Earlier this week, it was revealed that No Man’s Sky is currently one of the lowest rated games on Steam. Currently sitting on 5,756 recent reviews of which only 12% had something positive to say about the game, No Man’s Sky currently sits at an Overwhelmingly Negative verdict from recent reviews. While it should come as no surprise that the game is being heavily criticized following claims of false advertising and Hello Games’ complete radio silence on the matter, does the game really deserve to be so harshly viewed? After all, despite the very basic gameplay, it’s by no means the worst game to ever grace our systems.
While the crux of many player’s complaints lies with the gameplay or lack thereof, PC players definitely drew the short straw when it came to technical issues. With problems even launching the game, framerate dips, and constant freezes, the game that released first on the PS4 certainly shouldn’t have been struggling to perform on much more powerful PC systems. This would explain the influx of damning reviews right near the game’s release date on PC, but since then, Hello Games has been rectifying many of the problems and had even resolved 70% of the support requests at the time. It may not have been ideal for many players, but the developer was working hard. Even if it wasn’t communicating this well to its fans.
With many of the technical issues resolved on the PC, players were still incredibly disappointed with the actual gameplay itself and its complete lack of resemblance to the game they’d been promised. Many articles and videos suggest that Hello Games, namely Sean Murray himself, had lied about No Man’s Sky’s gameplay in a number of interviews. To add further fuel to the fire, Hello Games used promotional materials (that can still be found on Steam) that did not accurately represent the actual gameplay. It has its limitations, sure. The gameplay is most definitely repetitive, too. But at the same time, No Man’s Sky acts as another reminder that the hype train can be incredibly detrimental to your gameplay experience. That’s not to put the onus solely on ourselves, the players. In fact, Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida openly criticized Hello Games’ PR strategy stating “I understand some of the criticisms especially Sean Murray is getting, because he sounded like he was promising more features in the game from day one.”
On the surface, No Man’s Sky’s gameplay isn’t awful. Its gameplay focuses on exploring an incredibly vast universe and using the resources you find to further propel yourself toward the center of the universe. However, while its procedurally-generated universe may have been its biggest pull, it was also its biggest downfall. Exploring all of the different planets is great for a while, but you soon realize there really isn’t much more to it after the first few hours. It’s a great idea, but just not executed on the scale its expansive world required and the payoff at the end is certainly not worth all of that grind. In fact, one of No Man’s Sky’s biggest attractions for many players was uncovering what the big surprise would be at the center of the universe. While we won’t spoil it for you here, it definitely left a bitter taste in the mouths of players who felt they’d gone through it all for absolutely nothing.
Yet, despite the lackluster gameplay and boring, repetitive world, critics weren’t quite as harsh on the game when it came to critic reviews on both the PC and PS4. Currently, the game sits at a 60 and 71 on each respective platform. Even with the PC version’s technical issues reflected in the score, it seems critics observed many of the same flaws that players had, though were far less harsh, managing to take the bad, with the good and sometimes impressive aspects of No Man’s Sky. Considering many of these reviews were written within the couple of weeks following the title’s release on PC, it therefore fails to explain the game’s more recent awful reviews.
Unfortunately, following the initial murmurs that the game wasn’t quite what was promised by Sean Murray and Hello Games, the player base began to become more and more disgruntled. Understandably, having paid good money for a title that was in such a poor state on PC when it first released, only to find the game was missing components they expected to be in the game, players took to the internet to vent their frustrations and try to get a refund through Steam’s system. This ultimately led to channels of contact with developers becoming far more negative. The more negative and frustrated players became, the more shut off Hello Games got, and so the negativity, unfortunately, was left to amass with nobody to help calm or provide reassurance that their concerns would be addressed. No Man’s Sky’s Steam community hub became overrun with messages of disdain and the game’s subreddit recently went down for a few days after having turned to a “hate-filled waste hole” as described by moderator “r0ugew0lf.”
Ultimately, No Man’s Sky doesn’t deserve to be one of the lowest rated games on Steam. It’s not a bad game, but the poor PR handling, messaging, and post-release communications have only helped to fuel the negativity swelling in the player base. Taken out of context of all of the controversy that has seemingly plagued its existence, No Man’s Sky is an innovative step forward in the technology used in game development. It just fell way too short on delivering the blockbuster experience that many had rightfully assumed it would be from what we’d seen prior to its release. No Man’s Sky may not be the AAA blockbuster we all expected or hoped for it to be, but the ambitious efforts of the small indie team most certainly aren’t one of the worst ways to spend your money on Steam.