Currently playing No Man’s Sky.
Honestly, the game feels like an incoherent mess of conflicting systems. I won’t talk about the building aspect as I have no interest in that part of the game but it seems to be the part that a lot of people love. That’s quite funny considering that it was never an aspect of the game at launch and it doesn’t fit it at all thematically with the nomadic wanderer original pitch of the game.
The fauna, flora and terrain is bland. There is no history and it doesn’t feel or act like an ecological system. The most interaction you’ll get is some animals chasing after some other animals. Don’t be fooled by what is posted online on forums such as reddit. Nobody takes a photo of the boring stuff that is the majority of the planets and on reddit the boring stuff is filtered out by the like system so you won’t see it on the front page. Even then it’s just surface level visual aesthetic rather than deeper mechanical interactions. It’s a game that at best will look pretty and through several hours of gameplay you might find something that looks neat.
The alien structures are placed like someone was sprinkling salt or like someone took an Ubisoft collectible blunderbuss to the map. It just feels like random noise and not built by an intelligent species. Every planet has dozens of outposts there already placed in the same fashion as the monoliths but nothing like a city or town that implies culture. This is no Cowboy Bebop. Just the same random Mass Effect style structures placed all over the map like noise. Empty tents in a desert. It’s uncanny how much the maps feel like a suped-up version of the planets from Mass Effect 1. It ends up in this weird place of simulatenously feeling barren and yet having alien structures all over the place. Everywhere you land there will be some structure marked on the map for you to visit and yet there will be nothing of interest. Just another container to press E on to get some minor monetary reward.
The “intelligent” aliens don’t interact with each other. Just stand around doing nothing. Nothing that seems like a species with culture and history. Just Gek standing around looking at data pads silently. It really shows just how surface level appearance randomisation is in general. History and culture makes worlds interesting but you won’t see any of that by looking at the world. I expect the only presence of culture will come from lore dumps relating to the main story.
The game is full of grindy annoying systems. The game nickles and dimes you for every action. Something as simple as taking off in your ship requires you to grind fuel. Any interaction with an alien requires some cost of money. Building anything costs a lot and your inventory is tiny so you have to sell or discard so much. I feel like I’m at some kind of brownian noise carnival. The systems feel oppressive in the perpetual cost and upkeep.
Worse still a lot of the systems are just terribly designed. The environmental hazard protection requires Sodium but it’s functionally irrelevant if you have Sodium. You just recharge every time it gets low and all it requires is for you to have Sodium in your inventory. You’ll have so much Sodium that it’s an irrelevant system unless you run out. It’s not like Subnautica where your exploration requires you to surface for oxygen which limits your exploration distance and gives you a meaningful timer to care about. If you was to translate that system from Subnautica to NMS you would change it so that your environemental shield will only recharge at a base or your ship. This means you’ll think carefully about the distances you travel and whether you have enough time left to get back to your ship to recharge. A far more interesting system than carrying around an hour of Sodium all the time in one inventory slot.
The language discovery system is awful. It incentivizes you to talk to every Gek to learn a word but your interactions are never meaningful and it just becomes a checkbox ticking activity that dehumanizes them even more than the game already does. Not being able to understand what was said just makes the game an even bigger cultural desert at the start of the game.
There are plenty of irritating features such as if you tag a waypoint from the scanner on foot it will disappear whenever you get in your ship. Which means that you have to constantly get in and out of the ship to track whether you’ve gone in the right direction and how much further you need to go. Getting a land vehicle is a significant investment and if the designers want you to travel by land for exploration rather than by air then vehicles should become available very early on and you should be able to take them with you in your ship to new planets.
Overall, the game just feels it wasn’t designed well. Everything gets stuck in this mud of material farming. The pitch of the game was exploring the unknown but I don’t remember having to work to pay monthly bills to do it. I’m going to focus on just the main story and hopefully I can get all the way through it without having to suffer sudden gates that require heavy material farming to overcome.
I’m sure someone will recommend Creative. The problem with Creative is that it removes all risk. Risk is important to exploration. I’m going to install the mod that removes the fuel costs and hopefully that will be enough to make the game tolerable. It may make the game fun in the sense of going on a cheap traveling holiday. Overall, excluding the dull noise of the procedural generation a material cost retuning mod could make the game a lot more enjoyable for many. For me at least I found Subnautica did that really well where in the mid game you got access to battery chargers and water filtration systems that could perpetually run on solar power. That gave you the freedom to focus on exploration rather than paying survival bills every day.