Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Game review: No Man's Sky

A scene from No Man's Sky, a new Playstation 4 game.
A scene from No Man's Sky, a new Playstation 4 game.

For the first six hours this game lived up to its title. Having failed to locate any zinc, I was grounded. Until I found the elusive element needed to fix my busted spaceship, there truly would be no man in the sky.

I roamed far and wide, constantly pressing the scan button. It was not fun. In fact, it sucked.

No Man's Sky mostly leaves you to figure things out for yourself, a design decision I applaud despite the initial frustration. The game is hugely atmospheric, filled with stunningly gorgeous vistas and picture-perfect landscapes that you'll totally ignore because you're so laser-focused on getting flying.

A scene from No Man's Sky, a new Playstation 4 game.
A scene from No Man's Sky, a new Playstation 4 game.

It's only later that you'll appreciate how beautiful and awe-inspiring the game can be.

In No Man's Sky the planets, universes and galaxies are all procedurally generated, essentially a less random form of randomisation, meaning every player gets the same story beats, only in their own thoroughly unique universe.

Because procedural generation follows rules I knew the zinc would definitely be on the starting planet - a guarantee off the table on other planets. Fortunately, it was mere footsteps away from my busted ship. Unfortunately I'd initially walked off in the opposite direction and didn't find it until I returned many fruitless and frustrating hours later.

I won't lie, by hour five I was pretty damn close to quitting. I'm extremely glad I didn't. All that frustration, rage and despair disappeared the moment my freshly repaired ship blasted off into the cosmos for the first time.

No Man's Sky is a true sandbox game. Like actual real life space, it's overwhelming in scale, but endlessly intriguing. All those hours zinc-hunting are paying off now I'm on my way.

A scene from No Man's Sky, a new Playstation 4 game.
A scene from No Man's Sky, a new Playstation 4 game.

On the few planets I've visited - out of a possible 18 quintillion - I'm slowly piecing the story together from discovered fragments. And, despite playtime hitting double figures, I've barely scratched the surface. But it is reassuring to know that in a near infinite space there is an endgame to play for.

No Man's Sky's appeal might not last. There are many small frustrations (no planet-mapping, really?), space combat needs improvement and the randomisation can be maddening.

The endless inventory management and crafting emphasis also starts to grate and the planets are starting to feel a little samey. There's always something to discover, but my exploratory focus is slowly shifting to completing the story.

For me the game's best moments have all happened organically as I've bumbled my way through the 'verse. The game provides everything to create your own daring space tales.

But you need to be open to them. You need to put in the time. And you need to fully invest. If you can't commit to any of this then No Man's Sky is not for you.

But if you can ... well, there's a whole universe out there to explore. In fact, there are billions. I suggest you get started.

No Man's Sky

Platform: PlayStation 4
Rating: PG
Verdict: A galaxy of adventure awaits! After take-off ...

- TimeOut

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