I wish to explain before I even get started. No Man’s Sky is a space exploration game that had many promises when it first came out in 2016. Promises that it didn’t deliver on, and amidst the disastrous launch of the game, the developers, Hello Games, went completely silent. Out of fear of falling into miscommunication with their fans, they opted for no communication. What followed was two years of grueling work to win back their audience. Delivering updates to their game in hopes of fixing it. To eventually strike a blow that would make their game what it was promised to be. A passion project for an experience unlike any other. A story of redemption.
This is not the story I will be telling today.
No, today is merely the most recent chapter of the much larger story. Today is the ending of that story, but not only for now, for tomorrow, there will be a new ending. This is the story of an update that was a year in the making, one that was over hyped, yet still over delivered. This is the story of NEXT.
No Man’s Sky’s latest update, titled “NEXT,” is the fourth update to this space exploration game. The first three updates came out every three months following the game’s launch, delivering base building, vehicles, space freighters, a fully flushed story, and much more. However, the updates stopped after August of 2017, and to the average player, it seemed that Hello Games was done supporting this game.
Now however, after a year, NEXT has come, with many promises, bringing many back into the game, and breathing new life into the universe. Adding a plethora of new features, yet simultaneously not adding anything new.
My first experience dropping into this new No Man’s Sky was incredible, to put it mildly. With this new update came a massive graphical overhaul, including increased render distance and terrain variation. On top of that, there was significant improvements to the games procedural generation algorithms making for more realistic plant and animal life, weather variation, texture details and animations. One by one, these overhauls don’t seem very impressive, and yes, they are overhauls. However, all put together, the game was ALIVE! The feel of everything around me made the game I used to play taste like a stale piece of flatbread in my mouth. I never wanted to go back.
What added to the beauty of this newly revamped game was my character. Yes, my character. I was in third person view and I was standing right there. I can’t explain to you how incredible this felt, being allowed to play the game on foot or sky, in third person. In a strange way, I felt whole. I was playing the game the way I was always supposed to. It’s like spending two years trying to force the last piece of the puzzle to go into its slot, then finally turning it 90 degrees, and sliding it in. I finally fit. And it was so satisfying.
As I continued playing, I relished in the game’s starting sequence. Supplying me with ample instruction on what to do next, yet allowing me to go at my own pace, and never feeling like it was holding my hand throughout. The game taught me how to gather resources, repair and recharge items, travel to different planets, base build, accept and complete quests, and much more. I knew how to do all of this before the update, however they had changed nearly everything just enough, I was thankful for the helping hand.
New machines had been added to the game to allow for certain actions, such as refining. This way, by taking a raw material and refining it into a better/different material, you could have more materials overall, but not convolute the landscape with towering hunks of minerals. Allowing for a more complex, interesting and fun gameplay loop, and simultaneously improving the aesthetic of the planets.
When I had finished with the tutorial of the game at my snail’s pace of 6 hours or so, I was allowed to explore the universe at my own leisure. Warping from system to system and experiencing the many added and improved systems and assets. Finally owning and operating a space freighter and learning how to take bounties from it. Recruiting and sending space frigates into different systems on special missions that truly made me feel like a space fleet captain. However, it wasn’t until later that I experienced what this game meant to me.
The hard truth
I had landed on a beautiful planet, lush landscapes littered with valuable minerals with seas to separate it all, and of course, A hostile force of Sentinel drones. If they were to spot me, I would have a horde to deal with, and not enough fire power to survive, I must tread with caution. As I weave through the trees and sneak through the grass, something catches my eye; a crashed ship! I work my way over to it, to discover it is a significant upgrade to my current spacecraft, albeit with a few broken parts needing repair.
Against better judgement, I took the new ship, my old one flying away to my new freighter. As I study the materials I’ll need to repair this new fighter, I’m spotted by a Sentinel! They call over reinforcements, and I begin running for my life. Whenever I think I’m safe, I get spotted again. The chase continues well into nightfall, until it abruptly ended when I lost my footing and fell off a cliff to my death.
I respawn next to the crashed and broken ship, having damaged vital equipment on my own person as well due to the fall. All of my hard earned resources are now lost, gone with my last body.
It was here. On a hostile alien planet surrounded by Sentinels, with no resources, no gear, rapidly depleting life support, and in the pitch dark, all alone. It was here that I lost the world around me. Heart beating, I slip through the night gathering every last resource just to survive another 30 seconds, constantly running and hiding just to continue doing so. It was here that it hits me, after an hour of avoiding death and repairing gear. It hits me after my mouth had long since dried due to my immense concentration. It hits me how intense the situation actually is.
It hits me that this is No Man’s Sky.
A universe of endless possibilities. A universe where I can own and command an entire armada, or be a broker on a galactic market, or a pirate who destroys and plunders others for my own gain.
Or be at the bottom of a food chain, scraping for resources in the dead of night just to survive.
That is why I play No Man’s Sky.
What brings us, or it, all together
It is important to note here that one of the biggest features of this new update is a fully flushed multiplayer. You can play with a group of up to 4 players and on the same server as up to 16. You can build bases together, trade with each other, grief each other. You can play with friends, or with random players, and you can play as either your own save file, or as a guest in someone else’s universe with basic gear. I did not include this in the article simply because I have yet to experience it.
Additionally, Hello Games has stated that they will be doing smaller, yet more regular weekly updates to fix bugs and progressively add new features, including community events and unique rewards. I’m grateful for the patches to bug fixes potentially every week, since even at the launch of this update, there are still plenty of small issues that need addressing. This is all yet to come, and I can’t wait to experience these events, and hopefully I can experience them with some of you.
No Man’s Sky is available from all major online and in store retailers for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.