When I did my post on Friday about No Man’s Sky and its faults, I forgot to cover one specific area that might be the most important reason why it might get repetitive for some people.
I didn’t actually read any of the reviews (I’d already pre-ordered the game a few days before the reviews were published) so I don’t know if any of them covered this. I’ve you’ve played the game you probably already know about its severe balance issues. If you haven’t, here’s something else to consider when deciding whether or not to jump in. Your experience in my opinion might depend heavily on how much time you plan to devote to exploration.
This story from Kotaku about someone who spent 30 hours exploring the planet they started the game on illustrates the biggest balance problem No Man’s Sky has. Simply by exploring that one plane out of 18 quintillion, Jorgen Fernandez was able to get just about every upgrade in the game. Why? Because every planet in No Man’s Sky has the same points of interest containing the same upgrades and almost all the same resources. A few crafting elements are more common or only found on certain planets, but most are everywhere. You can get every inventory upgrade and weapon upgrade on any given planet. They all look different, but they all pretty much play the same.
One of the things Hello Games suggested in the years leading up to this game’s launch is that planets and systems would get more hostile the closer to the center of the galaxy players got. The developer also suggested those more dangerous environments would yield better upgrades. Instead, the launch game has an essentially flat difficulty curve.
Though, I think this is only a really big problem if upgrading all your gear is a main driving force behind your playing No Man’s Sky. Exploration on the other hand remains pretty unique from planet to planet. Animals are different and geography remains pretty varied and interesting. Exploring this game is pretty similar to exploration in Elite: Dangerous where each new star system in uncharted space is functionally the same but has a different-looking set of planets in it. Now you can land on the surface, scan the wildlife, and explore the mountains.
When it comes to resources though another issue is how No Man’s Sky handles two in particular: plutonium and thanium9. You need them to charge your gear, but they’re everywhere. You usually can’t go a few feet without seeing either plutonium on the ground or asteroids loaded with thanium9 in space. I understand Hello Games doesn’t want players to get stranded, but at that point the recharge mechanics that require those elements might as well not be in the game, as harvesting and using them just feels like busywork (other needed resources are more reasonably spread out). The only part of it I see a good reason for is having to keep your ship’s landing gear charged up, which encourages you to walk around instead of launching your ship every time you see something you want 300 yards away.
Exploration though brings up an exception to this problem. Different star types are host to different kinds of planets in terms of geography and some resources, but to get to any type of star other than yellow you need an upgraded hyperdrive. After getting the blueprints to upgrade a hyperdrive, doing so requires elements that are pretty rare and expensive, you can’t just find them lying around anywhere like Plutonium. It’s an ordeal in itself which adds a challenging barrier to exploration.
If your the main objective you choose for yourself in No Man’s Sky is to get to the center of the galaxy though, there’s another issue that potentially makes that boring along with the planet congruence. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a point early on where you get an item that makes acquiring warp fuel a trivial affair. Once that happens, getting to the center is pretty much just a matter of warping in and out of successive systems, occasionally refueling.
Because of that possibly more than anything else, No Man’s Sky right now is a game that’s better if you stop, smell the roses, and do something else other than getting to the center or upgrading all your stuff. Some people may get enjoyment out of simply exploring planets, some might not.