No Man’s Sky reviews are already coming in, and the title has only been out for two days. So far, the reviews have tagged NMS as being slightly better than mediocre. Metacritic, a website that aggregates review scores, has the Hello Games flagship ranked at a 64. That score is based only on five reviews, one positive and four mixed. It has no negative reviews yet. Metacritic users are split on the game, as well. Out of 608 user reviews, 332 are positive, 230 are negative, and 46 are mixed. This distribution seems to support the site’s ranking of the indie offering.
However, mediocre scores were not unexpected for this game. No Man’s Sky is a vast planet exploration sandbox with no story and no set goal. For players who enjoy story-driven titles, this is not the game for them. For gamers who like to go on missions and be told exactly what to do, this experimental adventure is not something they would find fun. For those who enjoy completing every single element in the games they play, No Man’s Sky offers little reward.
All of this was known from the start. There were no hidden surprises or intriguing gameplay aspects that were undisclosed. Hello Games laid everything out on the table regarding its title. Sean Murray, co-founder of Hello Games, did not promise an intriguing storyline. Rather, he hinted at the game containing mysterious lore. He told the world that there would be no missions and that players would create their own missions on the fly. He did not hold back when he said the game contained 18 quintillion planets.
According to Time, “Whether it measures up to years of anticipation depends how much you recall of Hello Games’ original promise: a kind of Zen zoology simulator framed by freeform exploration of psychedelic planet-scapes and bouts of interstellar combat.”
No Man’s Sky does not fit into a typical gaming mold, and as Time alluded to, a lot of people have forgotten that.
So it is no surprise that one Metacritic user writes, “Sure NMS is huge, but planets are boring, there is nothing to do except scanning creatures and mining or mindlessly wonder around. [sic]”
On one hand, there are going to be players that just do not get the point of No Man’s Sky. They will play it for a couple of hours and decide it is lacking in some way, then they will move on to something else. On the other hand, there will also be players who will enjoy the title for a long time to come.
“An unparalleled masterpiece. Just play it. All my first impressions are extremely positive. This is the exploration game of the decade, with endless wealth to last for years,” said another armchair critic.
Individuals are going to love it or hate it. However, professional critics cannot make up their minds about it at all.
One of Forbes gaming reviewers said, “After hours and hours, I’m still not ready to issue a verdict, let alone a score, for this big, weird game.”
He said he loved the music, the puzzles, the graphics, and the way that he actually did learn a little bit of some of the languages of the various sentient alien lifeforms.
“Much of what I love or like or enjoy about No Man’s Sky is sort of hard to put into words. The game’s best qualities are a bit amorphous and vague. There’s a sense to it that really harnesses you, draws you in closer. You can tell that it’s a labor of love.”
However, No Man’s Sky also left him feeling lonely and empty, like he had no friends and no purpose in the game. He felt like his only goals were to collect more “stuff” so that he could get “better stuff” and then start the process all over again.
“It’s at once deeply addicting and horribly tedious … A lot of the game feels frustrating, and that frustration leads me toward the [dreaded] B word. Boredom … No Man’s Sky gets old pretty quickly. I mean, at the same time it’s utterly absorbing. I’ve spent hours in the game and it’s been addictive enough to keep me wrapped up in just one planet for ages.”
For now, No Man’s Sky has gamers split and critics on the fence. Is this likely to change? Probably not. The game is what it is, and it will likely be cursed with average to slightly above average review scores because of that. It will have a narrow demographic that enjoys it for extended periods specifically because of the way that it was designed. Even the designers expected that the title would not have mass appeal.
Murray told PC Magazine, “No Man’s Sky is a ‘niche game’ and a ‘very very chill game.'”
Mass appeal is not what makes No Man’s Sky important. It is important because the title has broken a barrier in video gaming. By offering a vast universe to explore and do whatever one wants, it has opened the doors to games in the sandbox genre to steal similar aspects. Franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption can take a cue from NMS and enhance their titles in ways that were not thought of before. Imagine a game where the maps have no borders and endless clues can lead you to endless locales. Imagine No Man’s Sky with a professionally-written story to back it up.
It is worth mentioning that it is still early in the review process, and opinions are subject to change for better or worse, but review scores are not what is significant with NMS. The possibilities that No Man’s Sky has opened up is what it will be remembered for, not its review scores.
[Image via Sony]