A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that No Man's Sky is a first- and third-person sci-fi simulation game where players explore a virtually endless universe filled with massive planets, alien life, and technological secrets. The bulk of the game is composed of exploring, discovering, and using resources to craft new items and technologies. Players spend much of their time searching for rare minerals, which can come from crates, plants, rocks, and even animals, perhaps sending the message that the universe and all within it exists for us to exploit as we like. Players can also engage in battle with aliens and machines -- including those that pose no threat, should they choose (though most creatures will fight back if attacked, and many are much more powerful than the player's character). The gun-based combat involves explosions and bursts of light, but no blood or gore.
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What's it about?
NO MAN'S SKY begins with the player's character stranded with a broken ship on a random planet near the outer rim of the galaxy. It's up to you to explore, discover, and figure out where to go and what to do. You'll begin by searching the nearby area to find crates, plants, rocks, and animals capable of supplying the minerals needed to fix key parts of your ship. Once it's fully repaired, you'll fly to the stars, eventually traveling to any point of light you like. There are literally billions of unique, randomly generated suns in the game, each with its own set of enormous planets and moons, many teeming with their own types of plants and animals, some of which are dangerous. For defense, your character is armed with a gun that can also be used to break apart rocks and destroy barriers. A lengthy story involving the discovery of alien secrets is available, but it's up to you to decide where to go and what to accomplish. You'll gradually discover recipes for new technologies -- better ship parts and improved equipment -- that encourage you to hunt for rare minerals, land in space stations to trade items and buy better ships, and encounter ancient alien relics that help you slowly learn alien languages. As the game progresses, you'll learn to build bases anywhere you like on any planet you visit as well as begin putting together and taking command of fleets of enormous freighters that can help with resource collection and movement around the galaxy. It's a shared universe, so you can choose to adventure with small groups of friends or strangers, but the entire game can be experienced playing solo.
Is it any good?
Few games made by only a handful of people are more ambitious than this space adventure. No Man's Sky provides us with a randomly generated universe nearly as big as the one we physically inhabit, making the possibilities for discovery virtually endless. The unexpected things you'll find and the places you'll see in the opening hours hint at the vast, essentially infinite scope of the experience. And this huge game has continued to evolve during the first couple of years after launch with free content and feature updates, such as the ability to view your (newly customizable) astronauts from a third-person perspective and find other players with whom to go on shared adventures. Better still is the ability to build colonies and bases anywhere you like and create and command fleets of freighters. These additions provide a bit of much-needed automation while also making it easier to transport resources and travel to previously visited locations. The story has continued to grow as well, with new quests and a dynamic story that provides a deeper understanding of the universe we explore. You can spend dozens of hours chasing down answers to ancient mysteries, or you can spend just as much time simply trying to get lost in the cosmos to see what you can find and what sort of amazing items you can craft. It's all up to you.
But there are a few chinks in No Man's Sky's armor of freedom. Perhaps the most frustrating thing players will encounter at the start is the small and restrictive inventory. You'll find all sorts of elements and items you'll want to collect, but within the first hour, you'll likely need to start prioritizing which ones to keep and which to leave behind as empty slots fill up. Also tiresome is the need to spend time searching for and harvesting basic elements and resources. Standing in one spot vacuuming up copper or iron for a long time -- hoping that sentinel robots don't spot you and begin attacking -- gets old within the first few hours of play. By hour 20 or 30, you'll be wishing desperately that you could craft a Star Trek replicator that could just spit out whatever you happened to need at the moment. Even with these problems, though, No Man's Sky is well worth playing simply to experience what it's like to explore a nearly endless galaxy full of wonders.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about technology addiction. A game like No Man's Sky never really ends, which means some players could keep playing for months or even years, so how do you enjoy a game that can consume countless hours while ensuring you don't overdo it?
Do you find exploration in the real world exciting or scary? What rewards come with going places you've never been and discovering new things? Do you think there are any places left on our planet that people have yet to explore?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99-59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Pricing depends on platform. Ongoing content updates are free.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Hello Games
- Release date: July 24, 2018
- Genre: Simulation
- Topics: Adventures, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: June 21, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.