Video Games

No Man’s Sky: It’s Time to Put the Pitchforks Down

no man's sky ship

Recently, I was enjoying a beer with a friend and his buddy after having seen Star Wars: Rogue One. I mentioned that I had gotten back into No Man’s Sky and was enjoying myself quite thoroughly. Of course, I was one of the apparent 10 people in the world that enjoyed the game in its original state, so it should come as no surprise that I would still enjoy it after the Foundation update, which added a whole lot of new content and streamlined the core mechanics.

My friend’s buddy, however, was having none of it. He was so filled with vitriol that nothing I had to say in favor of the game would be allowed without scoffs and challenges. He felt personally burned by what he and many many others have called flat-out lies in regards to the promotional material and developer promises pre-launch. To him, both No Man’s Sky and its developer Hello Games — and heck, anyone who would dare speak positively of either — are just flat-out wrong.

This seems crazy to me, but there we were, three adults at a bar, one of whom is having a conniption fit over a piece of entertainment that has done nothing but simply exist.

no man's sky pastel

The community that built around the game before launch was hyped beyond belief, possessing a personal investment that few game communities can muster. So I understand the betrayal that these people felt when No Man’s Sky, the actual game, paled in comparison to what had been supposedly promised pre-launch. It sucks to look forward to something, in this case a game so coveted that it would quite literally change the landscape of human civilization and bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. I get it.

But who’s to blame for swallowing the hype pill, regardless of what was promised and what was delivered? Personally, I sat back and watched all of the coverage leading up to the release, hoping without holding my breath. I’m the kind of guy who tries to remain an informed and practical consumer, never pre-ordering and always waiting for a sizable collection of reviews from sources I trust to paint an overall impression of what to expect. So when the general impression of No Man’s Sky was mediocre at best, I sat back and waited for the dust to settle.

no man's sky

I waited for all of the hate speech and claims of false advertising to die down. I waited for the threats of lawsuits and the investigation by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority to blow over. I waited for all of the hype to fizzle, for No Man’s Sky to simply be allowed to be a game judged by its own merits.

And then I waited for the price to reach a comfortable $28 on Amazon (used, of course) before I purchased it and sat down with an I.P.A. to give it a fair shake.

And by Jove, I sat there with hours melting away, performing all these little tasks that were repetitive yet serene, and I fell in love with this little game that could. Taken at face value — keep in mind this was created by a small development team that reached for the stars, quite literally — it’s hard to see it as anything but a smashing success. Even if it’s shallow and relatively one-note — both of which are defensible appraisals — it still captures at least some of the spirit of the No Man’s Sky that was promised to us.

I may have put it down for a bit, but with the release of the Foundation update, which added a bevy of content and reshaped the general narrative surrounding the title, I was drawn back in. The Foundation update may have single-handedly transformed No Man’s Sky from one of the most derided video games of all time into a viable candidate for 2016’s Game of the Year.

And with more content yet to come, I view this game less as an over-hyped slap in the face and more as a game that will grow and evolve over time. It has the potential to be a game unlike any before it, and it could stand as a model for future games in its vein. By creating a galaxy that isn’t written in stone but generated upon discovery, No Man’s sky is a truly tantalizing concept. I believe Hello Games managed to pull it off.

no man's sky screenshot

Now that we’re at least a little bit removed from the toxic landscape it was released into, it might be a good time for people to discover — or perhaps rediscover — what drew us all to the concept behind No Man’s Sky in the first place. Especially since you can probably find it for $30 or cheaper.

For me, No Man’s Sky is the perfect game to get lost in. It offers not an adrenaline-fueled massacre simulation but a meditative lull, which is an approach to video gaming not often found in today’s market. If nothing else, can we at least appreciate that?