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No Man's Sky PlayStation 4 Review: Over the Rainbow [Update: Final Thoughts and Score]

Kat shares her thoughts on the first several hours of No Man's Sky.

Review by Kat Bailey, .

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I began to see No Man's Sky appeal when I made my first proper creature discovery - a hawk-headed quadruped that I christened a "Parish." All the sudden No Man's Sky's universe seemed infinitely more vibrant and alive as I gazed upon the flora and fauna around me and realized just how much there was to find.

That may ultimately be what keeps me in No Man's Sky's much-hyped sandbox, which purportedly features some 18 quintillion planets to explore. I'm not normally one for aimless exploration and resource collection - I soured on Elite Dangerous quite quickly - but I've hardly been lacking for things to do as I bounce from planet to planet in Hello Game's galaxy. If I'm not cataloguing strange creatures or collecting resources to sell on the galactic exchange, I'm battling space pirates or (apparently) getting myself randomly betrothed to a distant alien bride (yes, this happened to me on today's stream).

It helps that this exploration takes place within a relatively solid and directed framework. At least so far I've had a fairly constant string of objectives to accomplish, beginning with repairing my ship and building a hyperdrive, then continuing on to investigating strange monoliths that pop up on various planets. The ultimate goal is to make it all the way to the distant galactic core, making No Man's Sky a kind of solo roadtrip movie in space.

Mostly, though, you're hunting for rocks. Pretty as some of No Man's Sky's planets can be, the real impetus for landing on a planet is to collect the minerals you need to keep your ship fueled up and ready to go. A single hyperspace jump requires a Warp Cell, which means crafting antimatter, which in turn requires a fair number of fairly expensive materials. Hence, when you're planetside, most of your time is spent either burning a variety of multi-colored rocks down to their component parts, or scavenging abandoned campsites and debris. Then it's on to the next planet to do pretty much the same thing.

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Though not exactly empty, other beings are few and far between in No Man's Sky. A space station will frequently have just one alien manning the controls, with some planets seemingly devoid of any lifeforms at all. You will see starships zip through the air above you, but bustling cities are non-existent. The loneliness accompanying this sense of isolation is bolstered by the mellow soundtrack and the meandering pace as you wander about collecting resources.

As you might expect, action is sparse. In the day or so that I've spent with No Man's Sky, I've had exactly two combat encounters. One was against a handful of floating sentinel robots, and the other was a dogfight with some raiders. Of the two, the space battle was quite a bit more fun. The nearby planets serve to anchor the action and make the combat feel like less of a turning battle in the middle of nowhere, and the enemy fighters are quick to come in with guns blazing. By comparison, the ground combat feels stiff and unimpressive - an inevitable compromise given No Man's Sky's scope and ambition.

It suffers a bit in other ways as well. Pop-up, for example, is noticeable to the point of being distracting when exploring some planets. Inventory management isn't great, either. It was barely an hour before I started having to actively shuffle resources between the slots on my exosuit and my ship, which are also partly taken up by equipment like the ship's hyperdrive. It's a pain, and the reasoning behind its design isn't clear outside of an apparent desire to add to its sense of realism.

Meanwhile, the lack of emphasis on combat has led some to ask what exactly you're supposed to be doing in No Man's Sky outside of collecting resources. The answer, I suppose, is to find out what is at the end of the proverbial rainbow. That might not be enough for some, but the sense of mystery surrounding the force called "Atlas" and the desire to see what awaits me in the galactic core has been enough to keep me going.

With that, I've managed to avoid being bored by No Man's Sky despite the somewhat pervasive sense of repetition baked into the game's design. It's driven by a propulsive desire to see what's just over the horizon, instinctively pushing you to look to nearby planets and wonder what exactly you might find. Gold? Plutonium? A wild Parish? I have no idea what I'll find as I ply the stars and make my way toward the fabled core, but I'm keen to find out.

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Comments 35

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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #1 chaoticBeat 2 years ago
    Is it fun to play?
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  • Avatar for jamesmccombs #2 jamesmccombs 2 years ago
    It's so funny seeing people complain about inventoty management in games like this. Especially when it's very simple and doesn't require a item shifting for better space.
    Also it's the Atlas*.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #3 Kat.Bailey 2 years ago
    @chaoticBeat It's... interesting to play.
    @jamesmccombs It's tedious given that the game is built around resource gathering and crafting. I'm not going to give it a pass.
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  • Avatar for blerk2000 #4 blerk2000 2 years ago
    Is it the patched version?
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    When you get time, can you talk about the handling of the spacecraft - and more abstractly, about the feeling of flying and leaving orbit? :)
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  • Avatar for manny_c44 #6 manny_c44 2 years ago
    @blerk2000 pretty sure all versions were patched as of yesterday morning
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  • Avatar for jamesmccombs #7 jamesmccombs 2 years ago
    @Kat.Bailey It would be much better if you had infinite ammo and fuel obviously. /s
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #8 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @blerk2000 Yes, Sony wouldn't let reviewers touch the game until it was patched... which is why this is a review-in-progress rather than a completed review. Kat hasn't had much time with the game.
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #9 Mooglepies 2 years ago
    For all the hype this game has got, all the previews and trailers and whatever else, I still have no idea if this is a game I would enjoy playing.

