by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 1st August, 2018
Five years ago one small team of developers going under the name Hello Games promised the world a game that sounded so cool most of us couldn't believe how someone else hasn't thought of that before. Well, okay, Chris Roberts imagined something similar with Star Citizen but we might never saw that one finished, like ever. On the other hand, Hello Games led by Sean Murray promised a sort of paradise. A virtually endless galaxy filled with trillions of stars and planets, with thousands of different types of planets inhabited by Spore-like creatures that were unique for each planet and huge, diverse flora that made gamers awe every time No Man's Sky was presented at various gaming conferences. And the most important promise was the one about endless and best ever exploration, an experience new seen before that includes procedurally generated quests, a vast and complex galactic society, and so much more. All that made the game to look like something everyone should, and must play.
Three years passed and the game came out. Instead of being the ultimate exploration and survival simulation No Man's Sky ended up being an average looking game with solid but flawed and repetitive survival gameplay that was fun for a couple of dozens of hours. But the hype train (mostly thanks to Hello Games) was huge and it ran at supersonic speed ultimately leading to No Man's Sky being destroyed by negative press and extremely negative feedback from owners of the game. No one likes to be deceived and most people who got the game felt just that. The game was light on content and stripped from most features shown in trailers and everyone thought Sean and the gang just tried to grab quick buck and abandon the game.
But that didn't happen. Instead of releasing a couple of post-launch statements and then shutting down development of the game Hello Games continued to polish their (extremely) rough diamond. The game started to receive buckets of small but regular free updates that didn't just squash bugs and refined gameplay but also introduced plenty of new features, slowly giving No Man's Sky the shape it should have at launch. But, ultimately, most of those updates didn't really make the game attractive enough in order for players to get back. But the latest and biggest update 'till date called No Man's Sky Next is so packed with new options, content, and features it practically transforms the game into something completely new. Here's what the Next update brings and what can you expect from the game if you decide to (re)visit it two years after its original release.
It pretty rare to see developers so much focused on improving their game and we have to commend Hello Games for sticking to No Man's Sky and trying to improve it on every single front. Look, they could simply call it quits, jumped from the ship and started a new project that should bring everything the original game promised. But instead, they spent two years working on free updates and with the latest one, they really outdid themselves. So yeah, they probably deceived the public with all those presentations but at least they tried to make things better and by the looks of it, things are so much better than before.
The most important new addition to No Man's Sky is the long-awaited multiplayer mode. We all remember how the guys promised we will be able to meet other people and then two players visited the same planet at the same time but couldn't see each other. Well, now you and up to four other people can now explore the galaxy together, build bases, hunt for animals, land on new planets and have tons of fun. The co-op multiplayer allows players to band together and play the whole game as group, all the way from start to the galactic core. They can build bases but also so much more such as entire villages, racetracks, the can grow plants and basically construct their ultimate base together. And each planet on which a base (or any sort of structure) is built is marked and players (each player from the group) can visit it without spending precious fuel.
Players can fight each other, or team up and face enemies together and yes, you can see everyone else like in a normal multiplayer game and use chat and voice communication. They even can tackle multiplayer missions issued from Galactic Commission Stations found on Freighters. Everyone from your group can mark points of interest, and you can join others in just a few seconds, instead of needing to fly to them. And soon the game will also get special live missions that will rewards players with currency which can be used to get special emotes, ships, ship parts, vehicles and more. And no, there will be no microtransactions.
The second biggest addition is a new feature allowing players to customize their avatars. There are lots of new designs and everyone can go creative and make their own unique alien avatar. And the avatar customization feature is here because now you can actually look at your avatar while playing the game. Yup, No Man's Sky now (finally) has a third person camera option and that feature alone make the game immensely better experience. It's like being able to see in color after being limited to black and while vision for whole life. Third person perspective is great because it lets you admire all that pretty wildlife, all those colorful plants, weird architecture and amazing terrain. First person perspective is pretty limited when it comes to simply enjoy the visual aspect of the game and it is also great when flying a ship. It's so much cooler when you can look at your awesome spacecraft while exploring the galaxy and simply enjoying just how pretty she is.
And the game also is much prettier than before. Everything looks so much better. Planets are filled with wildlife and various foliage, clouds are now much more lively and realistic, the terrain looks better, and all is sharper thanks to improved texture quality. Water quality is much better, with detailed reflections and dynamic waves. And, the most importantly, planets are hugely varied much more than before. Planet generation system now can create much more variations than before and all those features (like mountains, seas, islands, architecture, flora, and fauna) can now be combined in much more combinations than before. Back in 2016, you would see everything No Man's Sky offered when it comes to planets in about a dozen hours. Now, you can visit 50 planets and they all will look much more different one from another than before, keeping that spirit of exploration alive for much, much longer.
