No Man’s Sky One Year Later: A Few Good Things

By Shamus
on Sep 26, 2017
Filed under:
Column

Maybe you’re wondering why I spent so much time with this game. Shamus, if you hate the game so much then why not just play something else?

I love procedural worlds. I mean, obviously. I love expansive exploration. The only reason I stopped playing Skyrim was because I’d basically exhausted the world and had too many of the dungeons memorized. It took me years to kick my Minecraft habit, and all it would take is one good modpack to get me to relapse.

No Man’s Sky provides more explorable space than any other game. There’s tons of variety. I enjoy seeing what’s over the next rise, on the next world, and in the next system. If the gameplay could have been upgraded from “aggressively disappointing” to simply “kinda dull” I’d have been able to enjoy it for months.

Meet Donny

*FART NOISES*

*FART NOISES*

Let’s say you’re playing one of those tabletop games that NERDS like so much. The setting is great. You’re really happy with your character. The story is pretty interesting so far. There’s lots of laughing and fun around the table. Everything is great except…

Except for Donny.

Donny is a jackass. He’s loud, abrasive, argumentative, and entitled. He eats more than everyone else, he never chips in for food, and he’s always knocking things over and spilling stuff on the game pieces. He starts fights when he’s bored, which is whenever his character isn’t the center of attention. A couple of girls used to be part of the group, but they left because Donny was such a creep towards them. He throws tantrums when the dice don’t go his way and he watches YouTube videos on his phone at full volume when other characters are having an intense conversation that doesn’t involve him.

Sure, you can ask, “Why are you still going to this group if Donny ruins everything? Why not do something else with your Friday nights?” That’s a fair question. Although a more incisive question would be, “Who the fuck keeps inviting Donny and why can’t we get rid of him?

Yes, I can quit playing No Man’s Sky. In fact, I’ve done so. (I was wrapping up my time with the game just as this series started.) But it’s tragic. Yes, quitting the game solves the problem of being annoyed by the game, but a better solution would have been for the game to stop being so annoying. There are things I love about No Man’s Sky. There are things many people love about No Man’s Sky. Everyone loves exploring these worlds. But like I said last week, the game is engineered to create disappointment.

But not everything is bad. After three weeks of constant negativity, it’s time for me to be positive. Or at least try to. Look, I’m not making any promises, I’m just saying I’ll try to be nice. The updates did manage to get a few things right and I want to list them here in the interest of encouraging more of this sort of thing.

Survival Mode

If the atmosphere is so thick (or the gravity so weak) that these butterfly-cows can hover on such tiny wings, then I imagine they could just as easily fly without the wings.

If the atmosphere is so thick (or the gravity so weak) that these butterfly-cows can hover on such tiny wings, then I imagine they could just as easily fly without the wings.

In normal gameplay mode, your survival is basically a foregone conclusion. It’s very hard to get killed and the game does very little to push back against mistakes. In survival mode, this is no longer the case. Every single planet will try to kill you in some way. If the weather isn’t deadly, then the robotic sentinels will attack you on sight and hound you relentlessly across the surface. You’ll consume resources at an accelerated rate, meaning your shield against toxins / radiation / hot / cold will crumble quickly in extreme environments. Worst of all, the accelerated resource consumption means you must constantly be looking for more stuff just to keep from dropping dead.

Now, this sounds like it would be a horrible mix with the restricted inventory system, but it’s actually an improvement on what we had before. See, in normal mode all of your goals are long-term. You were always looking to the horizon, to the next big upgrade. And like I said last week, most of these were eventually disappointments. But survival provides you with much more immediate goals.

I don’t have enough fuel to take off. I see some plutonium about half a kilometer from here. If I can get out there without melting in this acid rain and without getting ganked by any of the bloodthirsty dino-possums and raptor dogs, I should be able to take off and escape this hellhole.

I think it’s a bit like The Long Dark. Intense at first, but after a few hours of running in place and facing the same hazards again and again, it gets to be monotonous. I don’t know that this is the ideal game style for the No Man’s Sky planetary procgen engine. But it is a viable game with mechanics and a proper gameplay loop.