    I'm going to err on the side of caution (I don't really like space games or survival games anyway) and wait for the slew of reviews, but something tells me that it cannot possibly live up to all the hype its managed to accrue over the last few years.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #10 Kat.Bailey 2 years ago
    @jamesmccombs Er, I don't think I was arguing that
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  • Avatar for Jac #11 Jac 2 years ago
    Having a twitch stream half way through an article on auto play is really annoying.

    I just wanted to read your impressions not hear/watch someone playing the game and have to scroll down to find the stop button.
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  • Avatar for airbagfin51 #12 airbagfin51 2 years ago
    @VotesForCows I'll speak a little to it. Note that I've only been to space and back to a planet once, so I have less experience during space flight.

    Anyway: On a fundamental level, spacecraft handling is K.I.S.S. It's not a flight simulator in any way, and possibly less complex than some of the more arcadey experiences out there.

    On the planet level, you have what are essentially an accelerator (thruster) and a brake. You also have left/right roll controls. You can invert the pitch controls if you prefer (why wouldn't you?). All of these handle very comfortably and easily. The possibility of crashing your ship is pretty low (in fact, I don't even know if you can). The simplicity of the control, I felt, lent to an enjoyable feeling while coasting across the planet, searching for the various gameplay items. Landing back on the planet surface is basically done by pressing the square button (i.e. the 'get out of your ship' button), which initiates an automated landing sequence.

    Getting into space is also very easy. Basically you nose-up, and fly out of the planet! There's a little controller/ship shudder as you do, the music swells up, and gradually, the objects involved in space flight come into view. Asteroids start flying at (or past) you. Space stations and other constructs come into view. The controls at this point are essentially the same as over-planet, except that now you can also use 'pulse-drive', which is basically a significantly accelerated flight mode to get you across points in the galaxy (otherwise, as your HUD will tell you, it could take hours to get from say, a planet to the nearest space station ).

    Docking with space stations is simple, but feels cool: basically you have align yourself with the small 'hole' (docking bay) in the space station. Anyone who's played flight/space sims won't have a problem.

    Entering a planet from space is probably my favorite part so far. You get the shudders and visual effects of atmospheric re-entry.

    I haven't tried warp/hyperdrive travel yet, so I can't speak to that. Anyway, hope this gave you a better idea of the flight experience.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #13 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    @airbagfin51 Hey, thanks so much! Great description there. Sounds like a lot of fun!
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  • Avatar for docexe #14 docexe 2 years ago
    It’s frankly impossible that this game will live up to the hype it has generated since its unveiling. Still, I’m really looking forward to it.

    I have to admit I was expecting something a bit more centered on exploration than on resource gathering and management, but ultimately I still find compelling what I have seen of the game so far. So I will follow reviews and commentary closely.
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #15 StrwbrryJams 2 years ago
    The gameplay seems to be very divisive, which is fine (it's not my cup of tea, but seems fine). I am far more interested in the aesthetics of the game, which are gorgeous. Some of the graphics look a bit underwhelming, but the general atmosphere and colorscheme are excellently executed.
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  • Avatar for swamped #16 swamped 2 years ago
    There are some aspects of this game that really appeal to me. It seems relaxing in the repetative way something like Harvest Moon can be. I'm looking forward to picking it up when price goes down because as it currently stands, I don't see anything much justifying the new game cost. The idea that the game universe will never be fully explored doesn't exactly put me in a rush to go buy it.

    Also the hyperbole surrounding this game has been obnoxious. Nothing here seems all that revolutionary, not that it has to be to be a good time. Looking forward to the rest of the review.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #17 pdubb 2 years ago
    Kinda sad to hear you are a little bored with it. I was hoping that there would be a mix of procedurally generated so that you had some pre-made packages or concepts that created real wonder.

    Like in Mass Effect I LOVED planet exploration. I don't rememeber the names of the planets but I will never forget how in awe I was the first time I saw some of those planets.

