Let me start off by saying, that I will probably buy a copy of No Man’s Sky for the PlayStation 4. I typically buy all of the console exclusives, if for no other reason than a reference point. I don’t however, have very high expectations for the game. It’s not just because of the recent controversy. It’s because I never really expected very much from a procedurally generated space exploration game. As a matter of fact, I’m really kind of surprised that anyone bought into all of the hype about Hello Games’ first person, open-world survival game, in the first place.
Sure, the technology behind No Man’s Sky’s creation is pretty cool, but new algorithms don’t make for compelling gameplay. My most readily available reference for a procedurally generated game is another PS4 console exclusive, Daylight. As big of a fan of horror as I am, it was pretty much off my radar, and I really only ended up playing it because it was PS Plus freebie. That being said, it was an interesting game, but by no means was it a game that I would pay the full AAA price for. Luckily, the game’s current price is about a quarter of what Hello Games is asking for No Man’s Sky.
I know that scale is a huge factor in what sets No Man’s Sky apart. While the afore mentioned Daylight can be completed in a day, even according to the rumors online, No Man’s Sky is at least 30-40 hours of gameplay. Hours of gameplay aren’t, however, a measure of compelling gameplay. Take a look at Fallout 4, with all of its add-ons. There are easily hundreds of hours of gameplay, but with all of that time, the game easily outstrips it’s narrative, reducing it to essentially an alright looking, post-apocalyptic sandbox.
That brings me to my main point. No Man’s Sky might offer nearly endless numbers of randomized planets to explore, but why should I? There is supposed to be some over-arching narrative, a mystery to solve, but I guarantee that there’s nowhere near as much story content as there is in Fallout 4. A bigger sandbox with even less narrative, and probably less much interactivity, doesn’t sound terribly compelling. To tell the truth, it sounds pretty boring.
Pretty and boring is what I expect from No Man’s Sky, and I’m not entirely sold on the pretty either. The art style is decidedly simplistic and sparse, and from what I’ve seen there isn’t much rhyme or reason as to which creatures end up on what planets. While I’m happy that structures will have interiors, they also all look pretty stark too. Art direction does count for a lot though, and the aesthetic does work to incorporate the low polygon models and much of the emptiness of space.
Even though I haven’t played the game yet, I applaud what Hello Games has done. I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made that No Man’s Sky will be a great game, but I can see how what they’ve done can be incorporated into other games, in the future. Again, I don’t think procedural generation is appropriate as a cornerstone of a game. I do however see its usefulness under the umbrella of a more coherent narrative, in much the same way random dungeons have been used in RPGs for years.
Of course, all gamers aren’t just like me. I play a lot of different video games, and don’t typically have more than a week or so to spend on any particular title. In that way, this game was probably never intended for me, anyway, and that’s why I was never all that excited about it.
What about you? What do you hope to get out of No Man’s Sky?
The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting us on Patreon!