Space Combat

Pirates leave red trails, space police leave blue. Here a couple of pirates are about to pick a fight with something way above their weight class.

Pirates leave red trails, space police leave blue. Here a couple of pirates are about to pick a fight with something way above their weight class.

You might remember that at launch space combat was so pointless, broken, and frustrating that I dedicated an entire column to the problems. Those are mostly fixed now. You can run from fights. You can communicate with pirates and pay a ransom to avoid being attacked. The shooting feels a little better and there are a variety of weapons for you to try. When there’s a large-scale engagement outside of a space station you can tell what the sides are and who you’re shooting at. It’s much easier to see and pick up the “loot” dropped by other ships. The AI pirates no longer slam comically into the freighters they’re supposed to be shooting at.

The AI is designed to focus on putting on a good show rather than trying to win. AI pilots do almost no damage to each other. They just fly in loops and generate lots of Star Wars style pew-pew lasers to make the battle look impressive. The two sides will be stuck in this stalemate until you weigh in. Your ship is the only one that can really deal (or receive) fatal damage. This means you can have a space battle nearby that generates lots of fireworks and makes for a good show, or you can jump in and join one side or the other.

It’s not going to be mistaken for a deep-sim space combat game. It’s still pretty shallow, but it looks good and the game is clear about what’s going on and what the stakes are. A lot of work has gone into fixing this, and it shows.

Call Your Ship

In survival mode, you REALLY want to try to park your ship at a landing pad. Taking off from the ground eats a ton of fuel and you`re not going to want to do it unless you have to.

In survival mode, you REALLY want to try to park your ship at a landing pad. Taking off from the ground eats a ton of fuel and you`re not going to want to do it unless you have to.

In the original No Man’s Sky, you’d jump out of your spaceship, walk half a mile, then realize you needed to turn back because your pockets were full. So then you had to turn around and hike back over the ground you’d already covered. Not only was your adventure over before it got started, but you spent half your time looking at the same patch of land.

Now you can summon your ship to your position. This costs fuel, so it’s not something to be done casually. But still, it cuts out the worst bits of exploration and lets you focus on the less worse bits.

In survival, having your ship take off is really expensive, so having it waste a launch to come to your position is something you’re going to avoid unless you’re in a really tight spot. Which makes sense, since all the environmental dangers would be nullified if you could just leave whenever you wanted to. Also, once you reach the mid-game you’ll be able to carry enough fuel to splurge on decadent luxuries like doing the occasional ship-summon. This is one of the too-rare bits of the game where it feels like you’re making progress.

Quests

Uh, this guy is not a Korvax. On the other hand, all of these text boxes are useless noise to be clicked through as quickly as possible, so I doubt most people noticed.

Uh, this guy is not a Korvax. On the other hand, all of these text boxes are useless noise to be clicked through as quickly as possible, so I doubt most people noticed.

The game now has quests. On a space station you’ll find an agent with job listings. Kill X pirates. Kill X predatory animals. Kill X sentinel robots. Retrieve an item. Travel to a remote outpost in this solar system and repair the machine. It’s all pretty shallow, but it works as a way of giving you something else to do while hunting for the rare resource you need to build your next upgrade.

In Skyrim, you’re often accomplishing multiple things at once. I’m clearing out this bandit camp as part of a quest, but at the same time I’m also earning XP towards leveling up my skills and I’m winning the favor of the local Jarl so he’ll sell me a house and I’m collecting crafting materials I’ll need later and I’m gathering loot to sell for money and I’m looking for books to complete my collection and I’m hunting for rare knickknacksThe Stones of Barenziah. Because I hate myself. to complete some other quest. The various mechanics work together and all of them encourage me to engage with the main gameplay loop of looting and leveling.

In No Man’s Sky, far too many of the mechanics work against each other and – aside from learning alien languages – they’re all in conflict with the stupid inventory. But the quest system finally gives us something that has a little bit of synergy with the gameplay loop. Many of the quest types simply encourage you to do the stuff you’re already going to be doing: Land on a planet, harvest some stuff, and shoot anything that tries to stop you. It’s not enough to make No Man’s Sky as engrossing as Skyrim, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Surprisingly, the quest system hasn’t been designed for maximum inconvenience. I realize this comes off as obnoxious snark, but “inconvenience” is such a huge part of the design of the game that this really is unexpected. You can take a job in one system. (Say, destroy 10 sentinel robots.) Then you can do the job at your leisure along your travels as you move from one system to the next. Then you can turn in the quest in whatever system you like.

