No Mans Sky — the game that sold a PlayStation 4.
Many will think it foolhardy to purchase a console off the back of a single game but it sometimes takes that one game to turn a nice to have into a must-have. No Man’s Sky was for me, PlayStation 4’s scale tipper.
Ever since watching the E3 reveal of No Man’s Sky, I knew that I needed to play it. The potential of near-limitless space exploration wrapped in a retro-futuristic aesthetic was eerily my jam. So much so that I was momentarily concerned that Sean Murray and the team had done some Black Mirror shit on me, extracting my brain juice to create my perfect game. It wasn’t long before I snapped back to reality and cast this egocentric thought aside but I was well and truly here for No Man’s Sky.
When No Man’s Sky finally released it was met with varied response. I’ve always been an apologist for the game but its release was, quite rightly, disappointing for some. The promise of this explorable universe filled with exotic flora and fauna wasn’t quite as originally advertised. The game felt empty. And not from the sense of being a small entity in a greater world. There just wasn’t much to do. The exotic worlds shown at E3 were seen far and few between and discovered species were more like the monstrosities found in EAs Spore opposed to the Brachiosaurus type beasts seen during the presentation. Everything felt comparatively low-budget to what we’d been shown.
Irrespective of this, No Man’s Sky still had something when it released. The universe, whilst less diverse, did exist and the promise of travelling from planet-side to space was there. It’s just the bits in-between that were lacking. Regardless of these downfalls, I found myself hooked. The game’s serenity was refreshing and I’d often spend hours just exploring these often barren wastelands, documenting what I’d found on my way. It was a nice change of pace to usual blockbuster Bay-type games that I’ve always been attracted to. But No Man’s Sky’s crowning jewel was its exploration. I’d never before experienced something quite like that of leaving a planet in my spaceship and taking to the stars in one seamless motion. It was mind-blowing. All said and done, games are a means for distraction and what better way to momentarily forget about the real-world by being absorbed in a quite literal virtual one.
But my camp of positivity had a much lower population than that of the negative neighbour’s. Gamers aren’t the most understanding of people and naturally took to dog-piling the No Man’s Sky development team and specifically the face of the company — Sean Murray. Accusations of lying and miss-selling were amongst the common complaints. I’ve always been of the impression that Sean simply Molyneuxed No Man’s Sky. His passion for the project led to its overselling but this was never done with malicious intent. I believe that what was discussed during interviews was intended to be in the final game but time simply got the better of the team. What followed after No Man’s Sky’s release is evidence for this.
Hello Games went quiet following the release and some read that as them washing their hands of their game but this couldn’t be further from the truth. They could have quite easily picked up their tools and call it a loss with No Man’s Sky but they instead carried on crafting the game they’d always wanted to release.
After Hello Games short silence came an influx of updates for No Man’s Sky, laying way to the best post-content support I’ve ever seen for a game. Each update brought with it a new set of features, which in turn brought the game every bit closer to the one we saw at E3. Base-building, planet vehicles, multiplayer, visual overhauls, new biomes and better flora and fauna variants. Each update was crafting something special but it wasn’t until No Mans’s Sky Next that everything fell into place. Next introduced the long-awaited multiplayer in a more traditional sense with the inclusion of community missions and driven events. Third-person mode was also added allowing us to finally see who we were playing as. And most importantly, actual gameplay was implemented alongside the exploration in the form of missions.
But Hello Games didn’t stop there, they kept moving forward leading us to the eventual release of Beyond — an update that was a sequel in all but name. Beyond is No Man’s Sky. It’s the game that people wanted to play when it first released and it’s the result of three years of continued effort from the team. The comparison between No Man’s Sky v1 and Beyond is night and day but the way it improves on every aspect of the experience whilst retaining what makes it special is a credit to the development team.
No Man’s Sky is evidence that developers do care about their games. It’s often a hot topic of discussion that studios are only in it for the money, pushing out incomplete games and then selling extra content on top. Of course, people need money to live such is the way we’ve built society but this, I feel, is often a misguided view. Hello Games could’ve called it quits after the fallout of No Man’s Sky’s release but they didn’t. They instead hunkered down and put in the hours to turn it into the game they set out to create in the first place. I’m very much against creatives changing their vision because of an outspoken clique but this was different. They wanted to create their game properly and they did it all for free.
No Man’s Sky was always an incredible game to me but the version before us has excelled in every way possible. Yet, somewhat ironically, I now play it less. Lack of time is an unfortunate byproduct of being an adult, least not when you’re the father of a child, but I still see try to sneak in the odd hour or two of No Man’s Sky as and when I can. And every time I return to it I get that same tingly feeling that I did when setting off into the night’s sky that very first time. It’s a game that I’ll undoubtedly return to on the regular just to soak in that feeling. It’s my new happy place. And it’s why I consider it to be a timeless classic.