Tuesday 27 September 2016

Games: A universe of possibilities, a handful of opportunities

No Man's Sky (PS4/PC) 4 Stars, Age: 12+

Published 21/08/2016 | 02:30

No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky
Batman: The Telltale series

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate..." Roy Batty's poignant speech at the end of Blade Runner might have been written for No Man's Sky, an indicator of the wondrous sights to be found in this technologically marvellous Elite-style space explorathon.

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Via the magic of maths, Irish developer Sean Murray and his team created a procedurally generated near-infinite universe of planets to visit, each one teeming with weird plants, creatures and landscapes.

Yet it doesn't take long to see behind the algebraic curtain, the realisation hitting home within hours that No Man's Sky has rather less to offer in terms of gameplay. Based on a wearisome loop of gathering resources, managing limited inventory space and repeating interactions with space traders, the things to do prove far less captivating than things to see.

Murray and co have teased that the gameplay will be broadened in future. And undoubtedly the stunning vistas discovered by leisurely virtual tourism have an engrossing appeal in themselves.

But No Man's Sky leaves me with a nagging sense that bigger is not always better.

Batman: The Telltale Series (Episode 1)

(PC/PS4/XO/iOS) 4 Stars, Age: 18+

Bruce Wayne's story provides fertile ground for Telltale's new adventure, veering away from Batman's overexposure and delving into the origins of the Dark Knight. It's notable that this episode devotes as much time to playing as a self-doubting Bruce as to infallible Batman.

We experience early encounters with Harvey Dent (Two Face) and Selina Kyle (Catwoman) before they went totally rogue. This first episode of five also sets up a potentially explosive subplot about the morality of Bruce's parents.

As always, it's tricky to judge an entire series by the opening salvo, but Telltale's reliably sharp writing and visual panache come to the fore for an intriguing taster of what's in store.

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