Base Building

Yes, I deliberately scouted around for a spot where I`d have an enormous planet on the horizon. None of the planets in NMS sky spin or orbit, and the upside is that it`s easy to stage shots like this one.

Yes, I deliberately scouted around for a spot where I`d have an enormous planet on the horizon. None of the planets in NMS sky spin or orbit, and the upside is that it`s easy to stage shots like this one.

Like I said in earlier entries, the base building is pretty good. It’s a lot like Fallout 4, in that you build your home from modular parts that snap together like a habitrail”Habitrail” is actually a brand name, but I think we need to hijack and genericize it. We really need a word for “environment created by connecting modular rooms and winding tunnels”. Doom 2016, No Man’s Sky, Fallout 4, and dozens of top-down strategy games use it.. It’s really easy to make something attractive and functional, and it makes for a good alternate activity when you want a break from planet-hopping.

The game allows you to jump back to your home planet from any space station, which keeps it fun and easy and helps solidify the gameplay loop of collecting treasure and hauling it home.

Base building is not perfect. Basic things take a lot of materials, which means they take up a lot of inventory space, which means you’ll spend a lot of time fussing with containers.

On the upside, windows make your base look fantastic. On the downside, the game seems to leverage this to make you work to obtain them. In our universe, glass is made from very cheap stuff, but in the universe of No Man’s Sky windows can only be constructed using huge volumes of magical ice crystals.

As a warning: The game promises you that you can move your base whenever you like, and that you’ll get “most” of your building materials back. This is a lie. You get half, rounded down. If an item required 5 rare things to construct, you’ll get back 2. I guess in the NMS universe, 40% qualifies as “most”. Anyway, make sure you really want to move your base, because it’s a lot more expensive than the game lets on. This penalty also applies when tearing down an item to re-locate it within your existing base, so don’t get click-happy and misplace that landing pad or trade kiosk or you’ll be setting yourself up for some expensive grinding to correct your mistakeIt’s better to just save-scum when building expensive stuff..

Building your base is tied to an annoying linear questline, and the game withholds a few important building pieces until you’ve progressed through a lot of it. This means they won’t be available until you’re basically done building the place. Given the penalty for deleting stuff, this is pretty obnoxious. You can’t build the base you want until you’ve finished building the compromised version you had to settle for because the game wouldn’t give you access to all the parts.

I’d suggest starting a game in creative mode (another great addition in these updates) where building is free, and using that to plan out your base before you attempt to do it for “real”.

Yes, there’s a lot wrong with the building mechanics. But there’s a good idea under the hassle and plenty of room for it to be refined.

Atlas Quest

*Rolls eyes, makes jerk-off motion*

*Rolls eyes, makes jerk-off motion*

The Atlas Quest is much improved. Previously you made a journey from one Atlas station to the next, and at each station you’d be given an “Atlas Stone”. At the end of the journey you’d turn in the 10 stones you collected and get whatever passed for a conclusion. The Atlas stones didn’t stack, so the further you got in this quest the more it exacerbated the inventory problems that made the game such a chore to play.

In the update, the Atlas gives out “Atlas Seed” recipes instead of stones. The recipes actually form a chain, so that each new item requires the previous Atlas seed as a crafting ingredient, along with a measure of some element. These elements get rarer as the quest goes on. What you end up with is this mystery orb that you add to after each visit, using the materials you gather along your journey.

It’s far from perfect. The big problem is that one of the steps requires some material only found around blue stars, which means you must complete Polo’s entire “questline” before you can obtain it. Perversely, this isn’t the final step. Step #7 requires stuff that you can only obtain with the final tier (tier 3) warp reactor, but the next 2 steps require stuff from tier 2 stars, and the final step requires stuff you can get literally anywhere. I can’t imagine why these requirements are so backwards. Again, it feels like someone was just throwing things together randomly and not thinking about how the player was supposed to progress through the game.

