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The RPG Files: No Man’s Sky Will Probably Disappoint You

Columns By Christopher Coke on June 03, 2016

No Man’s Sky Will Probably Disappoint You

Please forgive how pessimistic that sounds. I’ve been following No Man’s Sky for quite a while now, and even though I’m excited and will absolutely be buying the game, I can’t shake the feeling that the game is bound to fall short of the incredible expectations being placed upon it. I’m not alone, and the recent delay until August has only caused more concern. If we can question Star Citizen, No Man’s Sky seems even more likely to not deliver.

Plus, stay tuned for the Quick Hits for the week’s RPG news!

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Does that mean the game will be bad? No, and I don’t think it will be. Everything Hello Games has shown us has been consistent. No Man’s Sky is a gargantuan, universe-sized sandbox filled with procedurally generated flora and fauna on procedurally generated planets thrown together by procedurally generated people. Okay, I made that last part up, but if you can get into the idea of getting lost, finding and naming new places and things, and gathering crafting materials to outfit yourself for further adventure… well, I think you’re down for this game’s loop.

The thing is, Sony has mishandled this game from the get go. Number one, they announced it far too early. No Man’s Sky was part of the (hopefully now ending) era of “announced at conception” video games, where, by gum, publishers wanted you excited and excited early, dadgum it. Except, almost universally, that was a dumb idea that bit more than a few games on the backside. If people didn’t lose interest -- just like what happens with Steam Early Access -- the sentiment of games languishing in development was overrode all, leading to one of two outcomes: bitterness or unbridled expectation. No Man’s Sky got the latter.

Depending on who you ask, No Man’s Sky is everything from a space trading sim, to an arcade shooter, to a universe-sized Minecraft. Not only will the game do everything in between those points, but it will do it all mindblowing levels of quality, because, word of mouth is a hell of a drug and Sony has done nothing to stop it. Which is the second way Sony has mishandled No Man’s Sky: they’ve done nothing to temper gamers’ out of control expectations.

When you’re stuck in Dream Mode for two and a half years, it’s easy to let your mind run away with you. Especially when, in the interim, the space sim genre has absolutely exploded with renewed interest, riding high on the incredible aspirations and wondrous scope of games like Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous. Chris Roberts has primed us to look ever bigger and dream ever grander dreams of space exploration games. We now have a fanbase that looks at No Man’s Sky and sees a compatriot to those games, or at very least the possible fulfillment of hopes shared between.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but it is: No Man’s Sky is not Star Citizen. Whether or not you believe SC will deliver on its own pipe dreams is beside the point, No Man’s Sky is not that and has never tried to be that, yet so many people see the game as another fulfilment of their Wing Commander and Freelancer hopes. Though the games feature surface level similarities in their trading and space combat, No Man’s Sky is the light-hearted cousin to Chris Robert’s and Frontier’s ultra-realistic simulators. It is Minecraft to Skyrim, Warcraft to EverQuest 2.

Hello Games is not a big studio. They have not tried a game of this scope before. In fact, they haven’t made many games before period. Their development history consists of Joe Danger and Joe Danger 2: The Movie. Both good games, but also side-scrolling motorcyclers based around tiny levels and earning three stars. Joe Danger was the money-rouser Hello Games needed to get after what they really wanted, so none of this is to denigrate Sean Murray or his team; I loved both of their previous games and their talent is absolutely undeniable. But Hello Games is stepping out in a big way, with a team of less than 20 core people. No Man’s Sky might be incredible and mind-blowing, but all of this is worth keeping in mind when considering what the game is likely to be. Twenty people do not make a three hundred developer game.

All of this is a recipe for disappointment. At this stage in the game’s hype cycle, there is no coming back from the bristling excitement of fans who want the game to be everything they’ve ever dreamed of in a space game. Sony decided not to keep expectations in check, and so, even if the game is astounding, it is bound to leave huge swaths of fans wanting. For all we’ve seen, very few people have a solid idea of what No Man’s Sky even is beyond trailers and tight vertical slices.

This is your daily reminder, be excited, but be realistic. No Man’s Sky has something else in common with Star Citizen: both games are games. Not answers.

Quick Hits

More new info has surfaced about the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. According to an Active Time Report translated by Dualshockers, the game will not have a truly open world. Instead, more locations will become available as you progress through the campaign, with fast travel allowing you to flow between them and your camp sites. Other details include “something similar to a skill tree,” seven different weapon times, the ability to save anywhere, and upgradeable chocobos.

In other Square news, Dragon Quest Builders, the latest existing-IP Minecraft clone is officially coming to North America this October. DQB will add RPG style combat to the mix, but I’m skeptical it will gain much traction in an already oversaturated genre.

Intriguing indie RPG Kings and Heroes has arrived on Early Access. Hopefully it won’t languish became this first-person, online dungeon delver sure looks neat. Read our preview here.

Finally, Kotaku has a great rundown of the Fallout 4 console modding scene. Did you know that more than 885 are already available for download on Xbox One? They’re getting a little taste of what we’ve been enjoying for years and honestly it’s pretty great.

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine was released this week and the results are in. The expansion is a triumph. Sitting at a 91 on Metacritic currently, it seems that Geralt of Rivia is getting the send-off he deserves. Read our review here.         

Indie ARPG, Grim Dawn, is receiving its Hidden Path content this week. Even more exciting is the news that The Crucible expansion will be arriving later this summer. Suzie Ford’s review of the game calls it “stellar” and have gotten “at long last the ‘spiritual successor’ to Diablo 2” that they’ve been waiting on.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.