(Pocket-lint) - The PlayStation 4 has played host to some incredible games in its relatively short life so far but few have caught the imagination quite as much as No Man's Sky.
Since its trailer debut during the 2014 Sony E3 press conference, it has been the talk of the town. The hype ramped up even further after it was revealed to feature an open world universe, populated by more than 18 quintillion procedurally generated, discoverable planets.
Now it is available in the US, with the UK release to follow tomorrow, and we've been playing it for a while to be able to answer some of the questions often posed about the game. We'll be fully reviewing it in time, but want to ensure we've played it plenty beforehand.
Until then here's everything you need to know about No Man's Sky.
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What is No Man's Sky?
No Man's Sky is a game that has been known about since December 2013, thanks to a brief teaser, but it's main debut was during E3 in 2014. It is an open world survival adventure game, with space simulation and role-playing elements, and has been developed by Hello Games.
It is set in a fictional universe that contains more than 18 quintillion planets, each of which is procedurally generated. That means they don't exist until someone visits one for the very first time, but will be created by the game's complicated algorithms to form a full planet, with flora, fauna, islands, watermass and more as soon as a player gets nearby. The galaxies too are procedurally generated.
Hello Games claims that each planet will be totally unique, although they follow set rules for generation. Some will therefore seem similar to another, but no one planet will feature the exact same conditions.
As well as planets, the game features space stations you can visit and other spacecraft that can be hostile. Some creatures and other planetary dwellers can also be seen as enemies.
The game is played persistently online and is multiplayer in that other gamers will inhabit the same universe, but thanks to its enormous size it is possible that you will never see another human player as you explore and travel.
What do I do in No Man's Sky?
The main goal of No Man's Sky is to find the centre of the universe and unravel the mystery that lies there. However, it is possible to play indefinitely without ever completing that task.
Instead, like other survival and open world games, you might choose to follow a different path entirely. Even just become a space tourist and visit as many planets as you can.
In terms of actual gameplay, there are many elements to No Man's Sky, but at its heart are resource gathering, crafting and ultimately surviving. From the very beginning, which sees you crashed on a remote planet, you have to find elements to power and repair your spacesuit, tools and ship. You then craft bigger and better weapons, tools and engines to reach more remote locations.
Some components can be found in boxes and buildings, some have to be drawn from the vegetation, minerals and other resources lying around planets. You also need to collect elements that can be used to fuel your ship and other energy items, such as life-support and your mining laser.
Even when you are in space, you can shoot and gather important elements from asteroids and the like, which help fuel your ship.
Space stations often orbit planets, so you can also buy and trade items for in-game credits (units) which can help to purchase new upgrades or technology.
All of these things are important to keep progressing to the centre of the universe as you need to improve your technology to make faster and further galactic jumps. So if you are keeping to the game's script, be prepared to constantly hunt for resources.
What other games are like No Man's Sky?
Initially, the space simulation aspects of No Man's Sky remind us of Elite Dangerous and even the original Elite game of the BBC Micro and ZX Spectrum days. You can travel the universe trading goods you have either bought or mined and improving your tech as you go.
However, when on a planet it more closely resembles survival and crafting games like Minecraft and ARK: Survival Evolved. There are even shades of zombie crafting game 7 Days to Die. However, resources are abundant on planets, so it's more about finding blueprints for better tech than just the elements to make them.
How do I win in No Man's Sky?
As we've mentioned, the ultimate goal is to find the centre of the universe and discover the reasons why you feel drawn to it. But you can really make of that what you will. We suspect there will be plenty who consider themselves winners just by gathering the most amount of credits or having the best equipment.
There will also be some whose goal is to discover as many planets as they can.
There are also many dangers and objectives to be completed along the way, so winning is relative really.
How long does it take to complete No Man's Sky?
How long is a piece of string? We have been told that it is definitely possible to complete No Man's Sky within a realistic timeframe, but there is no indication as to how long that is.
We have heard unconfirmed reports that someone with access to an early build of the game managed to get to the centre of the universe in little over 30 hours, but Hello Games is alleged to have scoffed at the suggestion, asking whether that person was sure he or she had reached the actual "centre".
If visiting all the planets is your ultimate goal you're in for a long one. It is estimated that if you visit every single planet in the game for one second each, it will take you 585 billion actual years to complete.
What do I need to play No Man's Sky?
No Man's Sky is currently available for PS4 and PC. You only need a game controller or keyboard and mouse to play it, although we'd advise checking the settings before you launch from a planet the first time as we had to invert the flight controls to something more natural. It started with "up" literally meaning "up", for instance, while normal flight controls are the opposite.
Is No Man's Sky a PlayStation 4 exclusive?
As mentioned above, No Man's Sky is also available for PC. Sony Computer Entertainment is publisher of the PS4 version while developer Hello Games is publishing the PC version itself.
Can I get No Man's Sky for Xbox One?
Sadly, there are no current plans to launch No Man's Sky for Xbox One.
Is there a VR version of No Man's Sky?
There has been a lot of speculation about No Man's Sky being adapted for use with PlayStation VR, especially as its release date was put back even though it was believed development had finished. However, Sony is yet to announce compatibility with PSVR, so it might not be something planned for the launch of its virtual reality headset, or even ever.
Should I buy No Man's Sky?
Although we cannot say for sure, until we've played it a lot more in the coming days and weeks, our initial experiences with No Man's Sky lead us to believe that it will be a massive, awesome game with an extraordinary amount of depth.
It won't be for everyone. It is slow paced at times and even if you actively seek out lifeforms to shoot, they can be bereft of action. But it does hold an enormous amount of promise and, at the very least, is worth playing to keep up with the office cooler or playground chitter chatter.