“What “is” No Man’s Sky?
I ask this question because nearly every defense I’ve read of the game, from errant Youtube comments to early pundit analyses, contains some variation on the statement, “I enjoyed No Man’s Sky for what it is.”
As far as I can tell after twelve hours of gameplay, NMS “is” best described as a road trip. Or at least, the core gameplay feels a lot like driving a car for an extremely long time in one direction while stopping every ten minutes for gas. Because like a road trip NMS is empty, boring, and basically intolerable without music, podcasts, friends to talk to, or all of the above.
But NMS isn’t just any road trip. It’s certainly not like driving the entire length of America’s famous Interstate-80, which takes drivers on a beautiful tour of nearly every geographic wonder in the country, from California’s quasi-Mediterranean beaches to New Jersey’s… underrated farmland. Instead, NMS’s road trip is more like driving the length of Siberia, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostock, in the sense that no matter how far you drive you’re pretty much always going to see the same thing out the window, with very minor variations.
Ok, maybe that’s not fair. Because the player doesn’t actually spend most of his time travelling in NMS, and what travelling is done is either local, or accomplished via a loading screen hidden by a kaleidoscope which is supposed to simulate interstellar travel. Rather the player spends most of his time gathering materials which will either be used to craft fuel which can be used to continue interstellar travelling, or which can be sold to merchants to buy other materials which can be used to craft fuel to continue interstellar travelling. And by “materials,” I mean the same four or five chemical elements which are found in roughly the same locations on every planet. And by “merchants,” I mean one of the three types of alien beings which always stand in the same exact place in the same three or four identical structures on every planet and space station.
So NMS is basically like taking a road trip across Siberia where the driver runs out of gas every fifty miles and must scavenge the local countryside for raw petroleum (which might not be that hard to find in Russia) and bits of valuable rocks, like gold and silver, so that he can sell the valuable rocks to reticent, immobile Russians (who exclusively speak Russian) and then buy chemicals to refine his raw petroleum so the driver can refill his car and continue on the road trip…”
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