We’re coming up on a year since No Man’s Sky was released and looking back, it’s almost impossible not to focus on the negatives. Becoming a cautionary tale of how not to release a game, No Man’s Sky was the victim of its own ambition and due to poorly handled marketing and an online feeding frenzy, it will likely be remembered as one of the biggest misses in gaming history. But after the game’s rocky release, the developers have continued to support it, adding interesting elements in the hopes of realising their full vision of what the game was always supposed to be. No Man’s Sky is back in the headlines this week, not for bad reasons but because something mysterious is being teased for the game’s future. So in the interest of getting ready for what the future of this ambitious space-sim might look like, let’s take a look back at 7 things No Man’s Sky got right.
Whether or not the game stuck its landing is up for contention still to this day but it’s hard to deny the starry eyed, grand scope of it all. From the moment it was announced, No Man’s Sky captured the imagination of players everywhere. The core concept of a space sim in which you could climb into your spaceship, fly up into the sky, beyond into space and onto another planet was incredibly ambitious and painted Hello Games as a developer who were pushing the boundaries of what an independent game could be. What No Man’s Sky offered on release seemed impossible when considering the small team which worked on it and will no doubt inspire countless independent developers to dream big and follow their ambitions.
Support After Launch
Hello Games went largely silent after the game launched leading many to believe they had either cut and run, leaving the game to die or that the team were under a huge amount of stress and had collapsed under the pressure. After a few months later, the team gave the world an update that they were working on patches and future content to add to the game. The foundation update launched in December 2016 and fixed a tonne of the game’s bugs and tweaked many of its systems. Base-building was added, planetary topography was given more depth and variety and granted players access to huge freighters. A later addition, the Pathfinder Update, added planetary vehicles, a perma-death mode and shareable bases. All of this is being offered for free too and is gradually morphing the game into more of what Hello Games first set out to make.
A Vast, Beautiful Universe
The main draw of the game is, in my opinion, its varied and expansive universe. Leading up to launch, Hello Games kept referring to an all encompassing algorithm which drove No Man’s Sky and created the gorgeous planets and vistas which make up the game. The details of the algorithm aren’t important, only its results. Warping between galaxies and exploring hostile worlds is an enthralling experience and really gives the player the feeling of being a galactic pioneer. The clever use of colour and lighting and by keeping visuals relatively simple allowed No Man’s Sky to make the most of the little processing power it had spare and the results are undeniably wonderful.
A Procedural, Living Soundtrack
When developing a game as vast and varied as No Man’s Sky, the question of how to approach the soundtrack came into question. Largely, the soundtrack, by Sheffield-based Math-Rock group 65daysofstatic, follows the same structure as the game does. The sprawling score ranges from near-silent ambient noise to pulsating drums and classic sci-fi synthesisers. It was cut up into pieces and thrown into the mix with the algorithm which built the game out. The end result? A living and dynamic score which ebbs and flows, creating moments of sci-fi wonder and gentle tranquillity.
Awesome Spaceship Designs
No Man’s Sky’s ships are ripped straight from iconic sci-fi stories like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. Some, like the one pictured, invoke the same streamlined body of an X-wing while some players have even found ships which look like the one from Futurama. They’re undoubtedly very cool and one of the main reasons to push forward in the game.
Weird and Wonderful Creatures
You need only hop onto Reddit to witness the sheer lunacy of some of the game’s Flora and Fauna. From zebra-snake thingies to winged dinosaurs, No Man’s Sky’s precious algorithm created monster after hideous monster filling its world with a smorgasbord of Frankenstein-like creatures. There’s definitely something endearing to the whole thing though. The game’s commitment to variety gives each life-form an identity and character which breaks up the mundanity of some of the environments.
Shrouded in Mystery
Due to the way the game is structured, No Man’s Sky could never tell its story in a conventional, linear fashion. Instead it opts for a trail of cryptic breadcrumbs which drip feed lore to the player. There are forums dedicated to unravelling the game’s mysteries which are filled with conspiracy theories galore. No Man’s Sky’s lore continues to evolve which each update and will no doubt keep players guessing for years to come.
So there we have it, a handful of things which No Man’s Sky did very well indeed. It’s easy to be cynical about games like these, especially ones which had expectations as astronomical as No Man’s Sky did. Hopefully the game will evolve over time into the experience which players were looking for when they first laid eyes on it and with an update due this week, it’s going to be a while before people stop talking about it.