One Man's Time with No Man's Sky...

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notnert427

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#1  Edited By notnert427
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I've been watching No Man's Sky with some interest for some time. Most probably recall the initial overhype and resulting disappointment that the game had back when it launched on PS4. I'm an Xbox guy, but it was still a game that was intriguing enough for me to keep tabs on. It seemed pretty clear even at the time that Sony forced the game to shelves before it was truly done, but that didn't seem to matter to the gaming community who went absolutely apeshit about it. The negative reaction was out of control, and the Hello Games team could easily have just thrown their hands up, left it to die, and counted their money.

Thankfully, they didn't. Over time, they kept listening to feedback and implementing the features they said they would. Slowly, there was a smattering of some quiet praise for it, and eventually the general feeling from the playerbase was that it actually had become rather good. I think they lost some people at launch who they won't ever get back because gamers can be extremely petty and unforgiving, but still, it was nice to see Hello Games putting in the work to try and make it right. Eventually the game made its way past the timed exclusivity and on to Xbox, so I'd been staring at it for a while and almost pulled the trigger on it several times. I finally did, and I'm really glad I gave it a shot.

"Thar's copper in them hills!"

Special shout out to the Mass Alex video series for helping push me over the edge. I missed out on the Mass Effect games, and like Alex, I found the galaxy scanning and planet resource mining in ME2 soothing in a weird way. No Man's Sky looked like a more focused version of that, and it mostly is and scratches that itch as I'd hoped. I'm not quite ready to claim it's meditative or anything, but it's definitely joined Forza Horizon 4 as something I can fire up to wind down and de-stress. Even the encounters with "enemies" occur at about the frequency I like to where you have to stay on your toes a bit without feeling like you have to constantly worry about dying.

I adore the music and the general atmosphere of the game. Most of the presentation is very slick. Seeing a new planet and its weird creatures is continually exciting, as is discovering what resources are there. I am apparently an old-timey prospector based on my avarice for precious metals. The sentinels make a nice foil to me gleefully wiping planets out and serve as almost a morality check that makes the player feel a bit guilty in neat ways that add to the immersion. There have also already been countless moments of "ooh, that's a cool ship", finding better multi-tools, getting meaningful upgrade blueprints, etc. that really deliver on the promise of the game's universe and your desire to lose yourself in it.

I fed the space doggos and they literally crapped out high-value resources. This game is great.
I fed the space doggos and they literally crapped out high-value resources. This game is great.

To the game's credit, I've done exactly that. It's easy to have a night melt away in a hurry when you want to see what's on that next planet or what's down in that cave. There is a ton of fun in that for me. The encounters with other alien races are typically interesting enough. I do wish that the conversations with them weren't done in "text style" of RPGs of old, e.g. "the alien is offended and looks as if he's going to attack" while the actual alien is just staring blankly at you. I suppose it would have been a massive undertaking to animate all the various aliens, but it feels a little hollow and less interactive than I'd like. Still, the narrative has kept me fairly engaged in an "adventure game" sort of way, so it's mostly doing well there.

I will say that I have a love/hate relationship already with the crafting. I enjoy crafting new things. I hate crafting maintenance things. Also, when crafting gets layered too much, it gets tiresome. Oh, I want to build x. That requires two of y and three of z. To create y, I need four of v and five of w. I can make v by putting u in my refiner and w is located in some whole other galaxy. This is where the gameplay loop gets tedious and feels like a chore, and it's easy to forget about something entirely or to just say "fuck it" and move on. There's a fine line between a quest that's challenging/satisfactory to complete and one that's just a slog, and if I'm being honest, the game doesn't always succeed there.

Flying can be quite relaxing, despite the controls.
Flying can be quite relaxing, despite the controls.

There are several quality-of-life features that I wish were in the game. I truly despise that the Launch Thrusters essentially deter you from flying around a planet in your ship and landing in several different spots. I either need to just stockpile a ton of uranium or just waste a bunch of time crafting Starship Launch Fuel, which ain't great. I'm totally fine with the concept of fuel in this game, but limiting ship launches unless you're in certain areas feels like an entirely unnecessary barrier that discourages exploration, which is basically the whole point of the game. Also, I would love more customization on the controls. I'm playing on console, and their default flying controls are not mapped to the sticks the way I'd like them to be, which makes space combat worse than it needs to be. On foot, the controls are mostly okay (though again non-customizable), but the combat still doesn't feel great. If this game's controls were Destiny-caliber on foot and Battlefront II-caliber in space, holy shit would that be something.

Get out of here, space cop!
Get out of here, space cop!

