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No Man's Sky on PSVR2: glorious, overwhelming space exploration

I'm up in space, man.

No Man's Sky
Hello Games

I've been standing here for 15 minutes and I have no idea what to do.

It makes sense, I suppose. I've never crash-landed on an alien world where flora and fauna are both beastly and beautiful in equal measure in real life, but if I did, I don't suppose I'd know what the hell to do then, either. I'm sporting a laser-stroke-scanner-stroke-multi-tool, but I don't really know what to do with it. I have a very impressive Minority Report-esque smart device velcroed to my wrist, but I'm not entirely sure how that works, either. Then an alarm starts beeping – apparently, the crust of this world is fatally radioactive – and pretty soon, I'm dead because I couldn't work out how to stay undead.

Huh. Interesting.

Ian puts PSVR2 through its paces, and gives No Man's Sky a whirl.

My second life in No Man's Sky’s Fractal update doesn't fare much better. While there is a tutorial here, it is very wordy, and small, and my tired, middle-aged eyes find it hard to read the tooltips. Also, I keep getting distracted by the creatures snuffling about behind me. I turn – almost knocking over the cup of Biscuit Brew next to me; pay attention to your surroundings, Vik, just like the warnings tell you – and I finally see one. He's short and squat, like a sentient cowpat, his long snout twitching along the ground for… uh, I don't know, actually. He's not keen on partnering up with me, though – when I approach, he scarpers in the opposite direction, mewling softly.

This time, I survive long enough to scavenge the materials I need to repair my impaired starship. It's not easy – there are so many buttons and features and things to craft and create, I keep forgetting which button does what, impeded further by the fact my hands have no muscle memory of the button placement on the PSVR2's motion controllers. But after finally escaping the planet and landing elsewhere – this world is lush and green, and I hope for a more hospitable visit (spoilers: it won't be) – I make the mistake of firing at a sentient rock and spend the next half hour feeling like I'm in a Star Wars fever dream, zipping across the sky as I fire indiscriminately at the drones on my tail, dispatched, I think, because of that bloody rock. I keep thinking I've done it, that I've downed the last one, but every time I tip my ship's nose downward and attempt to land, another bunch spawn in their stead. So that's the unceremonious end of Voyage #2.

Yes, I'm both a PSVR2 and No Man's Sky newbie, but I was doing okay with the all-new VR Fractal update up until that point. However, that whole TIE fighter sequence left me sick as a dog. As is usually the case, it took a little while to find the right VR settings for me, but once I'd Goldilocks-ed everything so it all felt just right – and to be fair, there are plenty of options here to help you maximise your comfort – bobbing around No Man's Sky's vast landscapes is a curiously relaxing experience, helped in no small part by the game's achingly gentle score. But spinning across the sky, ricocheting from upright to upside-down to every position in between, it's very hard to convince your eyes – and whatever part of your brain causes motion sickness – that this isn't real.

No Man's Sky
Devil may sky.

But as glorious as it is to explore these alien worlds, the graphics lack the punch of, say, Horizon's Call of the Mountain, with textures often feeling a touch blurry and indistinct, especially if the procedurally-generated world is a monochromatic, dull affair. That's not to say it isn't immersive – I don't think I've ever felt closer to being a bonafide astronaut than when I pull back the throttle and zip across deepest space, pulse engine thrusting me into my own personal Space Mountain ride – but even with the headset's intelligent haptics, I never felt utterly transported into my own universe despite NMS's best efforts.

It's not particularly newbie friendly, either. There's so much you need to know, and so much you need to do, too, that even with a modest tutorial, it's difficult to keep on top of what devices and buttons do what. Sometimes you have to shoot stuff to harvest it; other times, you have to yank it towards you as if wielding an invisible lasso. I do not doubt that this lack of direction and hand-holding is the appeal for some – with every death, you learn something new (like not to shoot randomly on a planet with sentinels) – but it can be a tad frustrating for newcomers looking to explore what No Man's Sky has to offer with the new PSVR2 tech, but are locked out by a curiously tough skill floor and an RNG god that's prepared to spawn you onto a radioactive planet the very first time you boot up the game. And even with the game's plant and beastie populations, the worlds you explore sometimes feel a little… well, a little empty, quite honestly.

No Man's Sky
Fractal royale.

Inevitably, what you'll get out of No Man's Sky on PSVR2 is inextricably tied to what you're prepared to put into it. Like other survival games of its ilk, the more time you spend experimenting and thumbing through the instruction manuals of your gizmos, the better you'll understand your true capabilities and the more rewarding your voyage will be. There are bases to build and creatures to tame and resources to collect and ships and devices to repair and upgrade, and the more open you are to unscripted exploration, the more the game opens up for you.

My fear right now, however, is No Man's Sky's Fractal update is too challenging for newcomers and not challenging enough – nor different enough – for existing VR or NMS enthusiasts who have already dedicated a chunk of time to the game's first PSVR update. I'm not here to pass judgement on the scope and variety of Sony's current PSVR2 offerings, but as long as No Man Sky straddles an uneasy no man's land where it may not fully capitalise on either of its potential audiences, I do wonder how it'll fare as the PSVR2 catalogue expands.

But my word, it's been some time since a game made me gasp aloud the way I did when I fired up my thrusters and whooshed up into the air for the first time… and it's hard to deny the full capabilities of what VR – and indeed, No Man's Sky’s VR edition – can offer than when a video game can make you feel like that.

About the Author
Vikki Blake avatar

Vikki Blake


When​ ​her friends​ ​were falling in love with soap stars, Vikki was falling in love with​ ​video games. She's a survival horror survivalist​ ​with a penchant for​ ​Yorkshire Tea, men dressed up as doctors and sweary words. She struggles to juggle a fair-to-middling Destiny/Halo addiction​ ​and her kill/death ratio is terrible.

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