Every game of No Man’s Sky begins both exactly the same and completely differently for each person. New players always awake on a strange, unfamiliar planet with nothing but a space suit and displaced space ship awaiting repairs with the guidance to follow the same path of instructions to get up and running — it’s the same, but different.
You see, No Man’s Sky is built entirely on top of Hello Games’ procedural generation system that crafts billions of planets across millions of star systems and simulates plants, animals, terrain, alien species, economies, and more throughout the entire game as a whole. Initially released three years ago, No Man’s Sky has evolved over the years and dramatically improved itself up until now, the Beyond Update, which is officially 2.0. With this update comes a revamped multiplayer experience, tons of new game mechanics like creature taming and expanded base building, and most importantly, complete VR support.
The premise alone for No Man’s Sky is almost too good to be true, especially when you add VR support into the mix, and that’s probably why it’s taken over three years post-launch to get to this point. This is a game in which you can explore a vast, massive planet full of unique flora and fauna, go mining, dig caves, explore underwater, terraform, build bases, and uncover ancient relics — then take off and fly to another planet or solar system and do it all over again without ever hitting a loading screen. It’s remarkable. And seeing it all from the point of view of a VR headset is a rare kind of escapism I haven’t seen executed this well before.
No Man’s Sky is a bit like several games jammed together into one package. While there is a main storyline about aliens, ancient civilizations, and solving mysteries, that’s far from the point of it all. This is basically “it’s not the destination the matters, it’s the journey” boiled down into a video game. The sense of discovery is so ingrained into No Man’s Sky’s DNA that players can rename everything they discover from planets and solar systems to animals and plants.
Hello Games have stopped just short of establishing this as a true MMO, but most of the pieces are here. The whole universe is persistent and players can see your bases on your planets and find things that you’ve named in real-time. You can link up with friends and go exploring together or visit the new Space Anomaly social hub that includes a Nexus full of group multiplayer missions.
This is an incredibly dense and complex game. I’ve logged over 24 hours this week, including the two hours I spent outside of VR prior to Beyond launching, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve still got basic tutorial missions left uncompleted in my log because I keep sidetracked with other activities.
For example, my most recent livestream consisted entirely of myself and some friends spending almost three hours setting up a new base on a home world I dubbed Upload Centauri. We dug holes into the side of a mountain, built the base into the mountain, and snaked it back out the other side so it overhangs like a cliff. You can see it in the image below. We’ve even got a landing pad for ships:
No Man’s Sky is all about diversions like this. You could do any one of a thousand things that may seem trivial or boring at first, and then realize you spent six hours digging holes and stocking up on resources for your next base building expedition. The Nexus missions in the new Space Anomaly hub offer great replayable variety with good rewards, too. Hunting down a pack of space pirates as a group, for example, can net well over 200,000 units. Some missions even task you with things such as establishing colonies and outposts on planets or taming creatures.
There are just so many things to do and see it’s hard to summarize my thoughts and experiences, let alone articulate the breadth of it all.
As far as VR ports are concerned, No Man’s Sky is head and shoulders above its peers in terms of pure support. Performance issues aside, they’ve done tremendous work to get the game running and feeling right inside a headset. Everything from the inventory interactions, terraforming planets, driving vehicles, flying ships, shooting guns, building bases, and more is completely changed to fully support VR motion controllers.
One of the most intuitive parts of it all is the wrist-based menu system that has you point at your risk to pull up holograms of components for building or even a tiny hologram of your ship prior to summoning it. Reaching out with your hands and pointing feels extremely natural, albeit a bit clunky for some things. It’d be nice if there was a single gesture or button that opened your inventory since you spend so much time looking at it instead of having to twist your wrist and laser point at the right spot each time first.