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What No Man's Sky Does Well

While it's not perfect, No Man's Sky has some great moments. Here's what makes it work.

Because No Man's Sky has built up such a ridiculous level of hype, it's only natural that some gamers and reviewers are going to feel disappointed.  While it's not "the space sim to end all space sims," No Man's Sky still has a lot going for it.  There's a lot that this game just gets right in ways not a lot of games do, and that makes it unique and special.  

Here's a rundown of some of the things that it does really well.

A Sense of Ownership

When you look at a lot of notoriously addictive games, what do you notice they all have in common?  They generally give you something that's all yours. In Stardew Valley and its spiritual predecessor, you've got a farm and a house to take care of. In Skyrim, you've got a world to explore and a house to fix up and decorate. In Minecraft, the whole world is yours to use however you see fit.  A great way to keep the player invested is to give them something that they, and only they, get to explore and take care of.

No Man's Sky does that on a grand scale.  You have not only entire planets to explore and mine however you want, but entire star systems to explore.  There are enough that you'll never have to worry about running out of new planets and lifeforms to find.  They're a part of your expedition, your journey to the center of the galaxy.

Another thing that No Man's Sky gives you to own is your spaceship.  It takes a lot to keep it up and running, as all the different pieces need different kinds of fuel. Not only that, but you'll often find yourself fixing broken pieces, especially if you, like me, found your ship crashed in the middle of a forest. Somehow, the little things you have to watch out for become part of the joy of flying your ship, not unlike a project car you have to fix up to get running. If your ship was just given to you, rather than earned, and didn't need three different kinds of fuel to keep running, then the entire process wouldn't feel as satisfying.

Your Own Story

Despite all the claims made about game featuring an "organic, player-driven narrative," No Man's Sky is one of the first games I've played that actually feels like its story was written by my choices. I found myself gravitating towards learning as much as possible about the Gex, a sort of merchant race in this universe, and the story became one about the lost history of a great nation. By finding more about the Gex through conversations and their destroyed monuments on other worlds, their story became more clear to me. Is this ruined structure a religious one?  The words I learned from it seem to indicate that.  Is this monolith some sort of monument to fallen Gex?  The word I learned was despair, so that seems to be the case.

No Man's Sky seems to have learned a lot from the storytelling of games like Dark Souls.  It does a lot with very little, leaving a breadcrumb trail of little narrative pieces rather than a single linear story.  While this does mean you have to think a lot about what things mean, it also means that the story moves at your own pace, something that's rare in gaming.

In the end, No Man's Sky probably won't satisfy everyone.

But if you're the type of person who likes exploration and survival gameplay, there's a lot for you.  Its sure to give you an experience few other games can.

What do you like about No Man's Sky? Let us know in the comments!

Published Aug. 10th 2016

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