By shivermetimbers 4 Comments
I want more games that give me a sense of grand scale and freedom. I'm not necessarily talking about size or amount of activities, I'm talking about games that focus on my own experience. Games that feed off the sense of discovery and adventure, ones where your story is different from another player's. Progression that isn't just tied to linear upgrade trees, cutscenes, or icons on the map, but rather by my own discovery. Basically, I know that games can't offer me complete freedom, but I want games that give me the illusion of freedom, of being a tiny spec in a big world without succumbing to traditional power fantasy tropes. I want to have a sense that I can't accomplish everything and that there are things in this world I can't understand.
Well, there's something to be said for baby steps.
I could be describing the hype for No Man's Sky in my first paragraph, the game that people thought would give in to that desire. Instead, what they got is a repetitive crafting game with light survival elements that just happens to have the scale required to make part of that desire become a reality, but lacks a sense of discovery as exploration of these planets becomes a repetitive game of mining, scanning, and chasing icons.
So while NMS may not totally be what the hype was hoping for, it does show a sign of progress nonetheless.
It showcased the fact that games of this scale can be done with a bit of technical wizardry. While I typically roll my eyes when someone says a game has its heart in the right place, this game does have potential, it just needs to have a bit more confidence in the player. When I land on a planet, my brain shouldn't just be chasing icons on my map or HUD, but rather how to best approach chasing those icons given the environment of the planet.
If the planet is freezing cold, I should have to worry more about keeping myself warm enough if I wanted to get to a place to refuel my ship or get to that rare element I need for crafting my next upgrade. NMS has extreme environments on its planets, but the act of keeping me filled up with warmth is more of a nuisance than an actual threat to my survival. I should have to take into consideration the environment of the planet and prepare myself if I wanted to spend any amount of time there. As it stands, I can be on a planet for many many hours with little repercussion. This may be controversial, but it does give in to the sense of adventure that I was talking about previously.
As for the adventuring part of NMS, there is a sense of mystery as we meet with alien factions and learn their language. There's also an overarching goal of reaching the center of the universe should we so desire. I feel this game doesn't get enough credit for these elements. While chasing ?s on my HUD, I ran into a riddle I had to solve which led me to a Monolith which told me a story and gave me three ways to deal with the situation. I failed in answering correctly as a lost a bit of health and reputation without the ability to answer it again. I missed that opportunity.
Being able to miss things is what a lot of games consider a sin. Making discovery and exploration more than just about being powerful by having it be a learning experience is part of why games have a lot of potential. It's a shame then that NMS doesn't completely capitalize on this as things and events repeat quickly and the joys of exploration are somewhat muted by having the player's mind operating like a checklist every time they land on a planet as the dynamism is limiting. Scale does need that dynamism if the player wants to spend a good amount of time playing the game without feeling like they're going through the motions.
So there are three things I would like to see NMS attempt to fix/address: First, the ways we can interact with this giant universe should be increased. Second, it should feel more limiting what we can't or cannot do without resources. Third, Discovery should be more tempting than in is currently with more things out there to discover and possibly more danger to uncover. None of these three things ore mutually exclusive, they should benefit one another. I.E. Discovery gives us more ways to interact which gives us access to more resources, etc. Basically, make the game a bit more dense. It would be hard, yes, but I think I can be done.
I find myself rooting for NMS despite everything and will continue to play it. I want more games to attempt what this game has done with a better emphasis on the micro level along with the macro level. I think it's a hard game to review, so I'll just say that you should try it for yourself at least as a rental or a sale purchase. You may find yourself wanting more than what the game offers, but it at least shows a sense of progress in what games can achieve even as it fails to meet those loft expectations.