That No Man's Sky was a product condemned to divide was already clear from the announcement of the title: on the one hand the ambitions of Hello Games, on the other hand, a reality never as hard as in this case that between logistical problems, postponements and lawsuits has kept the public in suspense until the end. A circus that inevitably generated expectations and skepticism in the same way, a lot of interest but also a lot of dislike for this independent team that came out of nowhere but determined to embark on a project of this size and offer it at full price. A circus that ultimately certainly could not go off suddenly at the exit of the title and that will hold the bench for this last remnant of 2016.
Version tested: Playstation 4
To try to best tell you what No Man's Sky is, we have divided our review into two parts. The first is the most "methodical" and deals with the mechanics present in the game (with, of course, our considerations on the sidelines). The second, on page 2, tries instead to take stock of the experience (or rather, the experiences) that the title of Hello Games tries to bring to life.
Live and let dieKey word: survive, despite the initially reduced inventory
Reduced to its essence, the player's aim (called to impersonate an anonymous space traveler) it is simply to survive, relying on his strength, on a journey that from the periphery of the galaxy will lead him to explore the most "internal" planets. The tools available, essentially, are three: the spaceship that allows you to travel from celestial body to celestial body, the Extotuta which instead supports the player once they have put their feet on the ground and finally the Multi-tool, to perform the double role as an offensive weapon and a means to extract resources from minerals, flora and fauna present on the surface. Each of these has its own inventory (with a finite number of slots), in which modules and components will be installed that allow access to the functionality of the device and, in the case of spaceship and Exotuta, share the space with collected resources and objects. and / or obtained in the course of the experience. Not only that: by placing the modules that refer to the same skill / functionality close to each other, bonuses are obtained. It is therefore necessary to weigh the choice of the slot to be occupied (and, as we will see later, also that relating to the Multi-tool and spaceship upgrades) with particular attention, given that once an item has been placed in the inventory, unless it is discarded or dismantled it is not possible to change its place, with the only partial exception of the materials, since it is possible to transfer them from the suit to the spacecraft (and vice versa). Even in this case, however, No Man's Sky sets precise stakes, so if it is true that it is possible to send any element collected in the suit to the ship, to perform the reverse operation you must be in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle, and you must also take into account that with the same slots the nacelle can store more quantities of the same element in a single position (therefore, in case of transfer to the exotuta, there is a risk of occupying more free slots). Finally, it should be borne in mind that of the three "key tools" available only for the exosuit it is possible, right now, to collect upgrades that add new slots: in the other two cases it is necessarily necessary to get hold of a new spacecraft (or Multi-tool), inevitably losing all the modules installed on the old model (fortunately, it is possible to move at least the stored resources when changing spacecraft). It is true that generally the proposed alternatives are not "virgin" and have pre-installed modules, but it may happen that you have to redo some of the work already done to install those not present, or simply disassemble and recreate those equipped to exploit more intelligently space.
Minecraft in spaceResources, of course, play a key role in No Man's Sky
The phases on the ground are inevitably the first ones you have to deal with. Once on the surface it is necessary to keep in mind what are the characteristics of the planet or moon being explored, to understand how far it is possible to get away from the "base camp" (the point where you landed with the shuttle) and what are the potential threats that you can meet. From this point of view Hello Games has made sure that we can come across hospitable or more inaccessible planets, crossed by storms (or other phenomena) with a different cycle and inhabited by flora and fauna ranging from total absence to a massive and threatening presence. Even the atmosphere itself can be characterized by various elements, from high or low temperatures (where therefore the resistance of the exotuta to cold or heat is put under strain) up to the presence of radiation. Depending on the modules equipped, therefore, as mentioned, you have to weigh your autonomy and adjust the exploration phases accordingly: you can decide to visit only the areas adjacent to the spaceship, returning on board and taking off more frequently to change places (at cost of several units of plutonium to power the thrusters for take-off) or sacrifice space to increase the resistance of life support (the module that regulates the "time" that can be spent on the surface, however rechargeable with the elements collected) or strengthen the suit against certain phenomena to have to worry less about the module dedicated to resistance to these. Anyway, whether you have invested in these upgrades or not, you are still dependent on resources, necessary both to power the hexotuta, Multi-tool and spacecraft systems and to create new modules and upgrades. One immediately realizes how fundamental it is on the surface to always have available the carbon units or the aforementioned plutonium, indispensable for recharging the components of the exotuta and the Mining Ray of the Multi-tool, the means that allows you to extract resources from rocks, plants and animals present. But the Multi-tool is also the tool that allows you to defend yourself from the attacks of hostile forces, whether these particularly aggressive animals or the Sentinels, robotic drones that scan the surfaces and can attack the player if and when they consider it a threat (in our case for the first part of the experience they limited themselves to returning fire only when we were fighting, but in some planets we were targeted whenever a particular object was collected). In these cases, fairly elementary shooting sections begin, where basically you aim and shoot, even if it is still possible to dodge and take advantage of a melee attack (not particularly useful, given the reduced damage it causes).
