Just a few days ago I was laughing at the people on Reddit going on and on about “the point of NMS.” Yeah it looks good, but what do you -do- in the game? That very question was the basis of many online arguments prior to the recent launch.
I scoffed at these people for not having the pioneer spirit, for not realizing that exploring a massive galaxy is the point. Now I feel stupid for mocking them. There really is no point, and flying from planet to planet just to look at colorful bushes is way less entertaining than I expected it to be. I’ve played the game for about 20 hours and I’m already too bored to keep going. Yes, the graphics are awesome. Yes, the universe is huge. But it’s incredibly repetitive. There’s a downside to having 40 bajillion planets to explore: when you do the exact same thing on every one of them, there might as well only be ten planets. Or one.
It’s worth pointing out that Deck Ape Anthony started a new game on PS4 a week before I started a new game on PC. He told me about his starting planet, the creatures, the environment, and the first Monolith puzzle that he encountered. Strangely enough, I started on the same kind of planet, with the same environment, same type of creatures, and got the same Monolith puzzle. That’s a bad sign when things are supposed to be “infinitely variable.”
About 15 hours into the game, I stopped caring about exploration. At that point, I’d visited over 30 planets in 10 different star systems and most of them looked pretty much the same. The differences in plant and animal life are interesting, but minimal. I’ve even found identical animals on several different planets…they’re just given different “scientific nomenclature” and they count as a different species. Land on a couple of toxic mushroom worlds and you’ll see what I mean. I found the same damn mushroom animals on every one I landed on…and four or five of those 20 planets ended up being nearly-identical fungus worlds.
So once I realized that exploration is kind of dull when everything is so homogenized, I decided to make a beeline for the center of the galaxy to get it over with. This ended up turning the game into even more of a grind because I was just ho-humming my way through the process of making fuel for my hyperdrive so I could keep warping. I have enough units (money) now that I could just park in a space station and buy the materials I need to make warp fuel for the next 100 jumps to hyperspace. I just don’t care enough to sit through doing it.
Then there’s the mining and harvesting. I’m cool with that concept — I love Rust and countless other games where the harvesting “grind” is a thing — but it just doesn’t feel like there’s a point to it. You can’t build anything, so you’re either selling what you’re harvesting to NPC traders or making some kind of gear upgrade with it using randomly-dropped blueprints/recipes. These upgrades could add some interest to the game, but according to the flavor text on the upgrade recipes, I’ve already discovered most of them. (You can tell because the highest level ones say that they’re “the most effective possible” etc.) Less than 20 hours in, and I can’t even look forward to new upgrades?
Back to the game’s harvesting mechanic, it’s made worse by the fact that I’m constantly having to dump some of the materials I’ve already harvested to make room. Why? Because you only have a handful of inventory slots to hold everything you own, and if you want to try to build any of those upgrades, you need to make room for the materials that the recipe requires. Sure, part of the game’s progression is unlocking more slots — that’s pretty much the only thing that makes a more expensive ship or multitool better: more slots to add upgrades or carry loot — but man, what a pain in the butt to hear that NO INVENTORY SLOTS warning two minutes after landing on every planet.
Good thing I don’t really need to harvest anything. I’ve assembled all of the upgrades I care to make. I don’t need any more units because there’s really nothing I want to buy. Hmm…which means…
…after playing for 20 hours, I’m essentially out of things to do in this game.
Looks like the game needed some kind of point after all.
What’s Good About NMS
- It’s very pretty.
- Flight controls are simple and cruising around is fun. (I was playing with a game pad. I tried using keyboard and mouse once and the ship was all over the damn place.)
- The vast universe of NMS would be a really good foundation for something more compelling.
- It’s fairly laid back. I never had to worry about dying. (This is actually a detriment to the game if the “survival” aspect of it matters to you.)
What’s Bad About NMS
- It looks good, but after a few planets you realize that things repeat an awful lot. Sometimes the same plants/animals show up on different planets looking exactly the same…sometimes there’s a color shift.
- I’ve probably heard the excruciating “No Free Inventory Slots in Your Stupid Suit” audible warning 50,000 times in the last 24 hours.
- Very, very repetitive.
- Space combat has some potential, but the AI is weak. Attacking fighters will come straight at you for strafing runs 100% of the time, giving you a nice zero-deflection shot where you can just lay into them with your blasters until they explode. They don’t seem to care that you’re shredding them to pieces . . . they just keep flying straight into your blaster shots. It’s like a game of space chicken where the guy with the best shields wins.
- There was an opportunity to at least throw some variety in the puzzles, but it was wasted. On every planet, you’ll find a few of these “locked terminals” that require you to enter a number code to activate. The really lame thing is that every single terminal gives you the same numerical puzzle to unlock it. Are you kidding me?
Maybe I’m missing out by not playing more. Maybe there will be more variety on planets as I get closer to the center of the galaxy. I seriously doubt it, but I also don’t care. I have a policy wherein a game should be able to give me some promise of lasting enjoyment fairly early on. Twenty hours is a generous amount of time for a game to prove itself — and if it instead bores me to the point that I don’t even want to bother with it any more, then you’ve totally lost me.
Would I be upset if I’d spent $20 on this game? Not at all. But I definitely do NOT feel that it’s worth the full price. I literally spent more time angry at the developers for pushing back the release date than I will spend playing the game. Until the price comes down or a more interesting mechanic is added to the game, I can’t recommend it.
That being said, the game still holds appeal for some people. Anthony has been engrossed with the PS4 version since its launch, and he shows no signs of waning interest. In fact, he’s making Let’s Play videos for the game which we’re featuring on our YouTube channel. Since one of the only legitimate draws to the game is “the look,” you’d be better off watching YouTube videos for free than spending $60 to play it.
NOTE: If you missed out on the pre-order bonus ship, don’t feel bad. It was pretty much worthless. It’s only slightly better than your starter ship, and I managed to upgrade to something much better within two hours of starting the game anyway.
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!