I came very close to calling this post ‘Why I hate No Man’s Sky’, continuing the trend I set last time with the Interstellar post. But let’s not.
Freelancer is one of my absolute favorite games of all time. The free flying through space, the storyline, the super-detailed universe, I loved all of it. All I could wish for was that there was more. Once the storyline ended there wasn’t that much left to do, really, except for getting the best possible ships and visiting all the systems. I really, really hoped that No Man’s Sky would be the successor I was looking for. Sadly, it’s not. At least, not yet.
I’ve been playing NMS quite heavily since it came out. Maxed out the ship, maxed out the multitool upgrades, maxed out the exosuit. Exploring new planets is a pretty neat gimmick in the beginning, but it quickly turns into a resource-finding grind. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed spending a few real-life days on a beautiful planet full of different kinds of animals while focusing on getting better ships, mining and getting new technology. I genuinely felt sad about leaving it, knowing I’d be heading to the center of the universe and would never see that planet again.
..but that feeling quickly turns into utter numbness once you realize that every single fucking planet is the same. Sure, the color scheme changes and your near-to-death-ness slider depletes a bit quicker on some planets compared to others, but funcionally they’re the exact same. Animals are either ignorable or killable, buildings look the same everywhere and there’s only a very limited set of ‘gimmicks’ (crashed ships, learning words, discovering technology) to run through before you’re done. Mining resources could have been interesting, were it not that all the expensive resources cost roughly the same and all the cheap resources can be found everywhere, on every single planet, all the time, never more than a 2 minute walk away. It’s the same for all the fucking alien outposts on every single planet. NMS tries to establish a lore in the form of the sentinels, the ever-present space police, which supposedly protect the planets from change, colonization, etc. by the 3 major races. Yet somehow the 3 major races establish bases by the buttload, once again on every single planet, once again always within a 2 minute walk. That stuff needs some serious attention by the developers, cause it makes no sense, not from a realism point of view, not from a lore point of view and not from a common sense point of view.
During the game’s development we were promised a lot of things that did not make it into the final game, but that doesn’t matter that much to me as long as the game we end up with is fun to play, or at least has potential to be turned into something better by way of patches. I’m a bit dubious about NMS in this respect. The procedural universe is pretty awesome, but the devs seem to have spent a *lot* of time on just the procedural bits of it and completely forgot about the gameplay. NMS also seems to have been dumbed down severely (for PS4 users perhaps?). I absolutely hate the way the ships fly. You can’t crash into anything, you can’t fly at a specific altitude over a planet, it’s just a bloody elevator. Ground floor, sky floor, space floor. If you try to point your ship at something that might pose the slighttest risk of a crash, the game takes over for you and prevents it. So much for feeling free in your own ship. It doesn’t help either that all of the (beautiful procedurally-generated) ships handle exactly the same. Space pirate attacks are always exactly the same. Trading ships always warp in exactly the same and do exactly nothing (compare that to Freelancer where they were always moving from one place to the other and you could hail them and they’d tell you where they came from, what they were transporting and where they were going). So much of the game is just unfinished, unpolished or uninteresting. It frustrates me because it could have been so much more. Seriously, procedural generation is a great backdrop for a storyline, but the storyline is paper-thin. Where are the characters? Where are the factions? Freelancer was a million times better in that respect. But I bet it’s a lot easier to turn NMS into Freelancer than it is to turn Freelancer into NMS.
Three things can happen to No Man’s Sky in the future: 1. the devs are so stressed out from their (amazing!) effort to release a fantastically complex game that they call it quits and move on to the next adventure. I would absolutely not blame them for this. 2. The devs keep simplifying the game even more to appeal to the mass audience and keep adding features that no one wants. I’d say this is likely, but I would like to see 3. the devs, finally released from the stress of releasing a massively-hyped game, feel free again to focus on what they originally wanted the game to be. I bet this would require massive changes, and the longer they wait with this the more it will piss off the fanbase of the current game. But screw that. The game could be a lot better. I hope they take up the challenge.