No Mans Sky certainly had ambitious plans. With a formidable potential that was perhaps hastily grandiose and hideously exacerbated. You can’t fault that kind of over exuberant inflation or scald such a dedicated will for aspiring infamy. The scale and scope are wonderfully invigorating, with a ceaseless expanse for players to traverse, resource deposits to deplete and hostile weather to negotiate. Mocked and ridiculed on release, No Mans Sky’s fertile reputation was in tatters before it had even had a chance to be established, then accused of deceit. It has taken Hello Games years of hard, surreptitious work to redeem their dubious introduction. All whilst assuming the role as the industries most infamous propagator of inflated promises. Thankfully I wasn’t duped by its extravagant claims, totally indifferent to the growing hysteria surrounding its release so I didn’t suffer the disappointment that afflicted so many optimistic adopters. But I have now and must admit that I’m not sure what to make of it.
The game certainly does espouse a principle that bigger is better. The universe, occupied by a punitive 18 quintillion planets is a daunting prospect. The sense of scale, the diverse and often hostile ecosystems that really encourages exploration are breath-taking. Extracting precious resources from verdant landscapes enriched with minerals that provide fuel for your spaceship is meticulous but very unique. All whilst averting the procedurally generated wildlife and sentient alien droids that roam these often inhospitable worlds. The experience is actually one of serenity, of meditative repose. There’s no war to ratify, no pestilence to cure, just the opportunity to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where “no man”, or indeed women has gone before. And boy can it be boring.
Perhaps I just don’t get it. Maybe the games revolutionary intention has overshot me like so many of my contemporary ramblers that routinely bypass me as I struggle to remember which extracted mineral combines with another to form another? The vaguely defined objectives are reminiscent of a concerned mother prompted their agoraphobic child to go outside and play anywhere, which feels nonchalant. Perhaps years of restrictions, inert goals and cloistered linear paths have ruined my ability to appreciate freedom. Or maybe, just maybe a game that celebrates the splendour and tranquillity of liberating, leisurely exploration that isn’t harried by a perceptible, all-encompassing goal is just a little too relaxed for someone like me who gets home from work at half 9 at night, consumes a late supper that I have to reheat in a microwave and requires a stimulating game to entertain rather than put me to sleep.
No Mans Sky is a game that has transitioned from ambitious failure to be hailed as a progressive masterpiece. Sadly it’s also a game that has come good at a time that just isn’t convenient for me.