The Initial Controversy
No Man’s Sky was one of the most anticipated and memorable games of the last decade when it was released in August of 2016. You likely don’t even need to be an active member of the gaming community to remember its launch and the controversy that consumed it in the following weeks. Having made so many promises about the size and scope of the game, Hello Games founder Sean Murray was initially praised for his ingenuity and ambition. But that praise soon turned to disappointment and that disappointment led to backlash as people began to realize that much of what they were promised did not actually make its way into the game. And so, despite being revolutionary in so many ways, No Man’s Sky was all but swept under the rug by many just days after release and its creators dropped off the grid. To many, this was believed to be the death of No Man’s Sky.
After about four months from the game’s release – and four months of radio silence – No Man’s Sky received a Foundation Update somewhat out of the blue and after a prolonged and highly cryptic series of alternate-reality real-world events that came to be known as Waking Titan. Since that point, and against what many expected of the company, Hello Games has pushed out content updates for the game quite regularly, improving upon old mechanics or adding entirely new elements to provide more things to do. And now, a whole two years after the initial release of the game, it has received the Next Update, an update so massive in scale that many have been claiming it may as well have just been a sequel. But, how much has the update really done to give us the game we were promised two years ago? Let’s find out.
What Has Changed?
The biggest complaint by far about the game in its original state – besides its obvious lack of multiplayer – was its repetitive nature. Aside from a few added features in later updates that allowed the player to build bases in designated locations or manage their own freighters the original game essentially consisted of wandering around on a planet gathering one of a few different materials needed to fuel up your ship enough to travel to the next planet, rinse and repeat. It became tiresome very quickly, especially since almost every planet had the same qualities with a vast minority of them actually having a relatively exciting color scheme or unique lifeforms. Boiled down, your second hour of gameplay was virtually no different from your thirtieth hour and neither was any different from the hundredth, if you were able to make it that far.
With the update, almost every single aspect of the game has been altered in some way, and I have yet to find a change that I find was for the worse. As a survival/exploration title, in order to survive and make it to the center of the universe in No Man’s Sky you have to gather resources. Until Next saying that this was an underwhelming venture is a bit of an understatement. Seeing as you could “refuel” any of your gear with four of the easiest elements to come by, it was just a matter of stocking up, keeping a stack or two on you and the rest in your ship and you literally didn’t have to worry about it for another few hours. Aside from added multiplayer this may be one of the largest changes that came with Next.
Almost all of the original elements have either changed or are gone completely and the variety of minerals needed to keep things running smoothly or make basic convenience possible have increased drastically. Gone are the days of harvesting some Thammium plants and Carbon crystals and then taking off. They have made sure that you will actually need to get out and explore if you want to find things. This may come as a bit of a frustration to some, but then that’s why they added creative mode, right? That being said, with more varying planet landscapes, flora, and fauna to find as well, I have found that getting to do a bit more exploration is more a treat than it is a chore.
As stated before, the game now allows for actual multiplayer, letting players join groups of up to four to explore the universe together. It now also offers character customization and the ability to build bases on any part of any planet, so long as another player has not already built a base there. Some of these features, as simple as they may seem, drastically impact the feel of the game. With such an expansive in-game universe to explore multiplayer obviously helps to curb the inevitable sense of loneliness one might face, but being able to sculpt terrain and build a base where and how you please for all to discover and enjoy really helps you feel like you have made your small mark in the expansive universe.
Whether it is exploring a star system looking for a suitable planet to base-up, diving deep into the re-purposed caves looking for valuable loot, or traveling the galaxy with your buddies raiding freighters for their loot, it is safe to say that you could go a very long time with No Man’s Sky Next without feeling like you have run out of meaningful things to do. The storyline has been tweaked a bit to make it a little more cohesive and NPCs are far more frequent and will often give you tasks to do to keep you busy and give you the prospect of earning some rare parts. Each planet really does feel unique now, even if some planets share similar qualities with neighboring planets in the system it is done in a way that makes sense. Next truly is a massive step towards being the game we all hoped it would be.
The Future of No Man’s Sky
This article has really only covered some of the most pertinent changes that have come about through Next. Regardless, I can safely say that Next has created an entirely new player experience. Even as someone that played No Man’s Sky fairly consistently during the two years since it’s launch, despite its flaws, starting a new game now feels like I have started an entirely separate game. Even though Next has done so much for the game, Hello Games apparently still isn’t done. Sean Murray and the Hello Games team have made it quite clear that they plan on continuing to release new content to the game as well as host all kinds of in-game community events, which is far more doable now, thanks the the update.
In such a massive open-world this new content really could take any form, and I feel that Hello Games really has proven themselves capable of producing some amazing content despite criticism. It may have taken a two full years, and some may say that, even now, they still feel like there are things missing from the game, but the game is in good hands. It honestly must have been extremely difficult not to throw in the towel after an unsuccessful launch, and even more difficult to continue working on the game despite backlash, but Hello Games has proven how passionate they are about No Man’s Sky. If there is room for improvement we can rest assured that they will take the opportunity and I am truly excited to see what the future holds for this revolutionary game.