Also, I think the Atlas Quest is still broken. Or maybe it’s just confusing. Sometimes I’d arrive at an Atlas interface and not get any text. Nothing would happen. I’d get a blank screen, leave, and it would give me the location of the next Atlas station anyway. This game is such a pile of random broken stuff it’s tough to tell the difference between when it’s malfunctioning and when it’s just being really coy.

Um, LINE? Isn`t there supposed to be some text here or something?

Um, LINE? Isn`t there supposed to be some text here or something?

The ending seems to be broken as well. The final Atlas Seed is called “Heart of The Sun”. The interface indicates you’re inserting this thing into a machine to get the ending, but then when it’s over I’ve still got it in my inventory. Some players report getting a certain reward item for completing the quest, but I never got that. The game told me the quest was complete and the Atlas stuff was removed from my quest log, but I didn’t “get” anything. I’m not saying I should have, I’m just saying I can’t tell if it’s broken or if this is the intended behavior.

A lot of people faulted the game for telling its “story” through nothing but text boxes. No animated characters. No voice acting. No lip sync. No cutscenes. No branching outcomes. I’m not going to complain about that, but I will say that if you’re falling back to 1985 technology for your storytelling then you ought to be able to make it work without the whole thing glitching out or breaking, particularly a year after release.

I realize this post is supposed to be about “Good Things”, but here we have a good thing wrapped in a bunch of bad (or at least questionable) things. I’m doing what I can to be nice, but I’m not going to pretend I didn’t notice all of these problems. My point is that I like the idea of building up an Atlas seed using elements gathered along your journey, thus creating a link between the Atlas quest and the planet exploration gameplay. It’s a solid design choice, even if it’s weirdly structured and possibly bugged.

The Music is Really Good

Did they add more music in one of the updates? It seems like I got more musical variety this time. I dunno. For such a long game, I’m pretty impressed at how rarely I found myself thinking, “Oh, this track again?”

Okay. We’re done talking about No Man’s Sky. Probably for good. Onward.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] The Stones of Barenziah. Because I hate myself.

[2] ”Habitrail” is actually a brand name, but I think we need to hijack and genericize it. We really need a word for “environment created by connecting modular rooms and winding tunnels”. Doom 2016, No Man’s Sky, Fallout 4, and dozens of top-down strategy games use it.

[3] It’s better to just save-scum when building expensive stuff.


20201555 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Now, this sounds like it would be a horrible mix with the restricted inventory system, but it’s actually an improvement on what we had before.

    I can see that.In many survival games that offer plenty of inventory space dying after hours of playtime due to a silly mistake can often put you off,because gathering all that shit took loads of time.Meanwhile,in games where you can carry just a few things and had to leave everything else behind,dying after a while doesnt lose you that much.Sure,you got far and had some special thing in your possession,but you also left a bunch of other special things behind,which kind of got you used to the loss.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      I imagine it’s more because you actually use what you collect almost immediately instead of hoarding it for “future projects”, so you get less inventory juggling for the same amount of collecting.

  2. Mender says:

    I was actually waiting with commenting until this last post to see if you would bring up the music. Thanks for doing so. I’ve read so many reviews (good and bad) of No Man’s Sky and no one ever mentions the music. I’m clearly biased here, because 65daysofstatic have been my favourite band since before NMS (in fact, NMS first caught my attention because they used Debutante for the first reveal trailer), but honestly I think that the soundtrack is the best thing this game has brought us. I haven’t actually played NMS for long enough to be able to tell how repetitive the procedurally generated soundtrack gets (EDIT: misread this part; thought you were saying it does get repetitive), but the samples on the second disc of the album as well as the normally composed stuff on the first disc is absolutely phenomenal.

    And yes, at least one of the updates added new music to the game: https://www.facebook.com/65propaganda/videos/vb.59496880675/10155238109555676/?type=3&theater

  3. thak says:

    Couple of typos:

    Or at least try to.

    without melting in this acid rain

  4. Echo Tango says:

    “Habitrail” is actually a brand name, but I think we need to hijack and genericize it. We really need a word for “environment created by connecting modular rooms and winding tunnels”. Doom 2016, No Man’s Sky, Fallout 4, and dozens of top-down strategy games use it.

