21 October, 2020

No Man's Sky. No end in sight.

Everyone loves a good story, don't they? I know I do. There's nothing quite like becoming engrossed in the telling of some grand adventure, riding the rollercoaster of ups and downs experienced by characters that I love and those that I hate. Then, when I get to the ending, the storyteller wraps it all up in a nicely packaged finale. Well, sometimes. Because stories don't always end like that. One example of that is the videogame No Man's Sky. 

Fair warning, the rest of this post contains what might be plot spoilers for anyone that hasn't completed the game.

No Man's Sky is a sci-fi space game that centres around exploration and survival. The first 20 mintues or so of a new game is definitely all about survival. You play a character who typically starts on a planet with hostile environmental conditions, depleting life support, damaged equipment, with no recollection of who they are or how they got there. Then it's a matter of staying alive long enough to figure out what's going on. Once the often frantic start is out of the way, then the game settles into its core gameplay element of exploration. And there is a lot to explore.

The game's universe is a procedurally generated wonderland. There are 255 galaxies to explore. Each one of them is unique, and packed to the brim with various stars, planets, biomes, and lifeforms to check out. To give you an idea of just how massive the universe is in No Man's Sky, imagine needing to give up nearly 585 billion years to see it all. There is a good article about the game over at Mashable, which also breaks down the numbers. See: "No Man’s Sky" provides a soulful antidote to our anxious times

Along with the nearly limitless exploration, there is an interesting story to the game. It's a story that looks at metaphysical themes, including purpose, the nature of reality, and questions of fate versus free will. It was a story that I felt compelled to try and finish. I often played far too late into the evening, just to get that little bit further into it. Followed by a lot of mornings at work, filled with sleep deprived regret; regret that I wasn't at home still playing the game. But like all good stories, it eventually comes to an end. Or does it?

At the end of the game's story, you're faced with a decision that literally puts the fate of the galaxy in your hands. But whichever path you choose, you are still faced with some bittersweet truths - you will never be able to explore it all, and maybe nothing you do matters anyway. I think that's brilliant!

So many stories, through whichever medium they're told, leave us with a nice, neat, happy ending. And that's great. There's nothing wrong with happy endings. But some of my favourite stories have left things hanging; they've left a doorway open to uncertainty and an array of possibilities. Those are the stories that I like the best, and they often feel like they've left a mark on my soul. For me, No Man's Sky is one of those stories.

If you would like to check out the game, head on over to the No Man's Sky website and take a look. It's not a game that appeals to everyone, but those that like it often fall in love with it.

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