rambling about No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is the newest entry in the list of glorious failings. Well, failing is perhaps to strong a word given that the people working in it considered it finished and released it out into the world.
I had my reasons to look forward to this, and one of it made it into the finished product: the sense of adventure and solitude. It is an uplifting experience to break through the atmosphere of a planet, sometimes with activated boosters because one can’t wait to touch down something savoring the moments, slowly descending towards the surface, taking a look out the cockpit of ones space craft to compare the vastness of the world one is about to step onto with the vastness the rest of the system is offering. A neat allegory on how words/systems/universes exist in words/systems/universes or how we can zone into one thing that in turn grows in size until it blocks out the sheer endlessness that the rest of life encompasses.

After the landing comes another uplifting moment: being the first “person” to set foot on the planet. Taking in your surroundings, how hostile are the weather conditions, terrain and possible wildlife. And except for the guardian drones that will attack you when they catch you mining materials and possible native fauna, you are alone on this world. So you adjust your exo-suit and start to explore.
And this is were the biggest letdown of the game starts: exploration and material mining. In theory these parts are optional, most things can be bought, but to me that would betray what i see in this game, an Indiana Jones in space simulator[1]. Besides mining for elements, each world offers a number of sites to discover: artefacts/”cult”-sites[2], knowledge stones that let you learn alien languages, deserted modules containing laboratories or living quarters and sometimes the aliens[3] that put them there.
The strange thing about this game is, that my disregard for it is far higher when thinking or talking about it than when i am actually interacting with it. The design and soundtrack of the game makes me think of the covers of various sci-fi book covers. Listening to the soundtrack on its own[4] makes one feel like watching a 70s sci-fi movie in the minds theatre. And i don’t mind spending hours running over a planets surface, or glide through space, going wherever i like or necessity takes me. I’m not even missing the multiplayer. But after talking to people who played through the game multiple times including the Atlas path quests i came to the conclusion that i miss a story. I get that the proceedings can be interpreted as a metaphor for life, the human condition and the need to leave a legacy behind, even without ones name tag on it, but frankly, that is something that we already experience, in a “mundane” environment, but nonetheless, it feels more like an exercise in abundance which ironically is hollow inside.

[1] although the life of Dr. Henry Jones are per definition a simulation too

[2] instead of a cutscene you get text describing the goings on at such sites. at one i killed a bird that had been revived by an artifact but according to the text, it’s chirping sounded like a plea for a mercy kill. i climbed on the acceptance ladder of the resident alien race for doing so.

[3] which need a few knowledge stones to be found to have a meaningful conversation with

[4] available on cd or download, but the “analogue” version comes with a second disc containing a gap free mix of a few songs to emulate the actual playing process

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