After about a week of hemming and hawing over whether or not to splurge on the definitely unmerited $60 pricetag, I broke down and acquired No Man’s Sky for PC last night. Months and months of playing Rocket League, Hearthstone (and more recently Tales of Symphonia & Twilight Princess) finally took their toll to where I felt like I craved an experience with no story arc, no competitive aspect, and no other people. The beauty of Minecraft when it came out (and it’s still there for new players I’m sure) was that it just sorta dumps you in the world, and there it is. Go. Explore. Do whatever you like. Freedom with only the gentlest of guiding hands.
The very peaceful and pleasant grind of cobbling together crude tools & eventually mining materials from the numerous chasms below the surface of the Minecraft world is a gaming breakthrough that has no equal in my mind apart from opening a giant bucket of Legos as a kid and working to create awesome cities, bases, forts, ships, cars, etc with my friends or alone in my own little world.
Don’t want to deal with enemies? Turn them off. Don’t want to dig up materials and craft new ones? Play in Creative Mode. Options upon options upon options, constant adding and sculpting and refinement by the development team, and an insanely massive audience that made this ultimate sandbox a game of a generation. I wonder sometimes if Notch will ever know how to perceive exactly the scope of the Pandora’s Box his game inadvertently opened.
No Man’s Sky is kind of the same vein, but doesn’t have the refinement…yet. It touched on something in people, however; something that hungers for a virtual world of unlimited possibility and exploration. The chance for a true alternate reality where you can be more than you are, do more than you could ever hope to do, and go anywhere you want to go.
It reminds me of the scene from Inception where Cobb & co. are in Africa to recruit Yusuf, they find a room full of people that are all hooked into a shared dream. The guy monitoring them says that they don’t come there to sleep, but to be woken up, as the dream has become their reality and their true lives. I think a part of that resonates truly in all people.
When a game looks like the ultimate escape and borderless adventure into a seemingly infinite universe, it taps into that hope against hope. It’s no surprise when it can’t come true, but it’s no less disappointing that we’re not there yet.
I’m enjoying No Man’s Sky, even if it is something of a shiny, clunky beta and remarkably raw project posing as a finished product. The investment I and many others made hopefully pays off in the long run as Hello Games updates compatibility and content, but until then there’s something kind of awesome about seeing these worlds unfold before you. It is a lonely, relaxing, pleasantly mundane exploration that needs to eventually let all of us who paid dearly for it bite the carrot at the end of the string someday.
It represents something needed from the video game world that has forever existed in principle but never mastered in execution. For even attempting to reach for that very modern, human, and aching need for pure virtual escapism, I found it worth the money. Most probably won’t, but that’s okay. No Man’s Sky isn’t for everyone.
So long as I can explore and not be burdened with the day-to-day issues of ordinary life within my little universe of 18 quintillion planets, No Man’s Sky suits me just fine.
Until it doesn’t.