After walking through a giant portal that appeared in the desert on a planet in No Man’s Sky, the game presented me with a veiled questionnaire, presented as different reasonings in my character’s inner monologue. Why, my character asked themselves, had they walked through that portal? Or less veiled-ly, Hello Games asked me, the player.
There were three options: To save an NPC? To fight an enemy faction? Or ‘just because I can’?
Why did Pandora open her box? Why did the chicken cross the road? Why did I walk through a giant swirling portal in the middle of the desert? Curiosity.
Why is Hello Games – maker of a game where curiosity would seem to be one of the main motivating factors – unable to imagine that I might just be motivated by a desire to see what’s on the other side?
I am done with No Man’s Sky for now and I bring up this weird little request for feedback on the game’s narrative because it’s indicative of a game that mismanages it’s own potential. In it’s eagerness to provide the player reasons for doing stuff – as well as tons of stuff to do – it misses the simple pleasure of just letting the player explore to satisfy their curiosity. To see sights because there are sights to see. And there truly are – No Man’s Sky 2021 delivers as a generator of the weird and the wonderful.
To be perfectly clear: The game didn’t hold me back. Once I had figured out how to warp, I could have warped ahead and never looked back, not caring about Atlas, Artemis or anything. But I look to games to tell me what to do and boy does NMS 2021 tell you what to do. Because there are quests. So. Many. Quests.
And so I spent my time with the game building bases, hunting for ressources, trading, and most of all, trying to build toward a fullfilling end to a storyline that ultimately was about as satisfying as frozen pizza. I could go on about that story but it is the topic for another post, another time, I think.
I know that NMS has grown into what it is now in the years since release in response to popular demand. The base building, the reworked story lines, etc. I don’t know what it was like in 2016 – though it would be cool to be able to install that version – but I imagine I might have had a better time with that game. A walking simulator in space, if you will. A warping simulator, perhaps. Apologies, I’ll see myself out.
I could carry on, deciding to ignore anything the game asks of me… but I’m no longer that eager to know what the next solar system is like. I’m spent. Curious, that.