    1. How about “fab-hab”? It’s short, hints at the intended meaning (pre-fabricated habitation), and is probably too short and generic to be trademarked any time soon.

    2. What strategy games use this? I know there’s tactics games that do this, like the original X-COM games, and the new XCOM games. I’m surprised it’d be possible to have large-scale battles with interconnected rooms, since there would be so many choke-points for the armies.

    P.S.
    I don’t understand your site’s conversion of quotation marks into actual different characters / code-points, instead of just doing some visual trickery or keeping plain quotes in place. They break copy-pasting for code. (OSX by default turns quotes and apostrophes into these things. The first time you accidentally paste them into some code, you find the setting to shut off.) :)

    • Echo Tango says:

      Missed my edit-window. Should have said something like, “They break copy-paste for code, and you’re a programmer.”, although it occurs to me that I might just actually be more anal than you are… :)

    • Droid says:

      Command and Conquer (except Generals) and most C&C-like games do this, not with tunnels, per se, but rather with maximum building distance and stuff. Act of Aggression is one that comes to mind. There, building distance is limited at the time of building, but afterwards, losing “connection” has no effect. One of the factions, the Cartel, even has quite a few buildings that are forced to go right next to other buildings, which often makes their own base the biggest movement blocker for Cartel players and their allies.

      Subnautica is another game with this kind of “Habitrail” building. There, that name is really on point!

      What else comes to mind are the gigantic space station complexes in X3. There is no limit to how many stations you can drop into one sector, and unless you want your transport ships to ferry every intermediary product between isolated stations, you also need to connect them to a “station controller” with the help of corridors. In the end, it all looks like a gigantic game of mikado somehow gone horribly wrong. Oh, and your FPS dives right <10 territory when looking at it… What a game!

      • Echo Tango says:

        Ah. I’d assumed Shamus was talking about the environment the player plays in, rather than the buildings that exist in the game. The environment of an RTS is the map, but the buildings are your base. Also makes sense now, since the environment of an RTS is very different from an FPS, but if you’re always talking about the buildings, then an RTS’s pre-fab blocks would pretty much be the same as the buildings in DOOM or some other sci-fi FPS. :)

  5. Flashia says:

    So as I was reading through these columns, the million-dollar question popped into my head:

    Did the updates, overall, provide a net-positive for the experience of the game? In other words, did you like the game better (or at least disliked it less) before the updates rolled in?

    Because after reading all these columns, I honesty can’t answer that question myself.

    P.S. – First comment in this website. Longtime lurker, but I finally found the urge to say something.

  6. Dev Null says:

    This game is such a pile of random broken stuff it’s tough to tell the difference between when it’s malfunctioning and when it’s just being really coy.

    I’m not saying I should have, I’m just saying I can’t tell if it’s broken or if this is the intended behavior.

    Here’s a hint, game designers; if your game is at all buggy, you don’t get to be coy. Players will find your subtle puzzle, say to themselves “_Another_ bug? This game is awful!” and walk away.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, if the game is mostly buggy and broken already, I wouldn’t give it the benefit of the doubt. Anything that’s not obviously working as intended would be assumed broken, buggy, or not finished. There’s lots of good games to play out there; I don’t need to spend time deliberating on whether or not yet another game is buggy or broken. :)

    • Droid says:

      I find I struggle with this as a DM. The people I play with have this tendency to just go along with the bullshit that someone tries to tell them, not because they don’t listen, but (I think) simply because they don’t want to risk questioning my narration/dialogue in case it’s a plot hole. Or whatever other reason. I find it really hard to think of something that is pretty obviously inconsistent with what they learned earlier, but also definitely not an inconsistency in narration / a DM oversight.