We mentioned base building but we didn't tell you just how much better this part of No Man's Sky become with the Next update. Now you have access to hundreds of more base parts that allow for creativity to really go above clouds. In other words, you can build almost anything and aren't limited like before, with bases being able to reach huge proportions and be made out of hundreds of parts. And now terrain isn't your worst enemy because it will be sculpted (with the help of much-improved terrain manipulator) so it doesn't get in the way of your latest architectural wonder.
Instead of a few places on which you could construct bases before, the Next update allows players to build buildings anywhere on a planet, including teleporters allowing for simple travel between planets you've visited. And because of the all those new additions players are no longer limited to just one base. You can, if you have resources, build a base on virtually every planet you land on, without exceptions.
Freighters are no longer a long-term goal in which you have to invest lots of time and energy before collecting enough cash to get them. Now, you get them for free early in the game but can find better ones as you progress through the galaxy. They are now much more customizable and you can now buy up to 50 Frigates that are part of a Freighter fleet, trailing the huge ship around space. You can send your Frigates on a bunch of procedurally generate missions and either wait for them to finish missions or follow them to their destination and observe what they do. All those missions play out in real time.
Of course, No Man's Sky is still revolving around survival and resource gathering, with the game getting a massive resource overhaul that simplifies resource management but your inventory still is too petite to keep every item and resource in it during your journey. And finally, Hello Games made lots of changes to No Man's Sky opening mission, making it better at explaining the game's systems and the overall gameplay.
Well, we have to say that now, No Man's Sky looks and plays like a completely new game. Everything is so better looking, planets now look like they actually are generated using algorithms that make them varied, different when it comes to wildlife and terrain, or water to land ratio. And they also look so much better than before, making it a blast to simply fly around different star systems and discover new planets.
The addition of multiplayer makes No Man's Sky countlessly more fun than before if you like to play with friends or strangers. Just team up and you can do whatever you like, there are no boundaries. And the upcoming patch that should add new live missions as well as weekly content and community events that should make No Man's Sky a game that's worth revisiting, if you play with other people of course.
And base building and Freighter changes give lots of new reasons to keep playing the game. You can build new bases, or just anything you want, on each planet you visit and later share those with your friends, invite them to your base and let them help you to build new structures. Make a huge Freighter fleet capable of generating a steady stream of resources and cash while you explore the galaxy or follow Frigates and play those missions. And Freighter missions can really be fun when tackled in company. We hope that upcoming patches will make Freighter system and multiplayer even better even richer with content.
Look, if you already own No Man's Sky the game is definitely worth another spin, especially if you got bored of it quickly and stopped playing before Hello Games started delivering regular updates. You will find so much new stuff, worthy of spending at least a couple of dozen hours in No Man's Sky. If you don't have the game well, it is still heavy on resource gathering and survival elements. That hasn't changed and probably never will. So if you don't this type of games it is better skipping No Man's Sky. But, if you avoided getting the game not because you hate exploration and survival games but because the title didn't deliver upon its promises, then it is definitely worth getting it now. Just a word of notice - those who bought the game on GOG won't get multiplayer for a foreseeable future but the store did mention it is giving full refunds, so that's cool.
But, don't trust us, trust the community. The game now features Mostly Positive recent reviews on Steam and its overall score upgraded to Mixed, which is a noteworthy success because it is two years old and all those people could simply keep their original reviews intact. But lots of owners changed reviews and No Man's Sky is living through its second youth. Everyone plays it, and the game is now one of the most popular titles on Steam at the moment. Right now, it has more than 90,000 people playing it and it holds sixth overall concurrent player count with only behemoths such as PUBG, DOTA 2, CS: GO, GTA V (will this game ever fall out of top 10 most popular games on Steam!?), and Warframe. It looks like gamers love this new and shiny No Man's Sky and for a reason. And again, we have to commend Hello Games for sticking to their guns and tirelessly working on making the game the best possible experience ever.
Also, it is so rare to see a game being resurrected from a virtual grave and being revisited by a huge number of players. This game was practically abandoned by players a month ago. Aside from a faithful but extremely small group of biggest fans, no one played No Man's Sky and many believed the game is done. But look at it right now, it is among the most popular games on Steam and we believe that it is the same situation on consoles.
No Man's Sky is now rich in content, filled with game modes, stuffed with stuff to do. The addition of multiplayer did wonders to the game's longevity and the introduction of slick visuals made it look like something that isn't two years old. But that's not the end because Hello Games promises the game will get lots of new content updates that will make it even better. And we believe them because they went this far in trying to make No Man's Sky an experience they promised it will be back in 2013. It seems good days are in store for No Man's Sky, and the game will become even better.