e3 2015

Hands-on With No Man's Sky's Unlimited Universe

by Bryan Vore on Jun 20, 2015 at 08:04 AM

No Man’s Sky has both intrigued and perplexed players since it was announced two years ago at the 2013 VGX awards. It offers a breathtaking scale – budding space explorers can land on more than 18 quintillion planets in a universe – as well as a chance to discover unique flora and fauna. It’s all procedurally generated, so even the developers at Hello Games don’t know what they’ll see on any given planet. The big question for many, however, is how the game works. It’s a question that we got most of the answers for in our January 2015 cover. At this year’s E3, editors Jeff Cork and I got hands on with the game to clear up any lingering doubts. Here are our impressions.

Jeff: Our demo followed the same setup as Sean Murray’s stage presentation. We scrolled through the universe, found a galaxy, drilled down to a solar system, and then finally, a planet. The one I ended up on was largely covered in turquoise seas. I didn’t a flat surface to land on, so I touched down on the water. I imagine that every planet will end up being a surprise, but this was definitely different from any others that I’d seen over hours of demos and presentations. A latticed stone network rose above the waters, creating underwater cave networks and a truly weird on-the-ground experience. Before I just do a boring infodump, let me hand it to you. Bryan, what did you do? I know you stuck closer to your ship than I did.

Bryan: I grabbed the controller after you and zoomed through the galaxy to try to get as far away from your planet as possible. We both had red space clouds in our areas of space indicating a certain type of elemental makeup. Sean was concerned that we’d think the planets are identical since they both had green water. This was not the case! My planet was mostly aquatic with a few islands scattered about. I ran about and used my jetpack to get up to a higher area and a goat-like thing started chasing me. I shot it with my laser and immediately felt bad. This activated the Sentinel robots. They started chasing me around. And I had to hop in my ship and get the hell out of there.

Jeff: I’m going to back up quick. Before we were handed the controller, Sean gave us a quick rundown of everything, which included a few things I didn’t know about. For example, he landed on a planet that was loaded with alien life. Not only that, but they were ridiculously cute. There was a little bipedal guy who looked almost exactly like a Teletubby, and another that looked like a Muppet reimagining of the familiar googly eyed red and yellow Pikmin boss. After scanning both of them, he blasted them with his gun. Sean blamed it on E3. In doing so, however, he lost the ability to catalog those two creatures by visiting a beacon – losing out on units (the game’s currency) as well as the opportunity to name the beast. If he had simply scanned them and moved on, he’d be able to do all that. Additionally, he could open up his a codex and browse through his discoveries, including that dopey-looking Muppet thing.

Bryan: It was really surprisingly depressing when he killed the Teletubby. He shot the ground near it first, and it turned and looked at him with sad, soulful eyes. It tried running away slowly, but Sean blasted him in the back.

Jeff: This is a classic instance of a game that’s hitting all the right notes for me, but will leave plenty of other players cold. My favorite thing to do in Minecraft is to pick a direction on the compass and see what kinds of cool stuff I find along the way. I’ve spent more than 48 hours on The Witcher 3, and I’ve barely touched the main quest. I’m an explorer at heart, which is why I’m excited to not only discover new planets and creatures, but to share them with other players as well. The idea that someone might stumble across a planet that I discovered and named and find a strange-looking fish that I also named is pretty cool. It may not be the greatest space-dogfighting game of all time or the most amazing shooter, but it’s doing something I haven’t seen before. I’m in.

Bryan: Indeed it is all about exploration. When I left my planet, I ran into all sorts of pirates and police in space. I’d see lasers flying about and it took a moment to realize that they were trying to kill me. Turning around and trying to target them was not the most intuitive thing I’ve ever done, but I was able to take them out once I had them in my sights. After that, I saw a space station and hit the “mini” warp drive to speed over to it. Landing was a breeze, and I got to watch several ships fly in and out. Shopping or buying these vessels wasn’t active yet, but it was cool to see a sample of the bustling ecosystem. 

Even though it was a brief hands-on, I was excited by all the possibilities. Checking out this  miniscule amount of the universe only gave me a taste for more. I can’t wait to have unlimited time to explore however I want and hopefully eventually make it to the mysterious center of the galaxy.

Watch the game in action in this all-new gameplay video demo. You can also check out all of our features from when No Man's Sky was featured on our cover by clicking the banner below.