By pickassoreborn 38 Comments
Do you remember that time one E3 where a video made us lose our collective shit? We try and deny at a subconscious level that the videos you see at E3 are anything but canned animations and scripted set-pieces. Hell, just try working on one of those and you'll soon realise it's a futile endeavour. It's all lies. All of it. Designed to send you into a spiral of glee and have you shaking out your pre-order coins from those over-stuffed pockets. One video though seemed to feel more real than anything - less a lie and more of an incredible concept played out with the space-rock soundtrack of 65daysofstatic. Alien vistas flickered through retinas and tickled jaded neurons. Could this be a bonafide emotion to behold? I was certainly stoked by it and lo - No Man's Sky instantly loomed onto the horizon and we all got whipped up into a frenzy.
Before I continue, dear reader - be warned that there may be spoilers to No Man's Sky ahead.
Even though the game's PC release was marred with all manner of technical woes and angry Steam reviews, I still put down the cash and downloaded the game. For a start - and in this glorious time of massive downloads - the modest download size was appreciated. "How can you fit so much onto so little, Hello Games?" we all cried out. Aha. Procedural. That's the rub. I remember playing Elite on the BBC B in a glorious 32k of size - Elite is basically what No Man's Sky was in the past along with the trading and space pirates to shoot down and avoid. It's universe was also created from a seed although it's mind-blowing to see how that has exponentially grown to where we are today; a game with billions of systems to traverse.
My adventure began on a hellish environment where many creatures were trying to kill me as I recreated my shattered spaceship. I gaze upon its ugly exterior and wonder if I purposefully crashed into the planet to try and get some kind of insurance units out of it for a better model. Nevertheless, the survival aspect of the game soon became apparent and I got stuck in. First thing you notice is the terrible inventory space and management. The game hides a lot of useful information among all those billions of planets - like how you can store more minerals on a single space on your starship than on your exosuit. Maybe it's all part of that emergent gameplay?
Speaking of that emergent gameplay, you could miss the glowing, throbing red orb - the invitation to follow the path of Atlas. Like a stupid idiot, I accepted and it felt like my universe suddenly shrunk a little. I had a mission to achieve. I soon manage to tweak and prod until the ship was ready - except it wasn't. Fuel is a big deal in No Man's Sky - everything needs to be refilled and charged. After a while it soon becomes second nature and you soon fill up those meters with very little brain use required. All the while I was thinking about the vastness of my situation only heightened more by monstrous crab/mantis alien hybrids chittering at me as I cowered in my cockpit. Getting off that hellhole was a delight, I can tell you.
It took four more hell planets before I came to my first moon. It's a relief to not only land on a barren rock with zero lifeforms after me, but also to take in the cosmos while looking up from the dusty ground. Moons are beautiful things to behold in No Man's Sky. I also experienced the polar opposite - a Scorched Moon with so much wildlife, it almost minded me of that E3 reveal.
Atlas soon became the focal point - traversing the almost-infinite galaxy map to find those mysterious Atlas Interfaces. The game felt a lot more spiritual in that regard; galactic religious overtones honed my senses and it felt like I was becoming immersed in the lore the game hides so well. My first Atlas Interface visit heightened the senses and made me feel glad to bask in the warm, red glow of that immense pulsating spheroid. A gift from Atlas? An Atlas Stone! I gaze upon it along with the added gifts of warp cells to aid my journey to Atlas Interface 2. I study my miniscule exosuit inventory and sigh. That Atlas Stone. I know it was a gift from a higher presence, but the value of that thing can aid me in creating more antimatter to follow the path to more Interfaces.
More Atlas Stones drift in and out of my possession - the values of selling them on also added my expansion of the aforementioned miniscule exosuit inventory. I get lost in the numerous blueprints as I thank Atlas for giving me the monetary requirements to better my suit and ship. It was perfect.
Here's the thing about No Man's Sky which gets me - it equally delights and frustrates. A cosmic ying and yang, if you will. You will sell stuff from your inventory which turned out to be extremely rare resources and you will kick yourself for selling so prematurely. You craft protection for your exosuit for certain planetary conditions and thank yourself, only to realise you have one less slot in your suit for stuff - and you have another gauge to refuel.
The Atlas Stones though. Those fucking stones. I recently chanced upon a forum post on this very site with the advice of "Don't sell the Atlas Stones!" as a warning to be heeded. I had already sold my first seven stones, so it felt like a good idea to keep hold of any more. At this point my suit had an impressively large increase in slots, so I could carry some stones with relative ease among all the rarities and good stuff. So I did. I had three stones before entering the final interface. A message on the previous interface led me to believe that I had finally reached my goal of following the path of Atlas. The pulsating giant red orb was back to congratulate me before hitting me with a dialog box which made me realise I had completely screwed up my time in the game.
It wanted 10 Atlas Stones to birth a star. It sounded mysteriously vague but also exciting in its possibilities. Giving birth to a star? The space hippy in me celebrated internally wh-
I only have 3 Atlas Stones. Not 10. 3. Option two in that dialog basically read as "get your greedy, sorry ass out of this magnificient construct of the ancients and think about what you've done". I did. I felt cheated but weirdly hopeful. Surely I could hit a planet and live there for a bit? Earn some money to buy some Atlas Stones from traders? Well, maybe. Each Atlas Stone costs around 5 million units. That's a lot of units, right? Too many. My celestial journey in No Man's Sky came to a crashing halt and a realisation that you could have the most incredible universe to mess about in, but it'll always be undone by some kind of game design dickmove. There are planets with shinier things that could give me millions, but it's finding those planets first. Plus I feel tied to this one special Atlas Interface so roaming a far distance might not be a great strategy.
Other people have made the same mistake I made. The lack of proper stacking of items like Atlas Stones meant you had to consider a growing inventory of dead space filled up with Atlas Stones and not with shiny materials to make cool shit with. Buying seven Atlas Stones seems like a grind - and the only other thing I could realistically do is upgrade warp and head out to the centre of the universe - even though forums have hinted the Atlas stuff should really be done first before doing this. The only other alternative option is to restart from scratch. I get a new experience but not the initial experience, so it's hard to work out how to feel about that.
So a cautionary tale for you, dear reader. Some advice?