by Chris O’Neal
chris@vcreporter.com

No Man’s Sky
June 21, Playstation 4, PC
www.no-mans-sky.com
Ruiner
Late 2016, PC  
www.ruinergame.com

Have you ever been so far out of the city that you can see the beauty of the night sky free of light pollution? It’s a wonderful, humbling experience, just to see how large the universe is in comparison to us, the citizens of Earth. It’s high time we pop the Universe in its pretentious mouth by opening it up for exploration, eh? That’ll put it in its place.

No Man’s Sky, for the Playstation 4 and PC, offers up a universe of exploration for anyone daring and patient enough to explore it. This isn’t your parents’ linear space opera, but rather a project looking to redefine “open world” and to bring about a sense of joy when you hear the word “procedural.” 

From developer Hello Games, No Man’s Sky gives you the key to the universe; all you have to do is open it up. Travelers seek to reach the center of this fictional sandbox of worlds through space exploration. As players come across new planets, they can explore them. Each is a different iteration, randomly designed on the spot via an infinite number of combinations — from furry tails to bushy . . . bushes, acidic lakes and sky-high mountains.

Imagine again looking up into the night sky: Each point of light represents a star and its galaxy, and it’s the same in game. There are planets and moons to be explored and claimed, and being the first to discover a planet or even a sentient life form gives you the naming rights.

Of course, that means “Planet Butthole” can (and probably will) be a reality. 

The goal, in the end, is to reach the center of the universe, but the soul is exploration. To get there, players will need to earn cash, be it through exploration, trade, piracy or even battles, which can be epic in scale.

An upgrade system allows players to customize their suits for planetary exploration (Did you honestly believe that you could step out into a lava world with nothing on but your tighty whities?) and give their ships a boost in combat or travel. There’s even a crafting option which gives players control over the minutiae of molecular crafting, a way to peer into the tiny universe within ourselves, you could say.

The biggest pitfall for a game like No Man’s Sky is also its strong point, in that just how long can one explore an unlimited universe before getting bored? The key to the game’s success will be the community that adopts it and turns the world into a living one full of danger, adventure and continuous interesting storylines. In other words, the power will be in our hands to give this universe its meaning. 

No Man’s Sky will be released on June 21, so there is plenty of time to start making a list of potential planet names. (If any explorers out there want to dub one “Planet O’Neal” after yours truly, send me a screen cap.) 

Meanwhile, my fascination with the cyberpunk genre continues to grow (and with a new Blade Runner film coming soon, I can only get so giddy) and the recently announced Ruiner, a blend of Akira philosophy with Blade Runner aesthetics, looks to sate my need for techno fantasy in the near future.

You’re a leather-clad bad dude running through a cyberpunk city, meeting up with dudes with weird haircuts on your way to beat up other bad dudes with weird haircuts. From Reikon Games, Ruiner is a top-down shooter with a plethora of “augmentations” allowing for the slowing of time, dodging bullets, etc., etc. There’s a 15-minute demo on YouTube that’ll explain all of this and more ahead of the game’s release sometime later this year.

Maybe I’m a dreamer. Maybe that’s why I’m attracted to far-out concepts in the games I play. Or maybe I’m just easily amused. The answer . . . is in the stars. 

Chris O’Neal is easily amused. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.