The mission structure can also be a little confusing at times. If you don't have a mission specifically highlighted as the thing you want to be doing at that moment, the game doesn't much help you out. I had to go get a scientist from another system and create warp fuel for my hyperdrive to do so, and had two separate secondary missions with the same "go recruit a scientist" objective. I had one of these secondary objectives selected, and it didn't tell me how to craft warp fuel. Only highlighting the main mission actually instructed you on that, and there have been several instances like that where things weren't as clear as they should be. It's not an overly intuitive game, with a steep learning curve to it that pretty much requires you to leave tutorials on, at least early in your playthrough.

The story and side missions are far more alluring than I expected. An ancillary benefit of the game being often nebulous (space pun!) is that it keeps the "mystery" to the universe. I like that some of the aliens you meet will help you, while others have nefarious aims. I really like how the game has you flying blind into a bunch of things. You'll often unlock coordinates that give you a spot to check out without really knowing what you'll find, and that's fucking rad. This is where the game really shines for me and why it can be hard to put down. It can be 2 a.m. when I have to work tomorrow, but damn it, I want to know what's over there at that waypoint. It's some Breaking Bad cliffhanger shit in the best way.

Overall, I'm having a great time with No Man's Sky so far. It gets a little grind-y at times, but that's kind of the name of the game. Thankfully, it has stayed more on the side of rewarding than frustrating. The general sense of wonder and intrigue has vastly outweighed the qualms I have here and there with some of the game's systems and design choices in terms of structure, and it's a looker in 4K HDR. I'm curious to see what things the upcoming Beyond update will change, but jumping in now has proven to be plenty enjoyable already. It's not perfect, and a few tweaks could make it amazing, but I think it's very much worth playing in its current state, whether you're playing it for the first time or revisiting it.

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#2  Edited By pweidman

First of all, I enjoyed reading your NMS impressions notnert427. Please return and add/edit with more if you keep playing.

I played NMS when it first came to xbox and I've revisited it several times. While they've improved the game a lot, it still has some flawed game design that makes things that should be simple, extremely tedious, for example like you mentioned about the fuel for the launch thrusters slowing/inhibiting planet exploration. And there are a whole slew of other weird/irritating design choices that you come across if you play long enough. Whenever I play the game I always wonder if the devs at Hello Games actually play the game. If they do, I can't understand how they could not address quite a few different structural and QoL issues that would greatly smooth out the experience, and give the game much more staying power.

I really do admire the developers tenacity and determination to improve the game to meet their vision though...kind of amazing if you really think about how long they've been at it, especially after all the negative feedback. I have a friend I play it with on occasion, and I'm sure we'll revisit again when they drop that next update. The game really is interesting enough for me to go back and check up on.

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I never played this game, but I really admire the devs for a) creating something genuinely new and ambitious and b) having the tenacity to keep development going for years after the initial launch was disappointing to many, somehow turning a hated game into a loved one.

Personally, I prefer a hand-crafted world with real characters to a procedural one, unless it's a challenging game focused on a strong core gameplay loop like a roguelike. Exploring an endless universe created by an algorithm seems like it would leave me with an empty, lonely feeling after a while.

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#4  Edited By pweidman
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notnert427

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#5  Edited By notnert427

@pweidman said:

The Beyond update is just in 2 days. Lots of new stuff.

Check out the new YT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAo7b4HjtjQ

Thanks for the heads-up. The addition of VR is legitimately cool. That seems like it would be a rad experience. I also like the idea of riding the animals because it's dumb. I will say that I 100% do not care about the MMO stuff. That is not at all what I want this game to be, and it seems extremely idealistic to think that assigning rando players fetch quests to build a base together will engender friendships.

I just kinda want to see the patch notes. It doesn't appear as of now that they addressed my issues with the game. The game really needs tighter controls (and customizable button layouts) for the flying, driving, and shooting. I'd also like to see more ships, and better yet, the ability to customize them. With Rebel Galaxy Outlaw coming out, I'd secretly hoped that they were going to surprise drop the ability to similarly paint your ships. Even something as simple as the premade themes you can use to customize/color your exosuit and exocraft would go a long way.

Still, it's good to see them continuing to work on the game, and early returns on the VR seem positive, so I'm happy for the folks that will get to enjoy that. I'm still really enjoying the game overall despite some flaws here and there. I'll post some more thoughts once the update actually drops.

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#6  Edited By notnert427

They offered some more detail on the updates at https://www.nomanssky.com/beyond-update/. It's a lot to take in, but here are some of the things that I'll find useful:

  • The ability to add a starship technology that automatically recharges the launch thrusters.

Fuck. Yes. I literally bitched about the unnecessarily limited ship launches above. I'm totally doing this.

  • The ability to move installed technologies.

This will remove the reticence to change your multi-tool or ship because it previously required that you'd have to re-purchase the upgrades you'd made to your last one.

  • Ship controls and space combat balance have been improved.

I'll need to see how it actually plays before I'll give a verdict on that, but it's promising.

