Published on August 14th, 2016 | by Suros_Six0
First Impressions – No Man’s Sky
The breathtaking procedurally-generated universe that No Man’s Sky holds is locked behind a large barrier to entry: will it actually run? Excited fans have told many horror stories over the past few days about this game’s broken state on PC. I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to be able to run it in a mostly acceptable state, but it mars what is already a problematic game.
Fortunately, I was able to run No Man’s Sky reasonably fine — something many people were unable to do — but many problems still remain that put a damper on the experience. When loading in for the first time, I decided I didn’t really care to watch the opening scene, so I tabbed out to read some messages. Big mistake; this caused my game to instantly crash and I had to start the scene over again.
While the scene itself is certainly a visually appealing rendition of space, its majesty is held back by minor frame-hitching. Unfortunately, I had to watch the opening once again thanks to how the graphical settings work in No Man’s Sky. Bizarrely, changing any graphical setting required a full restart of the game each and every time, but once I was set the performance issues decreased. The alt-tabbing issue I had earlier was fixed once I switched the game to borderless windowed mode, and the initial frame-hitching was nowhere to be found. I opted to keep the graphical settings selected for my GTX 960 (shown below), aside from tweaking the frame cap.
I wish I could end the tech issues there, but sadly the biggest thing I noticed was that I was never able to get a stable 60 FPS. While I hit 60 on occasion which of course felt great, my frame rate hovered around 30-40 FPS on average. While playable, it seemed quite low considering the minimum requirement of a GTX 480. Rocking these settings on my GTX 960 should be providing me with a much more stable experience.
After my initial play time of four hours, I decided to tweak the settings to their highest to see how drastically my performance would be affected…absolutely nothing happened. I still ran at the same frame rate, which makes me question if changing graphical options really does much of anything.
As someone who wasn’t excited for No Man’s Sky, I was pleasantly surprised to find the game itself is actually quite good. For people who like a good, long grind with player-set objectives, this is absolutely for them. Outside of the primary task of reaching the center of the universe, the game doesn’t give you any other objectives, so making your own fun is essential.
No Man’s Sky is a pretty standard survival/exploration game, with materials like carbon replacing the usual need for food and water. Unfortunately, managing the items you collect proves to be a bit of a pain due to how clunky the inventory system can be. For starters, my inventory slots filled quickly thanks to the inability to stack items of the same kind. Not only that, but I couldn’t reorganize my inventory at all. It took a long time to get used to and was, frankly, very unpleasant to work with. Future unlocks do help, however, as the inventory can be expanded through different upgrades like buying ships and mining tools. Likewise, certain landmarks will hold suit upgrades that can expand the inventory further.
Exploration is handled very well as there are things called “Signal Scanners” in different areas of a planet. In exchange for a Bypass Chip, which is easy and cheap to make, these scanners will reveal a location of the player’s choice. These locations can be something like an outpost that the player can then sell things in or meet the local species, or something like a monolith that allows the player to learn more about different languages. It’s a great way to explore a planet with an objective that doesn’t leave you in the dark. The only issue is nothing in the game actively tells you about these locations. While there are things like Signal Scanners that the player can find to keep them out of the dark, No Man’s Sky does a pretty poor job of showing those things to the player.
I had to figure out a lot through trial and error thanks to this lack of explanation. Examples include ‘X’ transforming the mining tool into a gun, and even simple things like using right-click to exit the store menu. They require little description, so their omission is a bit of a nuisance. One of most prominent examples are locked doors that require an “Atlas Pass” to open. While I know that I need this item, the game doesn’t tell me what they are, or how to get them. Perhaps it’s something I find out later in the game, but I want to explore planets and leaving what appears to be a core component unexplained from the get-go isn’t very compelling.
The last core aspect of No Man’s Sky is its combat. Unfortunately, my short experience with the combat has shown me that it isn’t very good, at all. Small robots called “Sentinels” fly all over planets, guarding them from people like me who like to relentlessly destroy things. I’ve broken into buildings which resulted in a few Sentinels being sent my way but, honestly, they are terrible at fighting. Some will get lost behind a building and never end up challenging you and, when they do, they do almost nothing but hover in the same spot and fire at you every now and again. When they do hit you, the screen turns red like any other FPS, but it quickly turns gray. When this first happened, it threw me off as gray usually means close to death, but in No Man’s Sky, it appears to simply mean that you’re being hit a lot. Thankfully the combat is pretty infrequent, so it’s issues aren’t a major deal-breaker.
While No Man’s Sky has its issues, its tech problems are far more prominent. Here’s hoping that Hello Games are committed to fixing these as soon as possible. The game at its core is pretty fun; it’s easy to get lost on a planet for hours, as I scour the area trying to learn a language, or find valuable materials that I can sell to buy a better ship or upgrade my gun. The beautiful landscapes and soundtrack do a great job of immersing me, and in turn makes the game a lot more enticing. I’ve had a lot of fun with it so far, and I will definitely continue to put many more hours into it. While I’m not optimistic it can be done, some much-needed patches and gameplay changes here and there may help save No Man’s Sky’s reputation.