It’s been a week, give or take a few hours. And it feels like a long one, at that. No Man’s Sky has released for PC and internationally as of August 12, last Friday, and it’s been a ride. Now, I’m not here to talk about everything that Hello Games had promised that didn’t make it into the final game. It’s been well documented at this point. I am here to speak about my experience with this game in its first week. This isn’t a review, just my early impressions of the game at around 9 hours in.
Let me start off by saying that I’ve had minimal framerate issues running No Man’s Sky. I’ve been very lucky, it seems, in this respect. I keep my drivers up to date and my PC is capable of doing a lot of hefty processing. For posterity’s sake, here are my computer’s specs:
|Processor||Intel 4790k @ 4.0GHz|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce 770 SuperClocked|
|Motherboard||Asus Maximus VII Hero|
|RAM||16GB Crucial Ballistix|
|Cooling||Corsair H75, 2x AF140, AF120|
|Power Supply||Corsair RM750|
So, all in all: not bad. I built it almost two years ago and it hasn’t given me problems. It’s capable of running all games that have come out since 2014 on high or ultra. Maybe I’m showboating a bit here. But still.
No Man’s Sky shouldn’t be a taxing game for my build, yet I’m finding that even after a couple of hours, the FPS drops significantly. It feels like it’s below ten frames per second, and nothing is responsive. Granted, PC games are innately a bit more weird to optimize due to the variations in processors, graphics cards, and overall setups. I get that. Every machine is unique.
Like I’ve stated above, No Man’s Sky runs fine on my computer. This was true of the build on Steam as of August 12, 2016. As Hello Games started releasing patches via an experimental/beta channel through Steam, which they claim have improved performance issues at least a little, I haven’t seen that on my rig. If anything, framerate issues are more apparent on the most recent patches through the experimental channel. Sure, I can Alt-Tab out now, but quite honestly, the game runs like I do: painfully, and with a lot of pause.
That isn’t to say that it’s unplayable for me. I can still do a lot in that two hour time frame, most of which is repetitive trading and mining, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.
Performance-wise, Hello Games has a bit to work on, and at this point I don’t see a problem in them getting there, considering how quickly their small team has been working to fix performance issues. I’ll get to my opinions on that later, as well.
Look and Feel
No Man’s Sky looks like an exquisite sunset dipped in 55 Instagram filters. The scenery, when you land on a particularly lush planet, is sometimes very interesting. You run into a few gems like that in the game, and it’s pretty nice. What’s not so nice is that in its current state it looks like the helmet your character (presumably) wears only allows you to look at planets through a CRT TV that’s on its last legs.
This almost feels like one of the most disappointing things at this point. The UI is slow and a bit too clunky for my taste, and I don’t know why we can’t manage all our inventories on the same page, but that’s me. I was looking forward to a colorful, visually stimulating look to the game but I’m not picking that up at all.
Actually Playing the Game
For the first little while, No Man’s Sky was pretty interesting. I learned a few alien words, stumbled upon an alien monument, realized I didn’t have a single solitary clue as to what it wanted me to do, and slightly pissed off an entire alien species. So that was an experience.
Otherwise, No Man’s Sky hasn’t offered me much yet, aside from a well-simulated shopping experience. I can’t sell what I have because I need it, and I can’t buy upgrades to my ship because I have no money. Good job there. Trading is bare-bones at best and while I think the galactic stock market is a cool concept, it feels like it has no real place.
Speaking of things that have no place in this game, combat. This stems from many things, the first of which being that controlling your ship in space is nigh impossible because first of all, the controls feel like you may as well be swimming through hardening cement. Second of all, the autopilot on the ships is like being choked into taking one path. Don’t even get me started on ground combat when sentinels attack.
I understand that in the realm of space, not everything is going to be peaceful. But if you’re going to at least put work into making this intensely massive universe, for the love of Jesus and his brother Jeepers, please let me enjoy it peacefully. Even if it’s optional. I don’t want to fight a floating robot for the only reliable source of income I’ve found because it’s such a rare resource.
Enjoying the Game
There are so many other things I could detail about No Man’s Sky that I dislike, and that I, personally, think are flat, boring mechanics. I’ll spare you the details, though, and save it for a podcast in the future.
I think the biggest question at this point is “Deanna, do you actually enjoy No Man’s Sky?”
Before you start, let me say that I had zero expectations for No Man’s Sky for the last six months. I cut myself off from every interview, piece of news, and marketing fiasco that Sean Murray promised his expectant audience. Simply taking it at face value, it’s something to zen out with. Maybe you’ll find a cool-looking dinosaur. Maybe you’ll abscond with some seriously precious minerals within an inch of your life. That’s a bit of what makes it interesting for a little bit longer than most games I’ve encountered, and while I think No Man’s Sky is incredibly lacking in its current state, I have an inch of faith in Hello Games that they can turn it into a better user experience.
It’s pretty apparent at this point, but it just seems like Hello Games, their funding, and other people who had control of budgeting didn’t agree somewhere. It feels like Hello Games was forced to push a product they didn’t feel ready to push because someone wanted sales numbers, and not just preorder numbers.
I also feel as though the incredible amount of hype that No Man’s Sky generated was too much. There’s some fault with Hello Games here, you don’t just say that you can make 18 quintillion planets in one universe and expect people to look away. Especially if those people belong to media outlets.
Regardless, I think I’m gonna be dabbling in No Man’s Sky for a while. After all, I’ve sunk over 600 hours into Warframe, so I think I can deal with the repetitive grind and tiny inventory space, and even with broken game mechanics for a while.
A week out from its international launch, No Man’s Sky has stayed pretty stagnant, and hasn’t had much to offer in the meantime. Though expectant fans haven’t received so much as an apology from Hello Games about the state of the game currently, nor much communication about what they’re fixing and working on, I’ve still got some faith.
All images used are my own in-game screenshots.