After almost three years of hype and monolithic levels of expectation, millions of players around the world are now exploring uncharted regions of space in No Man's Sky on PS4 and PC. With 18 quintillion planets to discover, alien races to befriend and endless resources to manage, the small team at indie studio Hello Games has completed the first stretch of its intergalactic mission.
The reaction following the game's release has been mixed, with some disappointed with its slow-burn nature and others lapping up every second of the Guildford developer's grandiose crafting survival adventure.
The team at IBTimes UK is firmly in the latter camp – which should be clear from our review.
We also are looking forward to seeing how the game's director Sean Murray will lead his team deeper into No Man's Sky's ineffably large universe, with free updates reportedly in the works to add more content – along with bug fixes for both the console and PC versions of the game.
With this in mind, we collected our thoughts to come up with things we would like to see added in future updates, trying as hard as possible to make reasonable, workable suggestions – a tough task for a game that offers so much scope thanks to its impressively deep central algorithm that promises the Earth and beyond.
After the first few hours spent in No Man's Sky's gorgeously hued world(s), the sense of wonder often takes over the rational part of your brain like the spectacle sci-fi films of yore. This feeling also extends to your first encounter with an extra-terrestrial.
Whether your inaugural meeting with an alien species happens to be with the Gek, Korvax or Vy'Keen race, it is tricky to rein in dreams of Star Trek-esque adventures with undiscovered sentient lifeforms in each new galaxy.
While the three races that are present throughout No Man's Sky (if you don't count the all-seeing Atlas) have unique traits, desires and motives, there is surely scope for more.
Taking the Star Trek comparison and running with it; we've seen No Man's Sky's Ferengis in the Gek and its Klingons in the Vy'Keen, where are the deceptive Cardassians? The logical Vulcans? The menacing Borg? While we would hope that Hello Games can think outside of established tropes, the introduction of further races would further distinguish each new uncharted corner of space from the next.
Photo Mode and a less obnoxious HUD
A feature suggestion is such a no-brainer we still cannot believe it was not included from the start. The Share button (or screenshots in the PC version) are lovely and all, but I want to remove the HUD completely to get the perfect shot.
Speaking of the HUD, those incessant "refill your X part with Z element" pop-ups need to go.
Make it so, Hello Games.
No Man's Sky has been compared to Minecraft a lot since its eventual launch – both in relation to its breakout success from indie status into the AAA sphere, but also on a mechanical level.
The game's focus on mining, crafting and surviving could uncharitably be called a palette swap of the Microsoft-owned PC and console mega-hit, although one key aspect of Minecraft's long-term appeal is notably missing – building your home.
There are already plenty of outpost and building assets, all filtered through an aesthetic inspired by cover art from classic sci-fi novels by the likes of Clarke and Asimov, so why can't I build myself a moon base? The thought is even more painful when you find a verdant planet full of stunning vistas, bizarre wildlife yet to be documented and element pools by the dozen.
The game's structure does present a slight issue with this one, as its design seems to take glee in how hard it is to revisit galaxies (let alone specific planets) you have already experienced. It could also be seen as taking away from the focus on exploration and discovery, but surely we can't be expected to sleep in our ships? Most of them are tiny!
Nevertheless, it could work. In gameplay and space-logic terms, the issue of "how would you get back" could be skirted with fixed wormholes, possibly related somehow to Nada and Polo's mysterious dalliances inside those black hole-summoning Space Anomalies.
While part of the fun in No Man's Sky boils down to earning the rights to build a sought-after upgrade through time and effort, sometimes finding those last few nuggets of Iridium can be a bit of a chore.
Some players might have missed it, but hidden away in the inventory screens lies a tagging option that brings up one of those irritating pop-ups we mentioned earlier. Unfortunately it only tells you what you already know to some extent. Perhaps a scanner upgrade that identifies tagged elements in the nearby vicinity would abate the frustration a little.
From the very start, it soon becomes clear that inventory management is a key facet of No Man's Sky's survival gameplay. The planet-hopping is there, of course, but you will spend far more time refilling your Life Support systems and Multi-Tool ammunition than blitzing around at warp speeds.
You can already expand your Starship, Exosuit and Multi-Tool capacities to make room for more mined elements, upgrades and trade-able goods. Unfortunately, as you progress you will install upgrades that fill those same slots, leaving your storage capabilities overwhelmed with tech advancements and a tiny bit of Omegon you miraculously found.
This could be fixed with a Destiny-type storage chest network, possibly only accessible from Space Stations (and your own Space Base!). This kind of solution would not trivialise the survival aspects the game revels in while on a planet's surface. More importantly, it would also ease the pain of having to give up any more of those precious trinkets for yet more Plutonium.