Much has changed. Much has stayed the same. But it’s the changes that prompted a replay of the game that sold me a PS4 over a year before it even came out. Sadly, it was not a happy reunion, and there were more than a few problems…
Bugs are to be expected in games these days more than ever before, but bugs that break the game, then are supposedly patched out, yet still exist, should not exist. It seems along with all the new stuff in No Man’s Sky, a plethora of additional game breaking bugs were added and not completely removed again.
As it was new, I was following the Artemis Path for this playthrough. It involves trying to save Artemis, a fellow traveller, and to do so requires stepping through a sort of base building tutorial. You make a base, build some rooms, employ some staff who give you missions and blueprints, and eventually you have everything you need in order to build a Mind Arc that can rescue Artemis. Only in my case, the game skipped several bits in the middle there so initially, I was unable to craft a circuit board, needed to progress. The game thought I’d been given the blueprints. I had not.
Thankfully, it was fixed in a patch. Eventually. So I could progress, and make the circuit board and the thing I needed it for. Next up – make some Living Glass so I could use that to craft the Mind Arc, except of course, the game thought I’d been given the blueprint and, again, of course I had not.
Several game patches came and went, and still I couldn’t progress. Someone on Twitter saw my complaints and offered to help: If I joined his game, he could create Living Glass which should make my blueprint appear. So I joined him, and then even more bugs appeared. Sigh.
I could give him the materials, but he couldn’t give them – or anything else – back, as the menu to choose where to send stuff (your ship, roamer, storage, etc.) didn’t show me on his screen. Then we tried him putting them in a storage unit on his freighter, but when I went to take them out they weren’t there. In fact, his storage units showed the contents of my storage units on my base hundreds of light years away. What. Finally, we quit the game and he joined me instead – which actually let him pass on the components to me directly. I didn’t get the Living Glass blueprints, but I did get Living Glass (and a Mind Arc) so I could progress the story at least. My saviour waved goodbye and off I went to give the Mind Arc to Artemis.
Only that wasn’t the end of it. The place he was supposed to be, marked on the map, wasn’t there. I had no choice but to restart part of the questline and do it all again. That worked, luckily, and a few hours later, I’d finished the game. The most bugged of all games.
OK, yeah. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the exploration, the souping up my spaceship, the naming every star system “Dave” – but that was all there in the “old” No Man’s Sky. The new stuff just gave me more to do, and sadly, it was all broken. Last time, I spent 125 hours on it. This time, “just” 80, around 20 of which was working round bugs and redoing missions. I genuinely think they’ve made the game worse instead of better, which is a massive shame. It’s still great, but it’s too broken for me to recommend it as wholeheartedly as I did before.
Yes, I’ve been playing games. I’ve not completed any recently so haven’t posted about them. And, all the games I’m playing are pretty long. With all that in mind, here’s an update on them!
No Man’s Sky (PS4)
Having not played the game for almost two years, I started it again. Why? Because Hello Games have effectively turned the original game into a sequel over a series of updates I’d never even looked at since then. And since many people have found bugs and other issues when migrating an old save to the new version, I thought it best to begin again.
It’s certainly different, that’s for sure. I go into a lot more detail on the ugvm Podcast, but in short, I don’t really like most of the changes. The base building is, in itself, fine but it’s not what I want in my No Man’s Sky. Some of the Quality of Life changes, like stacking inventory items and easier ways to make money are appreciated, though, and the new Artemis storyline gives me a new thing to do, so I’m still enjoying it. So much so I’m already 40 or so hours in. Again.
Sanrio Characters Picross (3DS)
Yes of course I was going to buy this. Because I love Hello K–uh picross games. It’s huge, and I’m probably only 15% done so far.
Oh my. Who’d have thought this day would come? A re-release of Shenmue (and Shenmue II!) for a new console? Over the last few years I’ve been trying to find a nice way to play the original Dreamcast games on something more modern, eventually running it in an emulator on a PC streamed to my TV with a Steam Link… only that was a mess and fiddly and didn’t happen. I toyed with a handheld device like the GPD Win, but couldn’t justify the expense. But now – it’s on the PS4 and it’s excellent.
So far in the story, I’ve spent all my money on capsule toys, played with a cat a lot, found some sailors, not found Charlie, and have made it into the wrong Warehouse 8. And I’m loving it.
