So No Man’s Sky was released a few weeks ago to some pretty mixed reviews. The general consensus seems to be that yes, 18 quintillion planets is an impressive achievement, and technically the game is pretty ground-breaking. Nobody is arguing that. But what good is a huge open universe to explore, when there’s very little to see or do in it? Keep reading, because in this article, I’ll be talking about how important size actually is…the innuendos have started already.
None of the reviews I’ve seen have said that No Man’s Sky is an outright bad game. Unfortunately I’ve not had time to check it out myself yet so I can only go off what I’ve seen and heard. A huge galaxy to explore is inviting, and is the game’s main USP, but repetitive gameplay and a general lack of things to do seems to be holding it back. When you don’t fill an open world with things to do and see that are actually worth your time, the large scope actually becomes detrimental to the game, rather than enhancing the experience. In the case of No Man’s Sky, where the huge scope is the focal selling point in the game, if this happens, that is definitely a bad thing.
Take a game like The Witcher 3. One of the largest open world games I’ve played in a long time. CD Projekt Red made a pretty smart move in dividing up the vast landscape into a collection of smaller (but still pretty huge) sandboxes. This allowed them to have a variety of locations to keep your interest, without having to worry about the technical difficulties in making the varied landscapes flow into each other naturally.
Furthermore, it allowed them to fill each sandbox with contextual, area specific side quests, races, contracts, and other activities, again, without having to worry about the areas in between. Had the whole map been one huge area, the sights would have had to be spread out, making each area less interesting in order to avoid any area from being completely empty.
Talking about open world games that are impressive in size, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself for not mentioning the Just Cause series. I’m going to throw it back to Just Cause 2 here. Yes JC3 was more recent and bigger in scope, but when playing it is a chore thanks to the downright abysmal frame rate issues, crashes and bugs, I can’t talk too much about it without starting to take huge breaks between each word. That’s right, talking about Just Cause 3 causes my real life frame rate to drop.
I know that makes no sense. And this isn’t a Just Cause 3 review. Let’s move on.
HUGE OPEN WORLD! Just Cause 2 is absolutely insane. I remember my younger self running around, blowing things up for a good six or seven hours, liberating towns, toppling statues and completing activities. Then I opened the map and zoomed out to find that I’d explored maybe three percent of the map? Just like all those ill-advised fuel tanks stored conveniently beside heavy weaponry, my mind was blown.
Admittedly now that I’m older (and possibly snobbier), I can’t amuse myself for as long as I used to in the shoes of Rico Rodriguez. Blowing things up does get repetitive pretty fast, which makes JC2 a strange example of what I’m talking about. It’s a great game, it’s fun, it’s chaotic, but it gets dull after a while. It makes me wonder if it’s possible for a game to be TOO big.
Now, this might only apply to me because I have borderline OCD when it comes to completing a game. I love seeing progress counters tick closer and closer towards 100%, which makes Just Cause 2 my worst nightmare. There are an absolutely insane number of things to do, but many of them are copied and pasted. Blow up a few things, grab the collectibles, kill the General, move on. Its gets stale, and seeing that you’ve liberated sixteen of some two hundred and something colonies is more disheartening than it is satisfying.
Of course I might be wrong, and on some days even I would disagree with that. Some days I like to mute the volume on my TV, head onto YouTube and watch some videos, as I completely ignore any story and smash my way through a few cities. For those moods, games like Just Cause are perfect. And if you (like me) actually enjoy some brainless, repetitive gameplay to keep your hands busy whilst you watch a movie or some YouTube videos, I’d highly recommend it, along with Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mad Max.
Ohhh Mad Max. What controversy you’ve sparked. The film was outstanding, there’s no denying that, and personally I quite enjoy the game. Yes, its repetitive, but there’s a huge open world just waiting to be taken back from Scrotus and his legion of psychopaths. Yes the villain is called Scrotus. Let’s just move past it.
Strangely enough, Mad Max is a game that I ONLY play when I’m in my “sound off, videos on” mood. The story is really not interesting, so I spend all my time destroying the war totems, taking back camps, looting the scavenging locations, and generally blazing my own path through the wasteland. The combat is crunchy, and there are a vast number of challenges to complete. Unlike Just Cause, each challenge or activity you complete either directly rewards you with an upgrade token to improve your base stats, or lowers the control that Scrotus’ generals have over the area you’re in, which is much more satisfying.
Getting back to the subject at hand – No Man’s Sky. Y’all need to sort it out. From what I’ve seen, I’d be amused for a little while, then it would be demoted to “Sound off, video on” status, before eventually joining the shelf of forgotten, uncompleted games that are gathering dust. God I hate that shelf. I can’t sell them or trade them in, I haven’t finished them yet! So there they wait. Ever played the Bionic Commando remake? He’s on there. But that’s a story for another time.
That’s it for this week gamers! Let me know what you think of open world games in the comments! And what games are gathering dust on your shelf? Keep on playing and I will see you next week!