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Game Review: Take flight in ‘No Man’s Sky’

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Morgan Park, Reporter

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It’s kind of crazy that “No Man’s Sky” is finally out. In the time following its announcement three years ago, we’ve been wondering if Hello Games could deliver on their promise of endless randomly generated planets for players to explore. To many, it sounded too good to be true, or even possible.

But after all of this time waiting in curiosity about what the game would really be, it’s a pretty surreal feeling to actually play it. And despite any vague expectations I might have had for the game, Hello Games has made something truly special in “No Man’s Sky.”

“No Man’s Sky” is a game about a lot of things, but what you might not expect is just how much of a crafting and survival game it is. You begin next to a crashed ship on an unexplored, randomly generated planet, and must scrounge around nature to craft repairs for your ship. Once the period of tutorials is done, it’s just you and your ship, ready to explore the galaxy and travel towards the center.

Most of your time in “No Man’s Sky” is spent on the surface of planets discovering new plants, animal species and landmarks that can be uploaded to the game’s servers so that other players can find your discoveries themselves. That said, survival is always at the core of whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re replenishing your life support system or crafting fuel for your journey, a lot of the game is relatively action-free.

Sure, you can start fights with sentinel robots, but the magic of “No Man’s Sky” is really found in the quiet moments. Flying down seamlessly from space to a planet, landing in a nice patch of grass, peaceful walks, discovering animals and befriending them; this is when the game is unlike anything else I’ve ever played.

The single greatest aspect of “No Man’s Sky” is that it doesn’t care what you want to do in it. It’s a genuinely open-world game that doesn’t thrust any particular objective or even incentive in the player’s direction. Even the game’s most direct “goal” of flying to the center of the universe is a completely optional notion.

More than any other game, “No Man’s Sky” is defined by what the player puts into it. This is best expressed by an experience I had in my first few hours with the game, in which I had damaged my ship on a harsh and hazardous planet. I was stranded there; my only hope was to wander around on foot in hopes of finding an outpost where I could buy the parts needed for my ship. So began my two-hour pilgrimage.

It was a tough trip, but I saw so many cool things along the way. I discovered cave systems, met some cool dinosaur creatures with dog-like heads, and even mined a fair amount of gold along the way. And just when I was going to give up, I finally found a lone outpost where I could buy what I needed to escape.

Despite the flaws that “No Man’s Sky” has (the repetitive puzzles, occasional bugs, and painfully under-explained gameplay systems), these are the kind of moments that make it all worth it, and what kept me playing it for over 30 hours. And no, I never got to the center of the universe, but that was never really the point. “No Man’s Sky” is a therapeutic experience, if you’re open to it. But, going into it with any other mindset is setting yourself up for disappointment. (Four out of five stars)

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Game Review: Take flight in ‘No Man’s Sky’