Hollow Knight (Switch)
When I was trying to find reasons not to buy this, because I already have too many Switch games, I settled on “I don’t like the art style”. Then it was on the eShop for cheap and I bought it anyway. I Am Not Strong.
But I’m glad I did, because it’s amazing.
It’s a Metroidvania, where you play as some sort of beetle with a nail for a sword, fighting other bugs and exploring a ruined world. It’s beautiful, challenging and really very well designed, and after about twelve hours in I thought I’d seen most of the map and then opened up three entirely new areas. It’s big.
One hundred and fifty hours. It might not sound a lot, but consider this: it’s around the time it takes to drive from Edinburgh to London and back 10 times. Or approximately 20 sleeps. Or perhaps most fittingly, how long it would take Savage Garden to realise their dream of travelling to the moon and back. It is also, of course, how long it took me to reach the centre of the Euclid Galaxy in No Man’s Sky. And what a time it was.
If I may, I’d like to start by addressing all those people who complained to Valve, Hello Games, Sony, and the ASA about how No Man’s Sky is not the game presented to them before release. I don’t know exactly what you were expecting, but the game I downloaded is pretty much the same as what I was shown. Sure, I didn’t get the exact same animals or planets – why would I unless I visited the exact same locations – and I agree that the HUD was rearranged somewhat in the interim, but all the main points were there. All sorts of animals? Tick. Varied planets? Tick. Space battles? Tick. Billions of solar systems and planets? Tick. Certainly I would have welcomed more to do, but I can’t honestly say I was hoodwinked into purchasing the game and nor did I feel anything was missing.
No Man’s Sky is a mostly passive, relaxing experience. Collecting resources, using them to patch up and improve your equipment, and discovering wacky creatures and following titbits of narratives as you zip around the galaxy. Honestly, I’d be happy if that’s all there was to it, but occasional boosts of excitement, like running into space pirates or finding a planet of high value, but heavily defended rare resources punctuate the gameplay with something a little different. Some may tire of wandering a mostly barren landscape looking for more zinc, but many times I happily ditched my ship and picked a random direction to wander off in until I reached a location from where I could summon my ship again, and offload or sell my scavenged treasures.
Ferrying high value contraband to shops might not sound like a lot of fun, but it is strangely entrancing. Landing on a planet and immediately seeing hundreds of verboten gravatino balls or sac venom gives a strange sort of thrill, and what might be seen as tedious inventory management by some is relished as a challenge by me, and a merry couple of hours is spent running from sentinels clutching mountains of forbidden goodies. Of course you can shoot the sentinels to get them off your tail, but then your pockets fill up with titanium extracted from their robot corpses – and nobody wants titanium when you’re saving the space for albumen pearls.
No Man’s Sky is very much a game of make-your-own entertainment. Picking a fight with a space freighter, for example. Those hung up on, the admittedly somewhat tedious, mining of rocks for essential materials like gold and heridium aren’t helping themselves. Grab some, and when bored, move on. Most things are abundant enough to not need a search either, so when you need a load of a certain isotope and the planet you’re on doesn’t immediately have massive stores of it, take off and try somewhere else. There’s hardly a shortage of places to look. Even the frustrating task of rebuilding parts of your warp engine after a Black Hole traversal damages them need not be if you stop playing the game as a race to the end and slow down, take your time, and drink it all in.
I know it’s trite to say that if you’re not enjoying something then you’re doing it wrong, but I genuinely believe it for this game. The onus is on you to make it fun, and it’s understandable that some folk are adverse to that because they want constant excitement and wonder on a plate. If what you’re doing isn’t fun, stop doing it and do something else. Try to track down all the animals on the planet. Blow stuff up. Hunt down every last Gek ship and destroy it. Locate crashed ships and repair them to replace yours. Get lost, find stuff, make fun.
With everything said, the game is not all happy and roses. There are flaws, although for me most are minor. Interaction with aliens is laughably limited, with everything done by text description rather than animation or action. Every outpost is virtually identical, or at least one of a small set of similar designs. The variety in flora and fauna isn’t quite as radical between planets as one would perhaps have hoped (although there have been a few truly bizarre and unique creations), with most places playing host to similar instances of Fan Tree Thing, Mushroom Thing, Horseshoe Crab Spider Thing, Bat Thing and Mound of Earth With Tufts Thing.
