What critics think of No Man's Sky so far

Image by Redditor TheTarg.

No Man’s Sky unlocks on Steam tomorrow morning, or in the evening if you’re in Europe. We’ve been playing the game on PS4 this week to get a jump start on Hello Games’ unfathomably big space sandbox, and Tyler, Chris, and Steven have shared their thoughts on the game so far. But how have other outlets reacted to No Man Sky’s ambitious ideas and the promises made by its creators? Before you potentially pull the trigger on Steam, consider these other perspectives on the game.

Wisely, I think, very few outlets have published final reviews of No Man’s Sky at this time. But if you happen to like crude aggregations of very different scoring systems, Metacritic assesses the infinite wonder of an 18-quintillion planet universe to be a 70, based on 12 reviews.

Thankfully there are more words than numbers to help us understand how other critics are receiving the game. Writing earlier this week, GameSpot’s Peter Brown wasn’t swept away by the enormity of the universe. “Casual exploration is almost consistently rewarding thanks to the wealth of resources, outposts, and ancient ruins present on almost every planet,” he writes. “Even a few hours in, however, there comes a point where the loop of seeking and acquiring gear begins to sag, and the vastness of the galaxy sinks in.

Image by Redditor JohnTravoltasBox.

Over on IGN, our former reviews editor Dan Stapleton is similarly let down by many of No Man’s Sky’s systems, criticizing its space combat (“extremely disappointing”), the lack of interesting ambient events (“nothing of consequence ever happens in this vast universe”), and the game’s alien NPCs (“they don’t actually do anything”). “If all you want is a virtual nature walk on weird alien worlds, No Man’s Sky can provide that for you in limitless supply,” he writes. Perhaps unexpectedly, Stapleton praises some of the scripted parts of No Man’s Sky, saying that “landing on an Atlas station or Anomaly for the first time inspired some awe.” 

At this point No Man’s Sky is in desperate need of radical changes in its gameplay loop to hold my interest.

Dan Stapleton, IGN

Polygon senior editor Phil Kollar sees No Man’s Sky as a survival game, and goes on to criticize its “many ticking timers” for life support and resources as just tense enough to be annoying, saying that small inventory capacity exacerbates this frustration. “In these early hours, I am enjoying the parts of No Man’s Sky that are purely exploration,” he writes. “The problem, then, is that those parts are so constantly interrupted or put on hold for the sake of a survival loop that just isn’t very fun. Shit, I’m almost out of carbon, which means I need to wander over to some local plant life and slowly cut it down with my mining tool.”

Two days after release, Jim Sterling was comfortable scoring No Man’s Sky as a 5/10, or “Mediocre.” Calling the game “little more than just another crafting and survival experience,” Sterling praises the moments of zen that emerge from wandering alien landscapes, but seems to view No Man’s Sky’s gameplay loop as an obstacle to those experiences. “Once there’s a location to get to, an objective to reach, travel becomes excruciating,” he writes. “Once I need fuel and supplies, the hunting and gathering becomes meddlesome. Once I attempt to continue with the dreary text-based story on offer, the whole thing becomes ironically robbed of any meaningful point.”

Writing on Wednesday, Wired’s Matt Kamen shared some of the same criticisms of other reviewers but offered a more positive sentiment. “No Man's Sky is absorbing like few other games ever manage, cultivating a sense of immersion and a drive to progress, despite never giving you any real incentive,” writes Kamen. “What's keeping us hooked on No Man's Sky so far though are its mysteries. Why are worlds seemingly devoid of civilisation, with lonely outposts often the only indication of sentient life? Where do the Sentinels come from – and in an impossibly vast universe, why are they the only constant on every world?”

Finally, our colleagues at GamesRadar continue to document their experiences in a diary format. Between the anecdotes and details of the weird species Matt Elliott’s encountered, he seems to be having a good time: “It’s been a wonderful journey so far, in the most literal sense of the word. I’ve never played anything quite like No Man’s Sky, but it’s impossible to say yet if it’ll keep me engaged for another 30 hours.”

Our own review of No Man's Sky will be based on the PC version of the game, which we'll have access to tomorrow. In the meantime, check out Steven's editorial on what the game can learn from Kerbal Space Program, or Tyler and Chris' thoughts after a few days on the PS4 build.