It's a tree.

Not any tree with which you'd be familiar. I mean, for one thing, this one is about a foot high and bounding about like three-year-old in a new sleeping bag.

Nevertheless it's a tree; a very amusing, cute, thoroughly excited tree.

Welcome to No Man's Sky, a game of limitless possibilities and gargantuan time-wasting.

When it starts, you're right in the poo. Your wee space ship is in a rough way, you're in possession of a little laser capable of mining elements and the planet on which you've crashed is... well who knows, it's different for everyone. Maybe it's a chilly wasteland, maybe it's stacked with grass-laden prairies and hilarious jumping trees.

No Man's Sky presumes you've played a game or two before. There's no hand-holding, and if you had the ability to hold one out it'd be shot off immediately. Nevertheless the game is gentle and progression makes total sense. You need some carbon sheets to fix your totalled ship? So mine some carbon and get to it, man.

The elderly gamer will remember a rather goundbreaking piece of software called Elite, in which one explored space, traded goods, blasted pirates to smithereens and generally grew frustrated that the graphics of the day were unable to represent the sheer variety of planetary systems which one encountered.

No Man's Sky is beautiful.

Really beautiful.

Sure the space stations are identical and bits of planet-based tech all seem to be made by one space construction firm, but the planets, their respective atmospheres and associated flora and fauna are astonishingly varied.

This means the curious traveller can spend hours on one small moon simply wandering about discovering utterly ludicrous animals. And uploading new species earns you some useful space cash, particularly if you manage to find everything on its mystery list. Of course, because each planet has a stupid amount of variation and the list is populated by question marks until you discover what its after, finishing one is an exercise in time-consuming and frustrating-as-hell trekking.

You'll need the cash, though, by golly. You've only got a few inventory slots in your suit and on your little ship, and they'll fill up damned quickly with mined elements and alien curiosities. Luckily there are exosuit upgrades dotted about the planet for ever-increasing prices. To upgrade your ship, however, you'll have to mosey on up to a space station and hang around waiting for some alien traffic.

Just like in real life.


And that's the whole deal with No Man's Sky. Yeah you've got an underlying mission of sorts (find your way to the centre of the galaxy) but the game offers so much more. It feels real. It feels like what you'd imagine and want a densely populated universe to be if you possessed the technology to fly between its interesting bits with ease.

I don't know about you but jumping trees are reasonably high on my list of interesting planetary inhabitants.