I suffered a few bugs of mostly the funny or benign variety (such as floating objects or animals stuck on or in stuff), although less funny was reaching the centre of the galaxy and having the game crash before I got to see what turned out to not be much of an ending. This happened twice, but thankfully my saved game remained intact and a third attempt allowed me to finish the game properly. At least, to one definition of finished anyway.
Another would be following the Atlas Path, which is Hello Games’ attempt at providing some sort of story mode for those who don’t have the imagination to just play – think of it as the instructions in a box of Lego – is ultimately unrewarding. You travel from system to system finding anomalies, each of which provides you with an Atlas Stone, and discovering some of the backstory to the universe you’ve found yourself in. Once you reach the end of the path, providing you have all ten Atlas Stones on hand (and you’ve not sold any, like I stupidly did – luckily some traders stock them for over 2 million units each) perhaps the most unsatisfying end to anything ever occurs. For me, it was just part of the whole experience and I was only mildly disappointed, but I expect many players exclaimed “Is that it?!” and smashed their PS4.
Ultimately, No Man’s Sky is not a game that will suit everyone no matter how hard they try to play it to the title’s greatest strengths, but for those of us who want something low impact, expansive, beautiful and relaxing – with the bonus of offering OCD-levels of resource interaction if that appeals – there’s nothing better out there. The closest other game I can match it to isn’t Elite, which is probably the reason so many people think the game is underwhelming. They’re superficially similar in same way, say, Bioshock and Serious Sam are, but to expect Elite style gameplay in No Man’s Sky just backs up my argument that you are indeed “doing it wrong”. No, this fits more into the same category as Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, just in first person and in space. If that sounds appealing, No Man’s Sky is for you.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything here for a few weeks. There’s a good reason for that: No Man’s Sky came out.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen any game divide players quite so much, as it seems everyone really does love it or hate it without much of a middle ground. I can see where the haters are coming from, but for me, it is almost exactly what I expected it to be.
Perhaps that’s because, after the first few videos of the game way back years ago, I stuck No Man’s Sky on media blackout. I’d seen enough to excite me, and everything else was spoilers. I preordered it as soon as it was on the Playstation Store, and eagerly waited for it to unlock. My first hour or so with the game is documented here, so I’ll skip over that. Since then, though?
It has been incredible. Yes, it’s much shallower than perhaps it looks. Despite the infinite possible combinations of planet, weather, flora, fauna and landscape, and the fact every location is pretty unique, sure – there’s a lot of repetition. The same buildings, animals, rocks and plants (or very near facsimiles) appear all over the place, and the conversations you have and machines you interact with all become overly familiar far too soon.
I say too soon, but in reality, I’ve spent over 80 hours on it so perhaps not soon at all. Not that it matters, because I’m still having an enormous amount of fun, exploring worlds and tracking down all the creatures on it, or playing grab-and-run with valuable detritus, legging it back to my ship or a shop with angry sentinels on my tail. Perhaps, on a laid-back planet I’ll disembark from my craft, point myself vaguely at a distant marker, and take a stroll. Along the way I may see many new things, have a swim, stumble across some rare materials, or (and this is common) fill my inventory miles from anywhere and have no ship to help we travel to a shop to flog the lot. And you know what? That’s still great.
There’s some low level crafting, and equipment to improve, replace or repair, your mining/shooting/grenading hybrid multitool to constantly swap for more capable ones, and a plethora of ships to find or buy. All of which is fine, but the best bit for me? Just wandering round, taking it all in, and trying to make as much money as I possibly can from selling my findings and uploading my scans.
I’ve been naming all the systems and planets (all boy’s names, four letters – that’s The Rules), and scanning everything like I have OCD. This is where I think others have felt let down: They wanted more to do. People to shoot, animals to hunt, multiplayer, more variety. Bases to build and more crafting stuff, more purpose and proper goals. I can see that, but none of it matters to me as No Man’s Sky appeals to me just how it is right now.
As I see it there are three goals in the game, which I hear have no real rewards. There’s completing the Atlas Path, which I’m halfway towards now (it would be quite a quick task, but I keep getting sidetracked), getting all of the Journey Milestones (such as do so many warps, destroy so many ships, make so much money, etc.) most of which I have now, and reaching the centre of the galaxy, which I intend to do once the Atlas Path is done. Even if they weren’t there, though, I think I’d still be more than happy.
Here’s to another 80 hours! Oh, and if you want to see some of my No Man’s Sky videos, take a look at this playlist: