seemingly in range, you feel instantly tiny. I ran out of fuel shortly after take-off. Expecting that I might have land again to find fuel I was grateful to find that most asteroid fields contained the required elements to produce starship fuel.
I didn’t have to look it up online, no scrolling through menus – Hello Games just told me what I needed and then let me craft it there and then from my inventory once I had it. Easy.
My most recent wonder is the space station I discovered last night. Filled with aliens who speak a completely different language, its down to me to discover what means what in their tongue through exploration and trading. So far I know what the Korvax word for Korvax is – not much use!!
The space station introduced me to dozens of blueprints for technology I’m nowhere near finding yet. There’s hours of content I haven’t even scratched the surface. Apparently multiplayer too? And new ships to unlock? And base building? And frigates? I’m going to be here hours, days even! It’s been a long time since a game has induced in me this feeling of awe and it reminds me of why I started playing games in the first place and why, for me, gaming is the most incredible entertainment medium.
Let me finish by saying, I know there was a huge uproar when this game launched on PS4 and PC last year. The developers got themselves in a lot of bother by not being clear with their messaging at all and I really think, for such a small company, Sony dropped them in the deep end without any armbands. But No Man’s Sky has come a long way since then. Too early to call Game of Year right now, but we’re heading in the right direction. I urge you to go and play this.