It’s hard to remember this, but yes, Hello Games is an indie developer and No Man’s Sky is an indie game.
The hype, mainstream attention, and non-stop preview coverage indicated otherwise, however, and I’m not saying this to make excuses. Still, it’s important to remember that Hello Games isn’t a studio like Ubisoft that has many different development teams and locations around the world working on a project. These are people that shot for the moon with their game. Unsurprisingly, it’s not been digital perfection. Some would argue that it’s actually been the opposite. As a PC player, I completely emphasize with that; the framerate is wonky, the pop-ins are everywhere, the PC version may legitimately be emulating the PS4 version of the game, and the actual gameplay appears to be lacking and repetitive.
Still, there’s this undeniable charm that exists within No Man’s Sky. It brings about a sense of wonder, a sense of discovery, and a sense of joy. Maybe it’s because the game taps into our childhood dreams of exploring deep space and answering the question about whether or not we’re alone. In fact, the game is doing a good job of tapping into just that: there’s no plot driven narrative here. Instead, we’re tasked with near blind exploration and scavenging. It works because the game always keeps us on our toes, but it falls into a common indie game trap: there’s not nearly enough help available to the player. Mind you, I’m not asking for my hand to be held, but having at least some idea of what I should exactly be doing would be nice.
Thankfully, the game has plenty of heart to it. Does that do enough to make me care less about its flaws? For now, yes, but I’m still relatively early into the experience. I want to keep playing, though, despite all of the technical issues and bugs. For now, that’s all that matters: I want to keep exploring, keep adventuring, and keep discovering. I want to see what this small team that put their hearts and souls into the project can do. I want to encourage other smaller teams to do what Hello Games has done with No Man’s sky. Ambition is something that should never, ever be discouraged, especially from indie developers. Indie ambition has helped create some of the more memorable games in recent memory. Have all of these games been perfect? Absolutely not; No Man’s Sky is included in this. They’ve all been worth playing, though, for their experience.