    From your review Kat, it sadly sounds like every planet is firmly in the not quite interesting/not memorable territory which makes me kinda sad.
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  • Avatar for nathanhill99 #18 nathanhill99 2 years ago
    Speaking only for myself, I love it. I love the solitude, the item management, etc. I let out a yelp when I found a distress beacon which allowed me to obtain a new ship. Coming out of hyperspace to arrive in a system full of massive freighters, discovering that you can blast a hole in gigantic asteroids and fly through the center. I've put probably 10 or more hours so far.

    That being said, I can understand why some people may not care for it. No judgements. It's not for everyone. But for me, gimme my headphones and let me just play for a couple hours and I'll be a happy camper.Edited August 2016 by nathanhill99
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  • Avatar for ChairmanYang #19 ChairmanYang 2 years ago
    I'm so over games being big. Giant open worlds were impressive early on; now, I only care about the quality of the content.

    All that said, I'm always happy to see the rare game that has both quality and quantity of content. Baldur's Gate 2 is the classic example; but the Witcher 3 is a modern and even better example.
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  • Avatar for docexe #20 docexe 2 years ago
    I posted this on another article on this site, but I think is relevant here as well:

    Based on the reviews in progress, impressions and comments that I have seen in this and other sites, it seems to me that how much you enjoy No Man's Sky will depend on two factors:

    1) How much you enjoy Sandbox/Open World games centered around gathering resources and crafting things (think Minecraft or Terraria).

    2) How lucky you are when it comes to the Random Number God that governs the game’s universe.

    I have read tales similar to what Kat describes: people traveling through many boring, samey and unremarkable rocks while having few and far between contact with other sentient beings (which to be fair, sounds like the most realistic example of how interstellar travel would actually work IRL, at least based on my amateurish and outdated knowledge of astronomy).

    I have also read about people getting lucky and managing to get a better ship and equipment in the early hours of the game, as well as finding some truly interesting planets to explore.

    However, the general consensus seems to be that the early hours of the game are a drag (which then again, actually describe a lot of Sandbox and procedurally generated games, at least in my experience).

    In any case, while all of this have made me adjust my expectations, I’m still fairly interested in the game. I will definitely play it once I get the chance.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #21 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    @docexe I'm predisposed to the types of games you mention. The problem that I find as I'm playing No Man's Sky is that I feel like I'm fighting the game to move forward. It's about exploration, but the small inventory means you're closely tethered to your ship. That inventory is made even smaller by the fact that ship/exo-suit upgrades take up inventory space. I've nearly upgraded my Exo-suit to maximum size and gotten a second ship, but it doesn't feel like enough.

    There's also a sense of scale and visual impact from landing on planets in the beginning, but there's no visual record of your journey. There's no galaxy map showing your path and no planetary map whatsoever. Once I was cave diving. Enjoying myself. But I hit the inventory limit, so I had to leave, get in my ship, fly to a starbase, divest myself of acquired goods, and then fly back to the planet. The problem? Without a map of some sort, I have no clue where on the planet I was.

    I like No Man's Sky, but I'm constantly running into issues like that. And my major problem is, outside of the visual presentation, there's already a game out there that does everything NMS does, but better. Starbound covers the same territory with more robust mechanics. Exploration gives you more options for breaking the tether to your "base camp", crafting is deeper, there's more ways for the player to express themselves, and the galaxy feels like it's teeming with life. (Incidentally, it's cheaper.) That's the benefit to Early Access, Starbound has had years to work out the issues with exploration and inventory. It's not perfect still, but it's a way beyond No Man's Sky.

    I honestly think Hello Games will improved on NMS in the future and I look forward to that game, but I find myself wanting to jump back to Starbound a great deal.
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  • Avatar for docexe #22 docexe 2 years ago
    @MHWilliams Well, I’m probably not playing it in another year or so, so I presume my experience will be better.

    What you point about the case of Starbound and Early Access is interesting though, as I don’t remember NMS having an open beta or anything similar at all. Makes me wonder if Hello Games would have been better served by having one, even if that meant sacrificing some of the “mystery” behind the game.
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  • Avatar for beaphar #23 beaphar 2 years ago
    I'm a few hours in, and still enjoying the game. While not as varied as I hoped, I still think the planets are awe-inspiring. The sheer size of each one is amazing. I like to fly above the surface a few minutes before landing, and the landscapes just stretch out forever. I do hope the planets become crazier towards the centre of the universe, but so far I'm not bored.

    But yeah, that tiny inventory is killing me. I can't believe Hello Games thought this would be okay. Mine was already full on the first planet, and now I have to constantly move crap between my exosuit and my ship. Sometimes when I'm out exploring, I just throw away resources. It sucks, but it still beats walking all the way back to the ship and flying to a tradepost.

    Really hope this gets adressed in a patch ASAP. A little strategic inventory managment can be interesting, but this is ridiculous. It needs to be tripled or quadrupled - at least! - and upgrades to your mining tool should not take up inventory space.

