No Man’s Sky – Hands-On


When No Man’s Sky made its debut at the 2013 Video Game Awards, it captured the imagination of gamers. But even after two showings at E3, the game has yet to release and remains somewhat of a mystery. This has not prevented it from remaining one of the most anticipated games for the PlayStation 4, and the secrets it holds will soon be revealed. We are just mere months away from the launch and only time will tell if the game is worthy of the hype.

Some of the mysteries were revealed a couple days ago at an event for No Man’s Sky in Los Angeles. Media were treated to a thirty minute presentation by Sean Murray of Hello Games and then were able to get their hands on a controller to actually play the game for thirty minutes.

Despite the limited amount of time, Murray dove into a lot of content so I’ll try to start at the top. It all started with a simple rundown on what makes a planet, layer by layer. When doing this we were shown an empty, flat-surfaced planet. Then we jumped to another planet that featured what was described as waves making up the planet’s surface.

Monolith LandingPad

From there we went on to another planet that added more layers of waves, then a planet that featured a sea level until finally, we had a planet with life on it. This simple demonstration was interesting as a way of explaining how a planet is formed and how additional layers or tweaks can make a planet completely unique. Mathematics were talked about and since I am a mere writer the specific maths went over my head.

We then got into the details and secrets of No Man’s Sky. Each character has a Suit, Weapon, and Ship component that can be expanded and upgraded. These upgrades range from a faster, stronger ship, to more powerful weapons, and a more protective suit. Upgrades are obtained by collecting various resources found on planets.

… rely on your scans to tell you where to go …
Players will be asked to explore a world and find these resources using the tools at their disposal. The two main tools are the binoculars, that can identify and tag objects, and a scanner that is used with a simple button press that will tag anything of importance on your display.

Since most planets are planets that have been undiscovered, the game does not feature a mini map. You will have to rely on your scans to tell you where to go. It’s a smart design choice to forgo a minimap as it makes sense that there would be no map for a place that is undiscovered.


No Man’s Sky is a survival-sandbox game which means there are dangers out there, one being a planet’s environment. For example, a world could be an ice planet that requires certain suit upgrades to prevent the player from freezing.

This adds strategy because a planet might not be worth exploring without the upgrade or the player will need to find a good spot to land that has shelter to retreat to. Finding resources will help keep players alive and finding safe places is essential since the game also features no pause screen. The world does not stop for the player to heal or regroup.

Other dangers come from the NPC characters. Yes, the game does feature NPC characters. There are multiple alien races scattered throughout the universe and interacting with them is fascinating. The catch with NPC’s is that you have to learn their language. Otherwise their dialogue options look like a foreign language or gibberish.

… a major aspect of the game and a real surprise …
The reason one would want to interact with the NPCs is so they can help you find missions and upgrades. How you start to learn their language outside of guessing your way through a dialogue option is by exploring. You will learn by finding things in the world, specifically through monolith ruins.

Once discovered, the monoliths will help translate some words until you find enough of them to speak the language completely. So ideally you can interact with an alien race while only knowing a few words, but things would be easier the more words that are understood. NPC characters have not been talked about until this point and this is a major aspect of the game and a real surprise to learn about this late in the development cycle.


Because there are NPCs, there are rules. You cannot just go and kill everything in your path without there being consequences. There will be a wanted meter à la Grand Theft Auto. The more carnage you cause, the more trouble will come your way.

It begins small with just a couple of flying droids, but the scale of the space police will increase the more you resist. Often just landing on a planet will grab their attention, and messing with the geometry will cause them to follow you. Until an act of violence is committed, they will stay friendly.

With that said, the game is quite challenging, especially in the early going. It might take a while before players are upgraded enough to put up a good fight on land and in space against the NPC characters. Add that to the environmental elements and this might be a challenging game to some people and potentially a slow burn in upgrading a character to a mighty space pirate.

… it blew my fucking mind …
Everything you just read feels like a small sampling of what is available in the game and I have only covered what I saw in the presentation. I still have to go over my brief 30 minute hands-on with the game.

This is probably the most difficult part to write about because this is definitely a game that you make your own. You can tackle it from many different angles. I tend to be more of an explorer and passive player which was pointed out to me by one of the developers. He was surprised that I did not fire my gun at every creature that crossed my path.

The worlds are so huge and beautiful that I just wanted to walk around and find what they had hidden. I was directed to shoot the ground at one point and when I did I came across a whole network of caves hidden beneath the planet’s surface and it blew my fucking mind.

Creatures Walkers

I felt like I could easily spend hours exploring and mining a single planet, but there are infinite planets out there with undiscovered life. The amount of stuff to find and interact was really so mind blowing that just having thirty minutes felt like the biggest tease.

Once I realized I only had a short time to play I quickly hopped into my ship and headed to space for another planet. The transition from land to air is damn near seamless and once you are in space you really do feel small, especially when you pull up the star systems.

Nevertheless, flying around space was pretty fun, though it did take a bit of time getting used to the flying controls. The controls were likely more me than the game since I have always been a terrible pilot in games, but regardless I still had fun.

… really opened my eyes to the depth of this secretive game …
While in space, NPC ships could be seen everywhere and I had the option to attack them, but it was not really a viable option due to my ship’s lack of power and abilities. So I shot an NPC ship anyway and was completely annihilated by the damn space police and it was awesome. I wanted to get back out there and upgrade my equipment enough to try my luck against those ships again.

Once I respawned I headed to a nearby planet to see what it had in store for me and I jumped planet to planet until my session was done. The whole experience really opened my eyes to the depth of this secretive game. There is so much to explore, discover and collect that I can easily see it consuming many people’s time. No Man’s Sky has been a long wait, but on June 21st the wait will be over and we all can see what the game fully has to offer.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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