      • Echo Tango says:

        I’d just continue with the deliberate bullshit; As a DM, you can always cover up your mistakes later, and the players should understand that you’re not infallible. Personally, I’d much rather play a game where I knew the DM could be messing with me, rather than in a game world where there’s no deceipt, trickery, or double-agents. :)

      • Dev Null says:

        I think you get a LOT more slack in pen-and-paper games. Your DM-ing may be “buggy”, in that “not everything quite lines up” way, but it will never be buggy in the “the clues told me I need to use this key on this door, but it doesn’t do anything at all, or explain why, because I’m standing on slightly the wrong pixel” way. If they find a plot hole, you can make something up off-the-cuff to explain it away.

        • Droid says:

          I know. It’s not that I can’t handle the players questioning what I said, it’s that they are very averse to doing so in the first place. And I can see them sometimes going through that “What? No! That’s not … Ah, whatever!” that I sometimes do when playing a video game. They just immediately jump from “this is what the DM said” to “this is what is true in this world”, even if it doesn’t make sense.

          • Cerapa says:

            You could try doing like a 1-2 session one-shot(or just a particular quest with the existing party) with them about spies or politics or something else that would involve a lot of lying characters and misunderstandings. If it works, then they will be more comfortable with dealing with that stuff in the future, and if it fails, then you will get a better idea about why they might be hesitant to question you.

          • Dev Null says:

            It’s mostly ok for them to trust _you_, but they should never trust your NPC’s explicitly. My advice – just to tie this back to the original comment about not being subtle – is to beat them over the head with it. Contrive a situation where one NPC tells them one thing, and another tells them the exact opposite, and choosing to believe one or the other will drastically change the outcome of whatever mess they’re in. Make it obvious that _someone_ is lying to them, and make them figure out who…

            • Syal says:

              Or remind the players what they were told right before it gets contradicted. “Bread Guy Steve told you this thing makes bread, but from here it looks like it makes bones and nightmares.” Then they know you didn’t just forget about saying it made bread.

              Or maybe make people roll perception checks when NPCs are talking to them?

              • Droid says:

                Or remind the players what they were told right before it gets contradicted. “Bread Guy Steve told you this thing makes bread, but from here it looks like it makes bones and nightmares.” Then they know you didn’t just forget about saying it made bread.

                That’s a good idea, I’ll keep it in mind!

                Or maybe make people roll perception checks when NPCs are talking to them?

                I’m not so sure about that one. I want them to have agency in this and start investigating on their own. Above all, they shouldn’t think of this as another “DM mechanic” that is only there when I tell them to roll the dice and absent otherwise.

                • TMC_Sherpa says:

                  Broadly speaking, the players will follow your lead. If you want the PC’s to question the motivations of your NPC’s have an NPC question the motivations of the players.
                  If they aren’t supposed to trust somebody, make them untrustworthy. Sir Jackass sent you all on an adventure and when you get back to town there is a celebration going on because he took all the credit. How do they prove who is lying?

      • Urthman says:

        The way to deal with this is make a pact with your players that the DM doesn’t make mistakes. If they catch you in an inconsistency, you have to retroactively make it into a plot point. If a character is inconsistent, she’s lying, forgetful, or posessed by a spirit, or replaced by a doppelganger. If your narration is inconsistent, that indicates something is messing with the players’ characters’ perception of the world – magic, alcohol, some other trick or scam, maybe just attentiveness.

        • Droid says:

          Not sure if that’s gonna help, but I’ll try.

          To clarify: I can weave something together on the fly when the need arises (good examples, though). The players are also okay with me doing that. I think it has more to do with them not wanting to do something they see as nitpicking. And I’d rather encourage them by creating a story that makes it fun for them to do that thing than to force them if they don’t want to.

          The ideal of course would be a DM who is able to convey nuances in dialogue that would serve as indicators for honesty, but alas I’m not an actor.

  7. ryanlb says:

    If you wanted to get back in to Minecraft, I highly recommend the Sky Factory 3 modpack.

    You start in a void world with a single block of dirt and a tree, and from that you can eventually build everything. I find it immensely satisfying, in part because it encourages you to learn how to automate everything, otherwise it will be rather tedious. It includes some good technology mods, and some good magical mods, and a ‘quest’ book that doesn’t force you to do anything, but suggests things to work on.

