Lightly contemplative and endlessly dispersed, the swirling sense of discovery afforded to No Man’s Sky comes from its technological loneliness. Alien and different – in all individual circumstances – the unimaginable breadth of No Man’s Sky mirrors that of known existence. We’re all one mere being in a sea of trillions x 10 planets.
But we’re lonely. Completely, totally, as far as we know. Pulling into a space station in No Man’s Sky, I wonder who constructed this floating base. I wonder, who hired the mysterious employee behind the counter and who pays the salary? Are their homes near? How far is the commute for this 9-5?
I wonder too, if I earn naming rights to my planets and life upon them, why? Would such rights not go to the sparse civilizations who built populated outposts on the surface? No planet goes without at least one. And each solar body holds discarded materials, remnants of those who journeyed before. This is not a video game of discovery, much as the online connectivity insinuates otherwise. The discoveries were made. We’re Pilgrims here to lay stakes on land we do not own, recreating early America on the universal scale of existence. How human.
In this sense, the greatest of discoveries isn’t a bunch of enormous, floating space rocks, rather the species which already exist upon them. We’re not alone, insinuates No Man’s Sky. The greatest of all discoveries, life on other worlds other than our own, yet No Man’s Sky seems more concerned with shattering space rocks for their minerals. Interstellar reconnaissance made circular and redundant – walk, mine, fly; walk, mine, fly. Walk. Mine. Fly.
Resource hoarding: the great onus of modern discovery. It’s surprising No Man’s Sky doesn’t allow digging for oil. Maybe then a greater purpose would materialize.
There are no known, fully populated planets No Man’s Sky. That has potential to be spectacular – one singular random planet teeming with life, cities, and spectacle. Yet, No Man’s Sky’s taped together ideas of existence wouldn’t allow for such a thing.
No Man’s Sky’s worlds have oceans. Maybe a mountain landmark sprouts in the distance. Choose from green grass, red grass, blue grass, as if Dr. Seuss designed universal lawn care. Those are planetary features to No Man’s Sky. Suitably alien, but rendered in the form of indifferent palette swaps. Gravity’s impact never changes across the cosmos. Every planet is survivable. All of them have atmospheres to burn.
As it is, No Man’s Sky’s wealth of technical prowess and randomization puts scale above all else. It is doubtful there will be another videogame as enormous as No Man’s Sky. How could there be, when maxing out at our current understanding of interstellar vastness? That in and of itself is special. Space wanderers though, of them there are many and it’s not lonely up here.