Saturday, August 13, 2016

No Man's Sky - 4/20 hours

I didn't actually get started with this game until about an hour before my bedtime. The usual high-end PC game ritual of fiddling with settings to maximize performance was needlessly complicated by the inexplicable decision to require holding down the button in order to change menu options. When it didn't respond to my mouse clicks, I thought the game was bugged. The first time I played, I wound up quitting through the task manager, completely bypassing the autosave. Which is a real shame because my first planet was a paradise world, but the second time I started up, I spawned on some kind of hellish volcano world. Sigh.

So the game unlocked at 11am. I didn't get to start playing it until 12pm. I usually go to bet at around 1pm. And my head didn't actually hit the pillow until 4pm.

I've heard that this game is divisive, and I can understand the haters' point of view. Strictly speaking, the game is "boring" and its best quality is that it generates some impressive screenshots. But damn, those screenshots. If you want to be totally cynical about the game, it's all about grinding for expendable resources so you can have the privilege of looking at things. But even so, it's worth it. You can't go five minutes in this game without feeling like you've stumbled into a vintage sci-fi book cover and it's awesome.

Although personally, I don't even mind the grinding. At any given moment, you have to worry about a half-dozen dwindling resources - plutonium for your ship's launch thrusters, warp cells for your hyperdrive, carbon for your life support system, energy for you mining laser and blaster, aluminum for your shields, etc. And if these resources run out then you are cu off from some vital equipment. It's a never-ending escalator of fail. But on some level, that's life.

I love games that let you inhabit a world. That root your character in the setting and force you to work around their immediate concerns. I mean, I installed a mod that let you die of frostbite in Skyrim and in No Man's Sky death by frostbite is enabled by default.

No the closest thing to a problem I have with this game is that it's almost too much of a good thing. You land on a planet and everywhere you look there's something interesting to see and if you just picked a direction and kept walking, you'd find all sorts of incredible flora and fauna and rock formations and abandoned bases and alien monoliths and who knows what else besides. But even if you wandered around for hours, all you would see is a tiny sliver of the planet. And that planet is a tiny speck, lost in an incomprehensibly vast universe. And there is a loneliness to that, being a tiny sliver of a tiny speck.

It would be easy to resent No Man's Sky the same way I resent my own mortality. There's just so much that I'm never going to be able to see or experience. The sheer scale of the universe before me makes it an iron-clad certainty. Even if I  had a million years, it wouldn't be enough.

But, you know, it's just a game. While there is, mathematically speaking, a million years of content, I'll probably be satisfied with a couple hundred hours or so. I probably won't get them, because of the blog, but I have a strong feeling that No Man's Sky is going to be a game I fudge the deadline on. It may not be perfect, but I can't get enough.

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