    Also, I really enjoy the phrase, ‘aggressively disappointing’, it’s just so rife with emotion.

    • Echo Tango says:

      If you want to build everything from zero, and automate the manufacturing, boy have I got a game for you! :D

      • Exasperation says:

        For bonus points, there’s a modpack named seablock for Factorio which emulates skyblock style gameplay.

      • ryanlb says:

        I did buy Factorio after Shamus covered it here, and while I was enjoying it, once I started Sky Factory 3, I stopped playing all the other games I was involved in at the time (GTA5, Hitman, and Factorio).

    • Droid says:

      Is that related to Agrarian Skies?

      • ryanlb says:

        It’s the same kind of sky block world, yes, but a different creator, and lacking precise do-this-thing-turn-it-in-get-a-reward quest system (the HQM system I think that one is called?). The quest system in Sky Factory 3 is a book that says “hey, build a food farm and a mystical crops farm check it off when you’re done”. It’s all left more up to you as far as what to work on, and in what order.

        Also, Sky Factory 3 is for MC 1.10.2, and I don’t know if Agrarian Skies has been updated for later versions of MC or not.

        • Droid says:

          Eh, not my kind of quest system, then.

          Agrarian Skies 2 at least was still being updated when I last played it, but that must have been at least two years ago.

    • Urthman says:

      “One block of dirt and a tree; build the rest yourself” seems an odd recommendation for someone talking about how much he loves exploring procedurally generated worlds.

  8. Piflik says:

    You do get all your resources back, when you dismantle a structure on your base (or on your freighter). Only when you build outside your base-area, you loose the resources (but then all of it).

  9. Taellosse says:

    Gotta say, my relief at having avoided buying this game just continues to increase. I found it REALLY enticing when it was first announced, but some of the coverage as its launch approached made me hold off. Everything I heard after release made me glad I had, but when this big patch came out and they put it on sale, I was tempted all over again. Clearly, I was wise to hold back. everything you’ve written in these posts would have driven me crazy.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I too, am glad I didn’t buy this game, although saddened that a better game wasn’t made with the given resources. :S

    • Nimrandir says:

      I also appreciated this series, but I ended up deciding to purchase the game (not for that $60 digital price, though). So far, I’ve had a good time with No Man’s Sky, and I credit Shamus’ experience for that. On some level, knowing about the inventory squeeze and his other headaches gave me an opportunity to prepare myself for them before I started the game.

  10. Jabrwock says:

    What do you think of Morphite? Indie game, same idea, but they’re going for a very “Tron” look.

    • Niriel says:

      I’ve played six or seven hours of Morphite and have really enjoyed it so far. Some people compare it to No Man’s Sky (to the point that Youtube sticks a NMS icon on all Morphite Let’s Play), and to Metroid.

      I can’t say anything about Metroid because I have no clue what it is. Maybe because there’s platforming?

      Morphite has a fun, cute and silly main story that’s voice acted. I’m about 35% through the main quest (the game tells you that). It spans 15 hand-crafted planets, allowing for interesting puzzles. You can’t really rush through the main quest because your gear will be totally underpowered.

      You need money to upgrade your ship, minerals to upgrade your tools and weapons, and scans (plants, minerals, fossils, tech, animals) to upgrade your suit. A bit like in Zelda games, upgrading your suit and acquiring new tools opens new areas, so take notes of where you’ve found locked or unreachable things.

      There’s no free flight in Morphite. Click on a solar system, click Go, watch the two seconds warp animation and you’re there. Click on a specific planet or station, click Go, and watch the two seconds landing animation. We live in the future, autopilot exists.

      There are however minigames in the form of space encounters. Sometimes you’ll man a turret to shoot at hostiles, sometimes you’ll navigate through a ridiculously dense asteroid field, but that’s the closest to flying you’ll get. There’s only one ship but you can (need to) upgrade it.

      There are thousands of procedural planets, which you’ll want to visit for their resources, weird life forms, landscapes, villages, shops, and (usually silly) side quests. You won’t get a bajillion square miles of perlin height maps. Instead you’ll visit a couple of caves, fight in a tiny but dense forest, jump over one toxic river, find your way to the top of one platformingly nasty rock, etc.. Quality and variety before quantity. I’ve landed on 50 planets and I’m still discovering new things (first lava river last night!).

