Overtaking the sunset, I glide into the mesosphere hours ahead of darkness. Scattered islands beckon under shifting banks of white stratus. I veer toward one but lose sight of it in the clouds, emerging over an isthmus broad and gray in the oceans of Lahellt II. Knuckertail soars down and I land her upon a grass-topped arch, coiled slender and ominous over the shallows like an immense fossil.
After visiting a hundred vicious worlds, frozen or burning, gassing me with oxides or crackling with radioactive menace, I think I've found home. Dropping from the canopy to make footfall, I look at the glittering sea. A world warm and quiet and mine declares itself to the exosuit's sensors.
Something's not right.
No Man's Sky is a spectacular toy for exploring 18 quintillion uncannily similar worlds. Released a year ago to astronomical hype and sour reviews, it's since become a decent (and improving) game as its creators bolt on base-building, factions, planetside vehicles, narrative threads and evocative if slight multiplayer elements.
As of the Atlas Rising update, it's widely hailed as a much more involving journey. But for me, it's neither one thing nor the other. The procedurally-generated worlds still lack depth and intrigue, limiting the appeal of exploration, while the gamery additions call for endless self-directed fetchquesting to make progress. Tweet-length nibbles of story string one instantly-forgotten Mr. Potato Head alien to the next, all immobile but for their looping busywork animations.
But the weird dream at the heart of it — jumping to distant solar systems, visiting fabulous unchartered worlds, coasting over psychedelic meadows where bizarre and ungainly alien fauna swarm — sticks with me. Read the rest