Friday, July 29, 2016

Xbox One Alternatives to No Man's Sky

With PS4 owners already digging into the highly anticipated No Man's Sky, what is a thirsty Xbox One fan who can’t play the game to do?  Play other games, of course!  Thanks to the magic of indie games, there are actually a lot of games already out, or soon to be out, on Xbox One that can deliver the sci-fi space exploration experience you crave.  Get all of the details, with lots of game recommendations, right here.

What Is No Man's Sky? 

So why are we jealous / hyped enough for No Man’s Sky that we’d be looking for alternatives just to get a little taste of something similar?  Because it has the potential to be a dream game for sci-fi fans.  You have a whole galaxy to explore and can freely travel from star to star, and planet to planet, and even land on the planets and every planet will have different environments and creatures.  The gameplay also seems to be accessible and easy to get into as well.  It is so huge and ambitious and incredibly appealing for anyone who dreamed of exploring the stars.

All of that ambition could have drawbacks, though.  Not to be all sour grapes or anything, but for as promising as No Man’s Sky looks, it might be too big for its own good.  Developer Hello Games is a tiny studio with only a handful of employees, and its previous work – the Joe Danger series of stunt games – wasn’t exactly super fantastic.  No Man’s Sky features space flight and combat as well as on-foot FPS exploration and combat, and if any of these gameplay aspects aren’t up to snuff, all of that ambition will be going to waste.  If No Man’s Sky only plays “okay” it is going to be a disappointment.  On the other hand, if it plays great, it might end up being the greatest videogame of all time. 

Xbox One Sci-Fi Space Exploration Games

Because it is so ambitious and is trying to do so many things all in one package, there isn’t any single Xbox One game that does everything No Man’s Sky does.  Elite Dangerous comes close, but isn’t quite the same as NMS for reasons we’ll talk about below.  Instead, you’ll have to play a combo of a couple of these games to match the same experience you’ll get from No Man’s Sky.  It isn’t quite the same as getting everything in one package, but you’ll end up paying around the same price, so it almost evens out.  So, without further ado, here are our picks for Xbox One alternatives to No Man’s Sky.

Space Exploration Games

Elite Dangerous – The most obvious game to compare to NMS is Elite Dangerous because it does a lot of the same things.  You are free to fly around and explore an entire galaxy, and with the Horizons expansion, you can even land on planet surfaces and explore.  The difference, though, is that No Man’s Sky is space exploration made simple and accessible while Elite Dangerous is a realistic space exploration simulator that has one of the steepest learning curves of any game you’ll ever play.  Elite Dangerous is slowly paced and difficult to learn, but it is absolutely gorgeous to look at and insanely satisfying when you do learn to play it.  Read Elite Dangerous review

For space exploration with a far easier learning curve, both Rebel Galaxy and Starpoint Gemini 2 offer fantastic experiences.  You can’t land on any planets, but you are free to explore the stars and planets and everything in between.  You can engage in space combat, mining, smuggling, transport, and much more in each as well, and the gameplay is fantastic.  Rebel Galaxy is more combat-focused and features large capital ships while Starpoint Gemini 2 has smaller ships and a little more gameplay variety.  Both games also have nice visuals, but Starpoint Gemini 2 in particular looks absolutely amazing.  Either one – or both – can easily scratch your space exploration itch.  Read Starpoint Gemini 2 review and Read Rebel Galaxy Review

Kerbal Space Program – Everyone dreams of exploring space, but what if you actually had to build your rocket / space ship first?  That is what Kerbal Space Program offers.  It is a space exploration simulator with realistic physics that requires you to build rockets, space ships, satellites, space stations, moon rovers, and more all from scratch and then use them to explore.  You can’t make just any old thing, though.  It has to realistically function and really work.  This makes the game quite difficult to learn how to play, but just like Elite Dangerous, once you figure it all out it is immensely satisfying.  Read Kerbal Space Program review

Planetary Exploration Games

For boots on the ground planetary exploration there are a lot of options on Xbox One.  Exploration and survival are generally the focus, not combat, however, but if you want sci-fi combat on Xbox One the Halo franchise already has that more than covered.  If you’re looking for exploration and survival on alien worlds that let you see things you’ve never seen before, though, there are lots of games to choose from. 

Lifeless Planet has you playing as a lone astronaut exploring a dusty barren world through platforming and simple puzzle solving.  The planet was supposed to be green and lush, and it was also supposed to be uninhabited, so why is it a desert with Russian settlements all over the place?  Uncovering the mysteries of the planet is absolutely fascinating and Lifeless Planet is one of our favorite indies on Xbox One overall.  Read Lifeless Planet review

The Solus Project is another lone astronaut on an alien planet story, but with a twist – it’s actually a horror game.  There are some light survival aspects, but it is really a linear horror game where you explore the history of an alien civilization to find out what happened to it.  The game features some of the best skyboxes of any sci-fi game on XONE as well as some fantastic extreme weather effects.  Read The Solus Project review

Subnautica features exploration on an alien planet made up entirely of oceans, so all of the gameplay has you swimming beneath the seas to scavenge parts and collect materials to help you survive.  The concept is awesome and the graphics are truly gorgeous, but Subnautica is still in Game Preview so it is a little rough in some areas.  It is a unique take on sci-fi exploration, though, which makes it worth a look.  Read Subnautica preview

ARK: Survival Evolved is perhaps the coolest sci-fi exploration / survival game simply because it has dinosaurs and dinosaurs make everything better.  It is also still in Xbox Game Preview, but everything is already pretty well fleshed out and it feels much more like a full complete experience than Subnautica does at this point.  It features dinosaurs, crafting, base building, combat with increasingly powerful weaponry, and more.  It also has awesome visuals, but also some unfortunate performance issues.  We still love it, though.  Read ARK: Survival Evolved preview

Valley – Scheduled for release on August 24, 2016, Valley is another sci-fi adventure that has you using a special exo suit that gives you enhanced agility and strength to explore a mythical valley.  Not only does the suit give you physical abilities, but it also lets you control life and death.  Also interesting is that it is a sci-fi story set on Earth in a remote corner of the Rocky Mountains, which is very cool.  We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it and will definitely have a review.  Check out the gameplay trailer on YouTube.

No Man's Sky Xbox One Version?

What about an Xbox One release of No Man’s Sky?  Well, this is a tricky question.  All of the parties involved – Sony and Hello Games – have essentially danced around the “Exclusive” word for the last couple of years without ever really directly saying it.  If it really was locked up as a console exclusive, Sony would be shouting that fact from the rooftops.  They haven’t, though, which makes it seem more likely it is a timed-exclusive and will be coming to Xbox at some point down the line.  We still don’t know for sure, though, but we’ll remain optimistic.