      Oh, and there’s no inventory! Well, you do carry tools, weapons, scans, minerals, quest items, but they all show in their own list and stack infinitely. No weight, no slots, no encumbrance.

      I haven’t finished the game so maybe I’ll get bored, maybe the end will suck, maybe I’ll encounter a game-breaking bug. I’ll write an update if that happens.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I can’t say anything about Metroid because I have no clue what it is. Maybe because there’s platforming?

        A bit like in Zelda games, upgrading your suit and acquiring new tools opens new areas, so take notes of where you’ve found locked or unreachable things.

        You do know (one of the) main shtick of metroid then,you just know it from a different game.

      • Adeon says:

        I saw some videos about it. Mechanically it looks interesting but I personally don’t care for the graphical style. I’ve seen a few other games with a similar style and I just find it really off-putting.

        • Niriel says:

          That’s fair. I do like the visual style; the lack of visual realism lowers expectations about other kinds of realism, which is why I don’t mind that one of my ‘weapons’ is a summoned robotic pug with a canon mounted on its back. What I dislike in the visuals is that the FOV is fixed at 60 degrees or something, when I never play under 90.

          Also: Wow, I actually played 15 hours, not 7. Time passed quickly!

  11. BlueHorus says:

    Does this game have mod support?

    Because if so, ‘pick it up cheap a few years down the line, then go to a modding site and download the top-rated mods than fix the issues’ sounds like it might be a winning plan.

    • TMC_Sherpa says:

      It wasn’t built to be modified but I want to say there are a couple out there. At launch (at least) they were pretty protective of their game and a little antagonistic against folks poking around in their code.

      Maybe it’s because of their seed engine? There was some lawyering going on before launch.

  12. Nimrandir says:

    You might remember that at launch space combat was so pointless, broken, and frustrating that I dedicated an entire column to the problems. Those are mostly fixed now. You can run from fights. You can communicate with pirates and pay a ransom to avoid being attacked.

    Interestingly enough, I had been dreading the first ‘hostile sub-space scan’ based on the series on NMS from last year. When it finally happened, I noticed a prompt to open communications, and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to finagle my way out of a fight. The next time I got the notification, I was in pulse engine mode and streaking toward a planet. I had a fun little moment gauging if I could dive into the atmosphere before the battle was going to kick in (I made it, in case you’re curious).

  13. silver Harloe says:

    Off-topic, but Ding! 47. Con – 1.

  14. ChrisANG says:

    I clicked through a few links on the wiki, and it looks like the Remembrance blueprint is the reward for completing the Artemis path, not the Atlas path. The blueprint then requires the left-over-item from the end of the Atlas path. The idea seems to be that you need to have completed both paths before you can build the Remembrance.

  15. Agammamon says:

    I’ll be honest with you here Shamus – even if I hadn’t ever played this game (and I haven’t) and hadn’t read your previous work on this topic (I have) what you’ve written here . . . still sounds like a shit game.

    As far as I can tell, while NMS is far from the worst game ever, its just a bad game all through.

    It might be an interesting technical demo for procedurally generated worlds but it sounds like a horrible game. Contrast that with FUEL in which the only gameplay is driving around fast but you don’t have the same level of frustrations *designed* to prevent you from going fast whenever you want to.

  16. Urthman says:

    Yes, there’s mods. You can fix most of Shamus’s problems with the game by just cheating yourself maximum inventory space and fully-upgraded hyperdrive and then the game mostly becomes finding cool planets, flora, and fauna, taking pictures and thinking of cool names for them. Naming stuff is an underrated game mechanic. And maybe hunting for the coolest-looking ship.

  17. Alex the Too Old says:

    Sorry to be doing some combination of nitpicking, necro-ing, and going off-topic, but the DM of the Rings entry that you linked has a “Trackbacks” section between the comments and the comment-entry window that doesn’t have its own background and so is sort of half-visible against the main page background. It just repeats the trackbacks that already show up on the comment section, so you could probably just delete it, I guess? :)

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