Being what I’d like to call a “seasoned gamer”, there aren’t many things that will make me stop and actually say “wow” out loud, but Hello Games’ brand new sci-fi adventure, No Man’s Sky, did exactly that when I saw the gameplay footage showcased during Sony’s E3 2014 press conference. Perhaps because I’m exclusively a console gamer these days, I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to No Man’s Sky when it was announced a little while ago at VGX and presumed to be a PC exclusive, but after seeing the PS4 footage, I’m now utterly enamoured.
For those of you who don’t know what the game is, it’s an open-world space exploration and combat sim that allows you to explore a procedurally-generated galaxy filled with beauty and danger. The E3 trailer begins with the main character on foot, traipsing through a cave while his HUD (I’ll say “his” as the name it shows is “Sean”) isolates various objects and animals and feeds him information in real time. Emerging from the cave into a clearly alien landscape, our intrepid explorer then proceeds to investigate the indigenous wildlife, including a herd of deer-like animals and Brontosaurus-aping behemoths. The world looks incredibly alive, as though it would continue on even after the player leaves – which is exactly what he does when a giant rhino thing crashes through the undergrowth and the assembled animals scatter and flee.
Leaping into his craft, brave explorer Sean then leaves the planet’s atmosphere, navigating through first an asteroid field and then an enemy fleet before engaging in a space dogfight that takes him below the atmosphere of another randomly-generated world. The most impressive thing about this sequence?
Not once does No Man’s Sky even pause to load a new area.
And even if it did pause to load, you’d forgive it, because it looks astounding. Earlier footage showed giant sandworms and evidence of first person gunplay – but the onus is on exploration. You’ll never experience the exact same planet twice, even during different play-throughs, and everything you discover, from the worlds themselves to plants, animals and minerals are tagged with your name, so every other player in your universe knows you were there first.
Although the E3 trailer shows space combat, it doesn’t show player versus player fights, and so far Hello Games have only confirmed co-op. It seems likely that there will be some form of PvP available at some point, even if it’s just friendly, consequence-free space duelling. But you won’t come to No Man’s Sky for the combat, despite promises that you can upgrade your ship and character to make you more durable in the extreme conditions you’ll face. No, you’ll come to No Man’s Sky for the sheer joy of discovery, for the beauty and majesty of its countless worlds.
One of the most interesting details in the trailer is just how varied those worlds are. The first one shown is reminiscent of the Serengeti, with communal watering holes and towering trees, where herbivores gather in large numbers to deter savage predators. The second world we see is like Nevada: rolling canyon floors dotted here and there with towering rock formations and mountains. Earlier footage also shows a frozen world – who knows what else there is to see?
With the mysterious enemy fleet rounding off the feature-heavy trailer, it’s safe to say that No Man’s Sky is looking like a vast, addictive and time-swallowing adventure game that takes sci-fi in brand new directions. For an indie game, that’s really quite something.
No Man’s Sky is coming to PC and PlayStation 4 later this year. Check out the trailer, and keep your eyes on Godisageek for more information as it becomes available.