  • More clarity on research and crafting paths.

Another thing I took issue with above. Having more "A to B" on this stuff is definitely a good thing.

  • More mood-appropriate alien animations and dialogue improvements.

I also mentioned this to hopefully make the interactions feel less like an old text-based adventure game.

  • Galaxy map clarity.

The galaxy map is barely even navigable on console, so I hope this helps address that.

  • In normal mode, increased the slot storage limit for substances from 250 to 10,000.

This is actually a huge deal so you don't have to constantly stack and/or use multiple slots.

There are still some things on my wishlist like the ability to rebind controls on console (apparently PC folks got this in this update, so I'm jealous), ship painting, etc., but several of the changes here will undoubtedly make the experience better. Props to the NMS team for continuing to address and update the game. I really look forward to trying out the Beyond update, and will give my impressions once I do.

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#7  Edited By Gundato

This briefly came up in GBI yesterday and I am REALLY tempted to grab it. 30 bucks on Humble (so about that after discount and taxes) and this was already in my "I kind of want it" during the launch shenanigans. And should be worth dicking around a bit in WMR

For those who play it: How plentiful is fuel? Do I need to make sure I stock up whenever I find a vein or can I mostly just explore and be fine?

Currently bouncing between grabbing this or Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. RGO is sexy as all hell, but I want workshop support for that. But I am sure that the moment I buy NMS it is going to be in every single monthly subscription/IGC model.

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#8  Edited By notnert427
@gundato said:

For those who play it: How plentiful is fuel? Do I need to make sure I stock up whenever I find a vein or can I mostly just explore and be fine?

With this latest update, you can basically buy all the fuel you need as long as you have the credits. Now that you can store 10000 Uranium and Pyrite for launches and space travel with your ship, it's a non-issue. You'll have to craft warp fuel to travel between galaxies, but you can also stock up on warp cells now, and they made an even more powerful warp cell.

I played a decent amount of this last night. I really dig 99% of the changes they made. The only thing that sucks is that some things on your bases require power now. You need to craft solar panels and batteries to support your bits of technology, and that's just tedious, not fun. Also, I ran into a few bugs here and there where something would happen like a ship disappearing, and there was an annoying tutorial pop-up that kept reappearing.

Fortunately, everything else is pretty great. The storage limit being upped to 10000 from 250 is a literal game-changer. I had already accumulated enough cash to be able to buy massive amounts of commonly needed resources like Chromatic Metal, Uranium, Pyrite, Cobalt, etc., so I did that. Now I don't have to constantly be worrying about slots as much or stop what I'm doing to go grind some bullshit. Also, being able to organize technology slots is huge. All of this massively improves the overall experience with the game.

Also, with this update, the game respects your time a whole lot more. Refining things is no longer painfully slow. Your terrain manipulator for mining also just tears through stuff now and it no longer feels like a chore. I thoroughly enjoyed burrowing giant tunnels through mountains in mere seconds. I'm going to do a lot more of that just for funsies now.

The better clarity on the research and crafting paths goes a long way as well. Being able to pin quest lines with clear steps on how to get from A to B is fucking excellent, because the game wasn't previously very good at indicating what you needed to do. Also, the log of the places you've visited and the flora/fauna/minerals you've scanned helps a ton. Not only does it make you want to scan more stuff, it tells you where you can find minerals you need, which is very helpful.

The alien animations matter even more than I expected. The space stations actually feel believable now. Previously, all the aliens existed as basically cardboard cut-outs with some really repetitive dialogue options, but being able to interact more with them and seeing them walk around and exist on their own is cool and adds a ton of authenticity to the game's world. Also, some of the creatures on worlds make noises now, and one that attacked me made a fairly terrifying roar before it did and a mildly disturbing death squeal when I shot it. This was all neato.

As far as the ship controls, I didn't notice much improvement there, and us console folks still need the ability to set our own control schemes. They did make the space flight view better, as previously the camera was too close to the back of your ship and the only solution was to set a high FOV that made it more fish-eye than I liked. Now it's good. I didn't do all that much FPS combat last night, so I can't comment yet if things are improved there.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the changes they made. Anyone jumping in now won't have an appreciation for the improvements, but having played NMS before and after this update, I can confidently say that they have taken this game from good to great. I can fully recommend NMS as a game now. They addressed almost all of my complaints here, and it's a much more pleasant experience that removes a bunch of the grind and lets you spend more time enjoying what makes it fun.

Honestly, NMS at this point merits a re-review. The Hello Games team has put in some serious work and it shows. NMS is now a great game in and of itself, but Hello Games deserves to be supported for the effort they put in to make this game what people hoped it would be. This is a really cool thing.

We don't have to worry about inventory storage limits no more, and I said,
We don't have to worry about inventory storage limits no more, and I said, "that's good...one less thing."

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