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No Man’s Sky VR Review-In-Progress: Fully-Realized Virtual Universe

No Man’s Sky VR support has officially arrived in the Beyond Update and we’ve got our work-in-progress review right here. Expect a full, scored review next week.

Every game of No Man’s Sky begins both exactly the same and completely differently for each person. New players always awake on a strange, unfamiliar planet with nothing but a space suit and displaced space ship awaiting repairs with the guidance to follow the same path of instructions to get up and running — it’s the same, but different.

You see, No Man’s Sky is built entirely on top of Hello Games’ procedural generation system that crafts billions of planets across millions of star systems and simulates plants, animals, terrain, alien species, economies, and more throughout the entire game as a whole. Initially released three years ago, No Man’s Sky has evolved over the years and dramatically improved itself up until now, the Beyond Update, which is officially 2.0. With this update comes a revamped multiplayer experience, tons of new game mechanics like creature taming and expanded base building, and most importantly, complete VR support.

The premise alone for No Man’s Sky is almost too good to be true, especially when you add VR support into the mix, and that’s probably why it’s taken over three years post-launch to get to this point. This is a game in which you can explore a vast, massive planet full of unique flora and fauna, go mining, dig caves, explore underwater, terraform, build bases, and uncover ancient relics — then take off and fly to another planet or solar system and do it all over again without ever hitting a loading screen. It’s remarkable. And seeing it all from the point of view of a VR headset is a rare kind of escapism I haven’t seen executed this well before.

No Man’s Sky is a bit like several games jammed together into one package. While there is a main storyline about aliens, ancient civilizations, and solving mysteries, that’s far from the point of it all. This is basically “it’s not the destination the matters, it’s the journey” boiled down into a video game. The sense of discovery is so ingrained into No Man’s Sky’s DNA that players can rename everything they discover from planets and solar systems to animals and plants.

Hello Games have stopped just short of establishing this as a true MMO, but most of the pieces are here. The whole universe is persistent and players can see your bases on your planets and find things that you’ve named in real-time. You can link up with friends and go exploring together or visit the new Space Anomaly social hub that includes a Nexus full of group multiplayer missions.

no man's sky vr ship warp drive
No Man's Sky VR New

no man's sky planet upload centauri

This is an incredibly dense and complex game. I’ve logged over 24 hours this week, including the two hours I spent outside of VR prior to Beyond launching, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve still got basic tutorial missions left uncompleted in my log because I keep sidetracked with other activities.

For example, my most recent livestream consisted entirely of myself and some friends spending almost three hours setting up a new base on a home world I dubbed Upload Centauri. We dug holes into the side of a mountain, built the base into the mountain, and snaked it back out the other side so it overhangs like a cliff. You can see it in the image below. We’ve even got a landing pad for ships:

UVR Jaggerbase UploadVR No Man's Sky VR

No Man’s Sky is all about diversions like this. You could do any one of a thousand things that may seem trivial or boring at first, and then realize you spent six hours digging holes and stocking up on resources for your next base building expedition. The Nexus missions in the new Space Anomaly hub offer great replayable variety with good rewards, too. Hunting down a pack of space pirates as a group, for example, can net well over 200,000 units. Some missions even task you with things such as establishing colonies and outposts on planets or taming creatures.

There are just so many things to do and see it’s hard to summarize my thoughts and experiences, let alone articulate the breadth of it all.

As far as VR ports are concerned, No Man’s Sky is head and shoulders above its peers in terms of pure support. Performance issues aside, they’ve done tremendous work to get the game running and feeling right inside a headset. Everything from the inventory interactions, terraforming planets, driving vehicles, flying ships, shooting guns, building bases, and more is completely changed to fully support VR motion controllers.

One of the most intuitive parts of it all is the wrist-based menu system that has you point at your wrist to pull up holograms of components for building or even a tiny hologram of your ship prior to summoning it. Reaching out with your hands and pointing feels extremely natural, albeit a bit clunky for some things. It’d be nice if there was a single gesture or button that opened your inventory since you spend so much time looking at it instead of having to twist your wrist and laser point at the right spot each time first.

Comfort

Comfort options are pretty standard in No Man’s Sky. You can switch between both smooth and teleport-based locomotion as well as both snap and smooth turning. There’s also a field of view dimmer. On PS4 you can play with either Move controllers or the DualShock 4 gamepad. On PC it’s currently motion controllers only, but hopefully gamepad and/or mouse and keyboard will be added. Technically you can move around the room while playing on PC for roomscale, but if you get too far away from the “center” of the play space it asks you to return or recenter manually. There are plenty of options to keep No Man’s Sky as comfortable as possible while playing, but the real bottleneck so far has been performance.

Speaking of performance issues, there are a lot of them right now. We’ve tested the game out on everything from a 980Ti and 1080 all the way to RTX 2080 cards on Rift S, Valve Index, and other headsets and none of them really perform that well. There are lots of framerate issues and stuttering. It’s still very playable, but pales in comparison to the non-VR experience in terms of stability. Thankfully, most of the crashing issues appear to be resolved already.

If you adjust the settings and take some extra steps to optimize things it runs decently well, but trying to stream at the same time from a single PC introduces more chugging than any other VR game I’ve ever played. But when it does work and it all comes together to offer something smooth and enjoyable — it’s remarkable.

For the sake of this review I played only the PC VR version using a Rift S, but you can see a side-by-side graphics comparison in the video above. It’s the same game at its core, but the controls and visuals are obviously very different.

In terms of performance in and of itself, the PSVR version  seems more consistently stable as of the time of this writing, but that’s to be expected with the wide range of configurations PC gamers could potentially have.

no mans sky photo mode green sky

Verdict: To Be Determined

To understand what makes No Man’s Sky VR so special is to appreciate the underlying appeal of VR as a medium. They’re both about exploring a vast, endless sea of fantastical destinations. They’re both about embodiment and unrivaled immersion. And above all else they’re both about becoming who you want to be by exploring the far corners of seemingly limitless potential.

When No Man’s Sky VR is clicking, and that’s the vast majoroty of the time, it’s unlike anything else out there. Sean Murray called it the “perfect kind of sci-fi dream” and I find it hard to disagree.


No Man’s Sky is available with optional VR support on both PC and PS4. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.

For more on No Man’s Sky VR, read our guides on changing your appearance and getting started with Beginner info from a VR perspective or read our detailed interview with Sean Murray himself.

Editor’s Note: No Man’s Sky is a massive game full of variability, online multiplayer, and tons of layers. In order to give this game the best assessment we can, as it is a brand new title for the VR market, we’re holding off on awarding a score. We will update this review with a final score and more thoughts after we’ve spent some more time with it.

The post No Man’s Sky VR Review-In-Progress: Fully-Realized Virtual Universe appeared first on UploadVR.

David Jagneaux

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Tyler Lindell - Like Ginkgo for your Virtual Self