The strange worlds of No Man’s Sky

It’s been an unusual month or two for my gaming tastes as I’ve been concentrating more on the non sci-fi offerings that have been stacking up in my wishlists and libraries, but when I have been in sci-fi mode, I’ve been in a bit more of a thoughtful frame of mind.

Ahhh, No Man’s Sky – one of the most unique sci-fi games around both for its fundamental strangeness, and for the fact it somehow keeps getting better without apparently costing its existing player base any more money.

The game started as a project from a small development team around the same time as Elite Dangerous, launched to mixed reviews in 2016, but developed a hardcore fanbase seemingly overnight. Since then, it’s become one of those games which comes up in conversation routinely because of the cool-sounding new features in its latest free update, of which its had more than 30.

For anybody who doesn’t know, NMS is a procedurally generated galaxy-scale exploration and base-building experience at its heart, and one which is truly unique in terms of variety and the feeling of sheer size it conveys. In terms of atmosphere, it leans heavily towards something vaguely akin to Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris vibes for me, which is something quite special in itself. It’s not big on threats, explosions or galactic nemesi, so it’s always been a great option for a chill out with some mates since developer Hello Games added and largely sorted out its multiplayer aspect.

Me and my once-a-week PlayStation team – who are usually far more apt to spend our time in player versus player mode in Rocket League – decided to give it another shot after our previous stint had fallen foul of the feeling we’d experienced everything it had to offer at that time. Now, we’re once again all cheerfully hooked on its Meccano-style construction and utterly bizarre ecosystems.

All Your Base

All my bases are still there in roughly their original configurations, even several years later and my personal thing in NMS is trying to spread small, teleport-equipped outposts (to which my online friends can then have shared access when they play) to the maximum number of interesting and useful planets I can find. It’s always a clean, relaxing kind of fun trying to help each other out to build a new submarine mining operation or work out the best use of the latest geocraft.

As far as the updates of the intervening couple of years go, they’ve markedly improved the visuals and added a VR mode I’d like to try, but in gameplay terms I’m a fan of the player-ownable settlements the developer has added. Unlike the standalone bases you can build anywhere in the galaxy, these have a population whose attitudes, issues and requirements give the impression that there’s a little bit more going on in the oft-empty (of other sentient life at least) universe your Traveller otherwise inhabits.

I highly recommend the game and perhaps we’ll see you at the Paradise planet we use as a core system, but good luck finding it in the vast, but unusually forgiving, universe this game offers.

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