What is No Man's Sky?
No Man's Sky is a space exploration game set in a gigantic, procedurally generated universe. In essence, what that means is, rather than creating each planet by hand, the game instead creates the entire universe automatically, through the magic of programming. With 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets to explore (no, really), it's up to you to hop into a space ship, and set off on a quest across the galaxy with just one goal - to get to the centre.
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How do you play No Man's Sky?
With little in the way of a story, No Man's Sky is a game all about survival, as the universe wages a war of attrition on your character. Every second you spend walking around a planet's surface, your life support energy (think of it as a shield) will slowly be depleting - and should it reach zero, you'll start losing health until you die. As such, you'll have to constantly be harvesting materials to make sure your life support (and all your other space age bits and bobs) are kept fully powered, in order to be able to continue your adventure.
Your Hazard Protection unit (which protects you against cold weather) needs Zinc or Titanium, your starship's launch thruster takes Plutonium, while your Life Support itself takes anything that's an isotope (the game tells you what you can use for each), and so most of your time will be spent harvesting the various plants and rocks you find, to keep your systems topped up. Exploring will unlock new equipment, which in turn will let you visit more distant planets, until eventually, you make your way to the centre of the galaxy.
How easy is No Man's Sky to pick up and play?
Starting out with very limited inventory space, not much in the way of health, and with little leeway for making mistakes, No Man's Sky is a game for those looking for a real challenge.
Many, if not all planets in the game have a population of defensive drones that scan the planet's surface - should you ever harvest anything in front of them, they'll start shooting at you, and are pretty tricky to shake off. That means the game requires a lot of situational awareness and dual analogue control prowess. If you ever die in the game, whether by falling victim to the game's defensive drones, or simply misjudging a jump, you'll lose all the items you had on your person, unless you can get back to your dead body and retrieve them.
The sheer fact you have so many things to juggle means there's a lot of mental plates to have to keep spinning, and makes No Man's Sky a real challenge to keep up with. You'll have to make sure you have items on hand to keep your gun full of ammo, your life support full of energy, and your ship with enough fuel to get you out of any situation at all times, meaning you'll sometimes find it tricky making enough room in your inventory to gather the parts you really need in order to get crafting, and move on in the game.
As a great example of how complex you can get, if you get set upon by pirates in space, and your shields get knocked out, you'll need to recharge them manually. Unfortunately, the game doesn't pause while you do this, so you'll need to open your inventory, and then adding the right element to your shields - all while the game carries on in the background, and you carry on taking damage.
It's also important to note that the game only very occasionally auto saves. It'll automatically create a save when you leave your ship, but if you're exploring on foot, you'll need to seek out a save point, and save your game manually. As the game doesn't have a map, and there's nothing on screen to tell you where the nearest checkpoints are, that can be tricky to do.
While there isn't much in the way of a story in the game, there are plenty of sections where you'll have to read a fairly long piece of text, and then choose an option - none of these sections are voiced, so a strong reading ability is a must (although we wouldn't recommend this for the youngest of players either way).
Sample sentences include:
- "The electronic entitiy rapidly bombards me with words from what sounds like dozens of different languages, lapsing into silence when it realises I recognise none of them. The pattern of lights on its visor briefly resemble an eye-roll, then it passes me another message from Nada and Polo - and a vial of antimatter. I can use this to fabricate a warp Cell. I try to convey thanks, but the being is disinterested in me, its task completed"
With nothing in the way of bad language, sex or violence in No Man's Sky, there's little for parents to worry about. While you can blast enemy spaceships with lasers, there's no gore involved. Some planets are inhabited by a range of creatures, and while there's usually no real need to (most of the animals you'll find won't attack), there's no blood or gore involved here.
Perhaps the only way anything "mature" may make its way into No Man's Sky is through the game's naming system. When you discover a planet or a creature, you can choose to give it a name, and upload it to the server, which other people who land on that planet will be able to see. While there's a stringent name filter in place to filter out any naughty words (trust us - we've experimented), there's still a chance someone will try a more elaborate way of spelling a word to try and bypass it.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4