In a sense, the ultimate goal is knowledge
But if the resources allow to survive, the spring that pushes us to explore, especially in the early stages, is knowledge: this can come practically at any time, whether interacting with the isolated alien outposts that one encounters or when studying the relics present on the planet, or even locating abandoned structures or rescue ships. Only in this way is it possible to come across projects that allow the crafting of elements and modules, essential to continue the journey towards the center of the galaxy (especially, as we will see, when we talk about the functional objects to perform jumps in hyperspace). And only in this way is it possible to enrich one's vocabulary in order to understand, word after word, what the three alien races present in the game are trying to tell us. when we dialogue with them, however often and willingly the game describes the context in detail and allows us to understand quite easily which of the multiple choices on the screen is the "contextual" one and allows us to improve relations with that particular race. To help the player in the exploration phases, in addition to the scanner of the Multi-tool, the radio beacons and scanners present on the planet intervene, which allow to locate still undiscovered places. The latter, in particular, allow you to specify the scope of the search (being able to choose, for example, whether to search for an Alien Monolith or a shelter) at the cost of a bypass chip.
In space, no one can hear you screamEqually important, but less successful in our opinion, the phases in space
Equally important are the phases driving the spacecraft: first of all because some materials are easier to recover if extracted by knocking down the asteroids present in space (an example above all: the Thamium9, essential for powering the impulse engine that shortens the journey within the same system). Secondly because, especially in the more advanced sections of the game, most of the commercial activities take place in the space stations present in the various systems, where it is possible both to access a “standardized” trading system and to communicate directly with the travelers who visit the stations, being able, among other things, to purchase their ships. These are activities that can also be carried out in some places on the surface, but which are more practical in space given the greater influx of non-player characters and the possibility of buying and selling from both available inventories (suit and spacecraft). However, commerce isn't the only business to get rich with in No Man's Sky: in a certain sense it is possible to engage in acts of "honest piracy", targeting spacecraft and cargo ships in orbit and attacking with the weapons available to one's spacecraft (or, in reverse, it happens to be caught targeted by hostile forces). In these cases you have to be particularly careful about what happens, since the sentries will not fail to put a spoke in the wheel to the player by sending forces to support the victim, but also considering that you can end up involved in a clash. between two factions that does not concern us in the least, except for the laser beams that start raining at our address. In these cases you can try to escape, not being able to take advantage of the aforementioned and very useful impulse motors (disabled when under attack) or choose a side and give a hand to improvised companions. If you decide to earn a living in this way, it is certainly necessary to equip your shuttle well and always have minerals available to recharge the shields. In the event of a game over, the entire load stored in the hold is lost, although it can be recovered by going to the place of defeat (as long as it is not knocked down again). In any case, this is the least successful part of the experience in our opinion: also in this case the mechanics appear quite basic, but if while on the surface the phases of conflict worked and were also able to entertain here the music changes, due to excessive simplifications to the control system that (for example) avert the danger of dying by crashing into space bases and planets (and inflict light damage in case of impact with meteorites). And also the aiming system appears to be quite "assisted", especially after having unlocked the Phase Range, slow but capable of inflicting serious damage (you can shoot down an enemy ship in a handful of shots), also thanks to an auto-aim more immediate than shown by the main cannon. Regardless of how you decide to interpret this scrap of experience, you have to resign yourself to the fact that journeys among the stars are an integral part of the title, and allow not only to visit the various planets of the current system, but also to progress in the journey to the center of the galaxy thanks to the Hyperguide, which allows you to perform the famous jumps in hyperspace that allow the change of solar system (and therefore provide new planets to explore). At this point, another great classic could not be missing, the "shortcut" provided by black holes, which allow you to get significantly closer to the target at each crossing (and for this reason, as we will see shortly, they must be "localized" to prevent abuse).