I don't know what I was expecting - some sort of quaint Irish theme park of a city, in the same way that Americans expect London to be full of smog and people in bowler hats, and Jack the Rippers.
Unfortunately, I was rendered disappointed by how familiar it felt. Arriving in the city centre it was all the same shops I got back home, the same chains, the same high street brands. I could've been back in London, frankly, were it not for the accents and the Guinness factory. Which has an absurd restaurant where everything is made with Guinness, which is in no way a good idea.
I had much the same feeling of deja vu the first time I went back to America after a decade, and saw you could buy Cadbury's Creme Eggs. It made the country feel less special, made the world a smaller place than it is.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Dublin - there isn't. It's perfectly nice. It just felt incredibly familiar, and something of an unnecessary slog to get on a plane just to wander about and get drunk in the exact same sort of city I was all too familiar with back home.
No Man's Sky is the Dublin of video games.
You begin No Man's Sky on a planet, next to your downed ship.
Armed with some loose instructions, and a device that is simultaneously weapon, mining tool, and - shortly - will allow you to scan (and name) the local flora and fauna, you have to repair your ship. And your spacesuit. And craft some other gear.
I got lucky early on: the planet I appeared on was mostly benign - later worlds would batter me with radiation, extreme temperatures, and acid rain.
Stripping resources from the planet around you - providing you're not killed by the robotic sentinels which react to displays of aggression/mineral-theft, or the indigenous wildlife (I was killed in my first 10 minutes by octopus-crab things) - you are able to refuel your ship, and leave the planet. It's a moment of awe, the first time you realise that you can visit every point in the night sky, with no visible loading.
Before that, however, you'll learn of something called Atlas... part of the game's deeper lore, and one of several different paths through the experience.
Your likely first stop off-world will be a space station, where you'll meet an advanced alien lifeform, begin to learn languages, and start the buy/sell trade cycle which becomes the spine of the game. Pretty soon you'll realise the need to get a better ship which has more inventory slots, better protection from pilots, and an exosuit with more pockets. Storage space is horribly limited early on.
Initial objectives require you to build and fuel your ship's hyperdrive, and learn to use the map of the galaxy - which shows just how huge the game is (at least, geographically speaking). The chief aim - so we've been told - is to reach the centre of the universe... but there is at least one other path, and you also have the freedom to just fanny around the stars at your leisure.
You can learn languages by interacting with ancient alien structures, or become a would-be intergalactic Darwin, or a buccaneer. Everything you do can potentially earn you money to buy more technology, a better ship, or resources with which to upgrade your existing gear.
For the first 20 or so hours, every time I switched on No Man's Sky, something new would present itself.
It might've been a distress beacon, or a ship under attack asking for my help, or a black hole which led to somewhere new, or a world which was dramatically different to all the others.
However... there's no denying that the thrill of the new becomes replaced with repetition. Soon, worlds start to blur into one, and you come to realise that - for all their infinite, procedurally-generated, wonder - there are a limited number of varieties on offer.
Some are more jungle-like, others merely barren rocks, some are lush paradise worlds... and occasionally you'll stumble upon one with some truly bizarre topography. I thought I'd struck gold when I found a planet full of strange stone tendrils, and huge cube-like mountains... until I saw online that somebody else had found an almost identical world.
Space stations are all the same, aliens are all variations of one another, and the tasks you'll find yourself doing pretty much become rote.
At first, the relative loneliness you feel is refreshing, and offers a completely unique atmosphere. After a while, you might find yourself yearning for a city, or some other manner of variety. Instead of a high street with Primark and Boots, you'll want one with stalls selling fried scorpions, and octopus biltong.
Given that it has been put together by a tiny team - No Man's Sky is essentially an indie game, lest we forget - it's one hell of an achievement. Unfortunately, it's being promoted as a triple-A game, and sold at a triple-A price.
Consequently, it's hard not to wonder what could've been achieved with a triple-A-sized team. How much more wonder could've been crammed in there, to stem the repetition that does, alas, set in after a few days play?
Don't get me wrong: I really, really like No Man's Sky... but I also know that it isn't a game for everyone. Some will tire of it sooner than others, and hats off to anyone who ever manages to persevere to the centre of the universe.
I'm not bored of it yet, but the first feelings of lethargy are starting to set in. The repetition in locations, and plants, and animals actually pulls against the sense of it being a real universe - and that exploration of places where No One Had Gone Before was what I loved when everything in the game felt new.
Soon, it becomes very clear what the boundaries are - and this supposedly almost infinite universe begins to feel small.
AND YET WHAT?
And yet... it's still kind of incredible. From the music, to the art design, to the looseness of the structure, to the strange and empty atmosphere (or lack of)... its idiosyncrasies often work in its favour.
It owes a debt to a lot of other games, yet manages to package it all as something unique. It kind of most reminded me of Journey in a lot of ways... but Journey works because it's a limited experience. If you expanded that to almost limitless, endless, size, it would also start to feel like you're trapped in a loop.
And so No Man's Sky's ambition and scale is simultaneously the best thing about it, and the thing which brings it down. Perhaps the greatest accolade I can give it is that often when I was playing, I began to think about things it could be doing. Who knows? Maybe Hello Games will incorporate some of them into future updates.
I started to consider how cool it'd be if your ship showed visible signs of wear and tear, reflecting the trials of your exploration. I started to wonder about the possibility of visiting a bustling trader port, or meeting other players - something the game sorely needs (albeit still sparingly, lest an overpopulated universe spoil the atmosphere); their story and journey told to me by the items they offered for trade. I wondered about discovering rare treasures and objects, which could become legendary in their own way. I wanted more.
The sheer fact that No Man's Sky fired my imagination in so many ways, and that I'm still playing it despite feeling like I'm often going round in circles, suggests that, overall, it's a success.
But it's a success that comes with the caveat that it won't be for everyone.
SUMMARY: Infinitely huge, but ultimately limited in scale. It's Minecraft meets Elite meets Journey - but could've done with a little more of the human touch. You might love it... but you might not.
SCORE: Like... a lot out of infinity.