Preliminary impressions of the game after playing for about 5 hours.
This is what happens when you don’t beta test enough.
The tutorial that explains to you how to actually get the technology necessary to progress to space flight is awful. It’s not really a tutorial. It consists of pop ups on the right hand side of your screen.
You start the game with a broken ship. This ship has 3 propulsion systems, none of which are explained. The first propulsion lets you fly over planet’s surface and is activated by w. The second is a boost that let’s you zip around in space within the solar system, which is activated by pressing space. The third system is a hyperdrive, which lets you jump from star to star.
In the beginning you are trying to fix this your ship. You need to fix your propulsion and fuel the ship, oh and your hyperdrive is broken. You manage to fix everything but the hyperdrive. To accomplish this feat, the game wants you to actually get to space, look for a beacon, travel to the beacon, land there, talk to the alien, who gives you a blue print. Except it doesn’t actually tell you any of this. And it gives you the recipe for a warp cell, which it says will fuel the hyperdrive, but not for the two things you have to acquire to make one.
This is stupid.
It’s stupid because it’s counter-intuitive. It doesn’t give you any hints such as “Hey, maybe if I find an outpost, I could ask residents how to fix my broken ship.” It expects you to blindly follow the pop ups, which is entirely against the very premise of the game: independent exploration. The matter is compounded by the fact that my preorder gave me a ship with a hyperdrive, so the chain of pop ups became broken.
Here is my thought process:
I had to get a bunch of resources to fix everything else in my ship. I should be finding more resources to get hyperdrive fueled.
Look for resources. Not find any (because I don’t have the necessary blueprints.)
The game is telling me to get into space. Okay! I have no other choice.
Press w to take off – check. Aim up – check. Press space. Okay.
I press space, activating the boost I had no idea existed. I am hurtling through space.
What is going on? Should I press something to stop this process?
Pound on the keyboard like a monkey. W – no, space- no, a, d , s. Oh, S slows you down. Okay, where am I? In a vicinity of some sort of space station. Okay, well, I only learned ten alien words but I will go talk to them. By the way, a good portion of playing public wouldn’t go and talk to aliens until they had more words.
I go into the space station – which looks like it was built in 1990s – it’s empty, for the most part. Nothing but a hollow cube of smooth textures. There is no grit or character to it, but okay. There is an alien. The alien says, “Traveler haka flaka flak flaka!” It points to my inventory. I give it some minerals. The game tells me that the alien feels better. Okay, and?
How about that hyperdrive warp cell? Nope. Warp cell components? Nope.
I leave the station. I am not not sure where I am. I start bumming around from planet to planet. I am not finding any way out of this loop. My inventory is tiny. I am making money, but nobody wants to sell me what I actually need. I finally give up and I do what no survival gamer wants to do: I go and look for a walkthrough. Thank you, IGN, for without you, I would’ve never figured it out. Walkthrough link. I had no idea I had to follow this completely arbitrary trail of breadcrumbs.
Four hours into the game, I am still walking through this series of steps to get my ship fueled. Literally, at some point the game pointed me to the an outpost. I arrived on that planet to the outpost, and the alien in it made some noises at me and handed me a hyperdrive blueprint.
Why did the alien do that? It didn’t ask for anything. Does it just live on the planet waiting for random idiots from other species to wander in so it can hand you the hyperdrive? The thirty alien words I learned up to this point did absolutely nothing to help me understand any of this.
What should’ve happened was at the space station an alien I helped should’ve told me, “Hey, thank you for helping me out of this tough spot. My cousin Bob on that planet over there used to be an engineer and he will totally help you with your hyperdrive, but you might want to give him some minerals in trade.” But nope. If Starbound can generate quests in a procedural universe for $14.99, surely NMS can do it for $60.
The game is frustrating. First of all, your inventory is horribly inadequate. Second, there is no way from me to build any shelter, so if I am on a hot planet and I walk too far from my ship, I can’t throw up a tent. I have to hide in a cave – and you can’t just make a cave in the mountain side, you have to find a mineable object of significant size to drill a hole in or find an actual cave. Or I have frantically run around trying to find zinc to refuel my environmental protection. I can fly a spaceship, but I can’t make a tent. Or a base of any sort. Preferably with STORAGE LOCKERS.
Survival gamers are typically pack rats and base builders. If we don’t build a base, we want a really upgraded spaceship. We don’t want to just survive, we want to thrive. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the player audience. I realize that I am only 4 hours into the game and that if I grind and mine enough minerals, I might get enough credits to buy a trader ship with a slightly bigger inventory, but this isn’t why I bought the game. I bought it for adventure and infinite possibilities. Right now, I am hopping from planet to planet in an effort to find the same minerals over and over and over, which I then sell at a generic space station. I now have sen 3 space stations, and they look exactly the same. For $60 I expected more.
There are games that make you feel smart and resourceful about your survival. I highly recommend Subnautica, even though it’s still in alpha. No Man’s Sky badly needs a base expansion and mods. I am determined to give it at least 10 hours of my time and I will let you know if I hate it afterward, but right now I am not a fan. I’m mostly annoyed. Annoyed at minuscule inventory. Annoyed at basic lack of any kind of reasonable progression. Annoyed at super simplistic combat. I don’t want to shoot Sentinels with my mining tool. I want to land on a planet, build a temporary base, with perimeter fence and a turret, or at least a crow’s nest, so when the sentinels appear, I can snipe them from the sky. I want to build a robot dog, who will hunt them for me while I am mining or tame the local fauna to do the same.
I would’ve taken less planets.
Update: I requested a refund from Steam.