Sunday, August 14, 2016

No Man's Sky - 14/20 hours

Oh, right, I was supposed to write a post about this game.

I've been playing it basically every free, waking hour I've got. Fourteen hours in two days, and I could have easily done fourteen more if it had come out on my nights off instead of on the hotel's busiest nights of the week.

Which seems odd for a game that's been so widely and thoroughly panned. What is it about No Man's Sky that I find so compelling?

I think it comes down to my biggest pet peeve in games - not knowing what I'm supposed to do next. I hate it when a game is clearly waiting for you to do something - talk to a certain npc, go to a certain location, combine a certain item with a certain other item, etc - and then refuses to tell you what to do or how to do it. That's why, for all it's sterling qualities, Morrowind is my third favorite Elder Scrolls game.

Yet, ironically, as much as I hate unclear objectives, I love games with no objectives whatsoever. I love it when I'm just plopped down into a world and told, essentially, to go amuse myself. Because then, whatever I choose, it's the right choice.

Obviously, I can still make mistakes. Like when I landed on that barren planet and found a derelict spaceship and decided to scrap my old one to repair the new. Then discovered that a key element to fixing the new ship's engines could only be found in a certain plant . . . which was not present on that world.

And yet, it was all right. I may have seriously screwed up, but it was my screw up. And I knew exactly what I had to do  - find some way to fix my ship given the tools available to me. So I opened a bunch of chests, searched far and wide for another derelict ship I could salvage for parts, and eventually wound up finding a randomly generated trading post that sold the material I needed.

It was extremely frustrating, but because I knew this wasn't a scripted event, I didn't waste time hunting for the "real" answer. If it had gone on for more than a couple of hours, I might have given up and deleted my save file, but the time I spent marooned on a barren planet was essentially the game in miniature - strike out in a random direction, keep your eyes open for interesting things, go and look at the interesting things you find.

That is basically the one and only quest in No Man's Sky and I love the game for that. No matter where I am, I know my current objectives and I can knock them out as slow or as fast as I desire. It's the same modular breakdown of time that characterizes a lot of my favorite other games. It's so easy to do "just one more thing," that I never reach the point of wanting to put it down.

Likely as not, by this time tomorrow, I'll have reached 20 hours or beyond.

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