E3 2015 – No Man’s Sky Preview: Exploring a Universe
The formula has been set, a universe has been created, and the humble yet passionate Sean Murray is my guide. We’ve seen the game as a concept numerous times in the past, but Sean is finally showing us the options and tools you have at your disposal as you explore the massive expanse that shows just how tiny and insignificant we are.
Due to the formula-based procedural generation, No Man’s Sky can be played either online or offline. Playing online allows you to use access points to upload your discoveries to Atlas, the central computer network that houses all of the discoveries in No Man’s Sky. Discoveries are first come, first serve, so if you’re the initial one to connect a discovery to Atlas, you get the credit and ability to rename the planet or creatures that you’ve found, though there will be filters so that you can’t name every star system and creature after words for your genitals.
Tools of the Galactic Trade
You are given a shield, ship, and weapon, all of which are upgradeable as you explore the universe. Your suit determines your ability to survive in different environments, and as you upgrade it, your shield and resistance to toxic environments or underwater will increase. Your ship has inventory slots for resources and technologies that you find on your journey. Each of these things will help you move further towards the center of the universe. If you do die, you will lose any materials you’re carrying and any discoveries made that you have not saved to the Atlas.
The beautiful thing about No Man’s Sky (well, one of the many beautiful things) is that you can play how you want to play. You can be a trader, ferrying goods between planets and space stations. Buying low and selling high can net you a pretty good profit. You can also play as a fighter, being a pirate and attacking trade ships, or being the white knight and rescuing traders under attack. Obviously, you can also play as an explorer, visiting planets to lay claim to your discoveries. You are never locked into one of these play styles and can move through them at will, or play as a combination of them.
Killing creatures and attack other ships will net you a wanted level, which sends sentinels and police forces after you. As it increases, more difficult military ships will be seeking you out. You can think of it as an intergalactic Grand Theft Auto. Reaching an access point will reset your wanted level as you upload your discoveries, so it is good to keep these close by if possible.
A Realistic Solar System
The planets in No Man’s Sky have a full day/night cycle and realistic orbit around their own individual sun. They are also big enough that you could walk straight around them for days or even weeks before you reach your starting point. They are quite literally planet-sized planets, with timezones and everything you would expect from a planet. If you spend time on a planet and take off to space, you will be at a different point in the solar system due to the orbit of the planet.
The menu in No Man’s Sky stores all of your discoveries, which Sean described as a kind of galactic encyclopedia. As you scan the planets for new things, points of interest will be highlighted on the map. You know that overwhelming feeling an open world game gives you with tons of markers on the map? Apply that to an entire planet, and then multiply that by an entire universe. Fortunately you can set waypoints, mark where you have been, and otherwise map your way through the vast expanse.
I could continue to ramble on, particularly about the part where Sean just used the controller to careen us through space for a minute or two, showing us just how vast it all is. I could have watched that mesmerizing scene for what seems like forever, but alas, the preview ended and we had to let our minds drift back to Earth. Little by little we’re learning more about No Man’s Sky, but there’s so much that the team at Hello Games wants you to discover on your own, as discovery and wonder are what the game is trying to achieve.