    Also, it sometimes feels like the PS4 is not quite able to handle the game. I knew there was to going to be texture pop-in, but I did not expect entire continents to shapeshift as I approach a new planet. I always aim for land, but mid-descent land sometimes changes to water and vice versa. I'm curious to see how much smoother the game runs on pc.Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2016 by beaphar
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  • Avatar for josephflemming63 #24 josephflemming63 2 years ago
    Disappointed that no one has mentioned the strange ongoing history visions you can get from the monoliths, or the strange side story about the bio-organic organisms infecting the abandoned outpost...
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #25 Roto13 2 years ago
    Has anyone ever sincerely thought "Oh, cool, my inventory is full again, can't wait to open up some menu and sift through it to discard things I'm going to wish I had later"?
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  • Avatar for Tebunker #26 Tebunker 2 years ago
    @Roto13 I always scratch my head with games like this. This is the far future, we can travel amazing distances, we have hyper light warp drives, why they hell is inventory space still an issue? Why don't we have holographic storage or the ability to create something on the fly from a file image...

    This game isn't the only one, just see Destiny too. These game conventions are so contrived and actually limit the fun you can have. Especially in a setting like this. Hell even in fantasy games it is silly, eventually they should give you a pack mule or an unending bag, because the job of managing inventories is not fun.
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  • Avatar for nickn #27 nickn 2 years ago
    4 hours in: This game is incredible.
    8 hours in: I'm done playing this game.
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  • Avatar for weschung80 #28 weschung80 2 years ago
    A very fair assessment, quite in line with the majority of published reactions. I disagree that text is an unimaginative format for the alien interactions -- some of them are really well written and I think the act of reading what would be very graphic scenes juxtaposes well with the surreal, saturated visuals of the environment. I suspect that for most gamers, the survival elements are half-baked, the combat system inadequate. But for, say, someone whose favourite part of Skyrim was picking flowers, obsessively exploring and combining recipes (in this case, the girlfriend), No Man's Sky distils all those elements into an aesthetically pleasing, absorbing package.

    It's interesting to note that I started on Paradise, zero threats and plenty of everything, and she was on Planet Hell, toxic rain and very little life. This division immediately coloured how we approached the game and even now we're in very different places. I'm eager for challenging,rewarding planets and she's just happy to find a cactus.

    Neither of us are rushing any of the three paths.

    Like most still playing, I'm going to believe this is the start of NMS, not the end. Future content updates could change things dramatically but likely not change anyone's mind.

    That silly multiplayer debacle and some misleading trailer content aside, I feel we've gotten pretty much what was on the radar for the past few years.

    Oh, PS. It reminds me a lot of one of my favourite android games, Out There. So maybe I'm biased, given it does everything in that game but much better.Edited August 2016 by weschung80
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  • Avatar for weschung80 #29 weschung80 2 years ago
  • Avatar for jihon83 #30 jihon83 2 years ago
    Hmm, as much shade as you were throwing at it, Kat, I was worried the score would be lower. I hope you will talk about it on the next podcast, though. All of these opinions taken into account, I am still going to buy the game when I have a PS4. When the fad passes abd 5% of the stuff has names, I want to just explore and see the awful nanes people give purple stegatops. And given the aupport Hello Games has given its other IP, I hope they keep working at the game so it is a different and better game alongside the journey, when it comes time for me to play.
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  • Avatar for robertchiang #31 robertchiang 2 years ago
    Funny how the game ends exactly the same as Witness: back to square one...
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  • Avatar for garion333 #32 garion333 2 years ago
    Wow, generous score based on the review. Fantastic review though. Loved reading each bit.Edited August 2016 by garion333
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  • Avatar for secularsage #33 secularsage 2 years ago
    Kat - I'd love to see a comparison of this game to the most recent incarnation of Elite since you've spent so much time with that game and are a vocal fan of it.

    In my mind, they're part of the same genre of space exploration games (with many of the same strengths and failings), but for some reason, Elite seems to be considered the superior game. Is it just because Elite's action is so much more satisfying, or is it because it wasn't burdened with so much expectation?
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #34 Kat.Bailey 2 years ago
    @secularsage I think they're apples and oranges, to be honest. Elite is a really deep space combat and trading game with some exploration. No Man's Sky is this experiential zen game where acquiring resources and money are only a means to an end. Very different experiences.
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  • Avatar for Zenbojay #35 Zenbojay 2 years ago
    I really enjoyed the game at first, I spent hours eagerly searching for new discoveries to add to my log and resources to upgrade my ship and gear....
    Then I stopped for a moment and realized that it felt more like work and less like recreation.

    It's a great game, just not for me.
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