The best thing about my job is that I get to write about games like “No Man’s Sky.” The worst part is that I have to do that instead of playing it.
I finally got the chance to sit down with the game last night after an entire day spent reading everyone’s fascinating anecdotes online. I wasn’t disappointed. The sprawling, beautiful universe that was built entirely by algorithms made me feel like a great space adventurer and incredibly lonely at the same time.
In other words, it’s exactly what I wanted.
However, what I didn’t expect was for my favourite part of the astonishingly huge game to actually be personal. I’m actually having the most fun slowly learning alien languages and making friends with species I encounter on my travels.
While the loneliness of space travel is definitely pervasive in “No Man’s Sky,” you actually do quite a bit of interaction with alien species. Each star system I’ve seen has had a space station with people to talk to, and I’ve come across plenty of little inhabited outposts on planets.
But you can’t just talk to whoever you want right away. The races you encounter (in my case, the warrior-like Vy’keen) speak their own languages, and you have to learn their languages by finding Knowledge Stones on planets, each of which gives you one word.
At the end of my first big “No Man’s Sky” session, I came across a moon with a temperate climate, no hostile wildlife to speak of, and several ancient Vy’keen structures that each had three or four Knowledge Stones on them. Thanks to sheer luck, I was able to sort of comprehend their sentences by the end of my little excursion, and they considered me an ally.
This meant I could understand just enough of what they said to fulfil their requests. One guy gave me money after I repaired his suit for him, while another taught me some more of his language after humorously shouting “Death! Death! Death! Death!” at me.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s the magic of “No Man’s Sky.” Its enormous, procedurally-generated universe means the story I just told you is my story, even if other players have similar experiences.
The odds of another player finding the same moon are so low that I can basically count on me being the only person to have that specific experience with the game, and that’s sort of intoxicating. At this point, I can’t wait to see what else I find in the star systems to come.