Ce­les­tial do-over eases hang­over No Man’s Sky

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS -

(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 12+

You’d swear Sean Mur­ray had de­lib­er­ately run over a child or some­thing. Such was the vit­riol heaped on the Ir­ish-Aus­tralian de­vel­oper two years ago this week for his small team’s lon­gan­tic­i­pated No Man’s Sky.

Mur­ray was guilty of the clas­sic mis­take of over­promis­ing and un­der-de­liv­er­ing. His tech­ni­cally as­ton­ish­ing space ex­plo­ration game was filled with bil­lions (yes, bil­lions) of plan­ets, crea­tures and re­sources, each gen­er­ated by al­go­rithm not hu­man hand. But it was miss­ing a slew of key fea­tures and felt painfully cold and empty once you’d rum­maged around your first hand­ful of (ad­mit­tedly spec­tac­u­lar) plan­ets.

Here now, though, with the lat­est free up­date dubbed Next is pos­si­bly the de­fin­i­tive ver­sion of the di­vi­sive game. It still leans on the core loop of fly­ing then find­ing, loot­ing, craft­ing and trad­ing re­sources. But grat­i­fy­ingly en­hanced with true (if ba­sic) mul­ti­player, qual­ity-of-life tweaks around trans­port and craft­ing, plus some nar­ra­tive stream­lin­ing, NMS is within touch­ing dis­tance of its great po­ten­tial.

You need to sus­pend your ex­pec­ta­tions of evolv­ing game­play in that it is a repet­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. But there’s some­thing hum­bling about the scale of its vir­tual space tourism and some­thing in­trigu­ing about the vague mys­ti­cism around the var­i­ous alien races and the ran­dom crea­tures en­coun­tered.

We don’t of­ten re-re­view games in th­ese parts but No Man’s Sky de­serves a sec­ond look, es­pe­cially as it makes its rather lovely de­but on Xbox One with all its shaders set to stun. Mur­ray and co are still beaver­ing away on more con­tent, some­thing we can look for­ward to now they’ve rec­ti­fied the rick­ety foun­da­tions and given them­selves some­thing solid to build on.

Warham­mer: Ver­mintide 2 (XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 18+

You don’t need to know any­thing about the Warham­mer table­top gam­ing fran­chise to un­der­stand Ver­mintide. Sim­ply take ham­mer (or sword or axe) and whack rat-faced mon­sters into a bloody pulp. Rinse. Re­peat.

Lest that sound tire­somely mo­not­o­nous, be as­sured that the fran­tic four-player co-op of Ver­mintide 2 is any­thing but. Rem­i­nis­cent of Valve’s ri­otous Left 4 Dead se­ries, it pits one to four play­ers against a swarm of re­pul­sive crea­tures in large-scale are­nas.

Gory and at times ter­ri­fy­ing thanks to the ran­dom place­ment of the mon­sters in each round, it adds to the L4D for­mula with a need­lessly com­plex RPG up­grade sys­tem and a plethora of bru­tal weapons.

It’s at its best when your team of four face down over­whelm­ing odds and carve a grue­some swathe through the hordes.

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