No Man's Sky is an odd game. I have been thinking long and hard about this as I have debated the past few days over when to give my final review of the game, this isn't it but I have some thoughts.
The game is huge of course, seemingly endless in fact, yet the things you do largely remain the same. Last night I was struck by a question that I think speaks volumes about how you will react to No Man's Sky. Which is better, a massive never ending universe where you can do 5 different things or a single small area where you are allowed to engage in a plethora of different activities and feats. However you answer that question will determine how this game sticks with you, as for me I've been left pondering it for the better part of a day now.
There are times and moments that I truly love about No Man's Sky, quite a few actually. The game is unnerving, spooky, awe-inspiring, and remarkable in its scope, size, and dreams. I adore the fact that I can play through the game and find myself in the midst of a space thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat and that my friends can play it and experience a quiet, slow-paced animal discovery game, or a dogfighter in space. This ability to create your own story in the world makes No Man's Sky a modern day build your own adventure book and thats wonderful.
That said, the game has some rather glaring problems too. The more I play the more I am forced to conclude that I just wish No Man's Sky had a single focused story to tell me. The teases and tastes of narrative it has given me so far have piqued my interest but ultimately have just left me frustrated that there isn't anything more to it. Imagine a giant, story-filled infinite space adventure, it would be one of the grandest things games have ever achieved, its scope and ambition unrivaled. Instead, we basically get what Destiny did a few years ago, a barely functioning story, that at times captures our attention but never in a prolonged or lasting way. The minute a cutscene or story moment ends, it quickly fades away leaving behind no real impression.
Of course I could also mention the fact that the number of things you are doing is very limited and that the actual second to second gameplay is basically just covering large treks of area, just to experience and discover something cool for a few minutes. There is a lot of down time, a lot of slow paced walking or running around with nothing to really do for large chunks of the game. Right now, I'm ok with not really doing anything for 10 minutes to get 90 seconds of an awesome moment, but I don't know how long that will last before I just get bored with what I am doing. The balance in this game is very delicate and as I continue to play through it I might find myself increasingly on the side of being uninterested by walking across a giant, empty planet.
I don't really know what to say or think about this game, again this isn't my review on it, its more of just...... my thoughts as I debate what I think of No Man's Sky. Long, empty, tedious, exciting, beautiful, and mind-blowing, No Man's Sky seems to live in extremes, either wowing and stunning you with what it has to offer or slowly tiring you on its simple and sometimes shallow gameplay mechanics in order to get to those great moments. It is a game of endless ambition, scope, and drive, yet the day to day running of it, is largely a mundane job of collecting minerals and trading them like a space geologist mixed with a capitalist. It's not awful but its not the most fun thing either. Never ever bad yet also frequently not great, No Man's Sky seems to itself struggle with what it wants to be and what its aiming for, yet when this game is good it's something special and for right now, that's good enough for me.