No Man’s Sky might be the most disappointing launch of the year [PC]

  • Current hardware: i5-4690k @ 3.50 GHz, GTX 970, 16gb RAM

No Man’s Sky launched at noon today in my timezone. I got a good three hours out of it before it began giving me major problems. (Naturally, Steam only lets you refund it if you return it before two hours of playtime have elapsed, which means I’m fucked there.) I was having occasional stuttering and FPS drops from the get-go, but for the most part it was playable.

Then, three hours into it, my CPU overheated and the PC shut down. No other game has ever done this to my current setup. I applied a number of fixes from various forums, booted it back up, and tried again. Thirty minutes later: roughly the same problem. This time my computer locked up entirely as the speakers croaked. I’m reluctant to try again even after they release another patch.

Technical issues aside, here are my first impressions about the gameplay itself: so far, it’s nowhere near as fun or polished as Rebel Galaxy. It’s not as satisfying as Elite: Dangerous. The ship controls are shit and I don’t see them improving at all, whether you jump through the hoops required to make a joystick work or not. I honestly wouldn’t bother trying. You can’t even pitch the nose down, as if that makes any fucking sense, while the dumbed down landing and docking procedures would be forgivable in a mobile game, but not this one.

This could have been a decent indie game if Sony hadn’t gotten their hands on it. I have a feeling the developers knew damn good and well it wasn’t a $60 title before the corporation stuck its proboscises into their brains. It’s the same way Facebook managed to corrupt Palmer Luckey and his Oculus VR platform. This is not a fun game at launch and I don’t see it getting much better, although I had a little more hope for it before my technical issues began.

Although I don’t think the dev team is entirely to blame (who would refuse Sony’s money?), I can’t remember the last time I was this disappointed. I’ll probably try it again after a future patch, but so far it looks like a major dud.

Here’s a big list of space games you should play instead of No Man’s Sky:

Empryrion – Galactic Survival $19.99

Despite being in early access, Empryion has just about everything you wanted from NMS, but weren’t actually going to get, including real multiplayer, base-building, and satisfying planet-hopping. The only reason I took a break from this one was to give it more time to ripen. It’s tough, challenging, and building your own spaceships is extremely rewarding. If you like supporting developers who actually take early access seriously, this is your game. It’s rough around the edges, but the freedom more than makes up for it.

Eve Online $19.99 (plus monthly subscription)

Eve has one of the friendliest, most helpful communities in the world. It’s dry, but that’s just the nature of this variety of science fiction. (If you love hard SF, you’re probably going to enjoy this.) The only thing I dislike about it is the fact it lends itself better to a mouse and keyboard than my joystick setup. I’m allergic to paying monthly subscriptions, too.

FTL: Faster Than Light $9.99

Deceptively simple at first glance, FTL is more fun per minute than NMS is per hour. If you wanted NMS because you like emergent stories, this is the one you should get. It’s insane how attached you get to your crew members, all of whom are likely to die at any minute.

Kerbal Space Program $39.99

I think everybody knows how good KSP is by now. It’s perhaps the greatest early access title in history. Despite the cartoonish characters, it’s by far the most realistic space simulator on this list. The joy of making it to “the mun” (or successfully rescuing a character who you stranded there) is beyond words.

Rebel Galaxy $19.99

I was skeptical of simplifying what I like so much about Elite: Dangerous and games of that nature, but Rebel Galaxy is tons of fun. In fact, if you haven’t played Eve or Elite (or you didn’t get what all the fuss was about) think of RG as a kind of entry point to those games. A gamepad is a must, so it’s a great option for couch gaming, either via Steam Link or playing on a console. The NPC interaction in this game is leagues better than what I experienced in NMS, and the combat is naval style, meaning you mostly fire from and at the broadsides of ships.

RimWorld $29.99

Okay, this one doesn’t exactly let you travel through space, but it’s one of my favorite games in years. You will die. Your colony will die. It might be best for those who expected a science fiction flavored challenge out of NMS, which I certainly never saw in my admittedly short time with it. I didn’t ever feel like I was in danger once in NMS.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion $39.99

I can’t believe Sins is still $39.99, but it’s probably my favorite 4X RTS this side of Red Alert 2. This one will scratch your itch for deep, tactical gameplay.

Space Engineers $24.99

I love Space Engineers and they’ve been slowly but steadily folding survival elements into it. If you were drawn to NMS because you were drawn to the insinuation you would be able to do just about anything, this is a much better bet.

Starbound $14.99

I really enjoyed my brief time in Starbound, particularly in multiplayer, and it offers better planet exploration, looting, and crafting than NMS at the moment. I also think it has a better sense of wonder.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play Destiny for the first time.

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