No Man’s Sky: Redemption

Almost two years ago No Man’s Sky released in to a world of uncontrollable hype, 18 basquillian planets, untold and unimaginable things to discover. The hype quickly turned extremely sour like milk left outside on the hottest day of the year. The internet was pissed, and with good reason, a lot of the game was MIA!

A lot of people haven’t forgotten that and will probably never forget that, but I’m more of a ‘forgive and forget’ kind of person. If the wrongs get righted I see no real reason to keep whining about it. Now here we are, almost two years down the line with the biggest, most significant and important update to the game since launch – NEXT.

I’ve been spending most of my free time playing it since it released and I’m here to let you know what I think. Has the game redeemed itself, is it worth playing, or is it still an underwhelming experience.

First off, let’s be clear, this game isn’t for everyone. It’s a slow paced game that focuses a lot on exploration and has a fair bit of grinding to be done. You’ll find way more crap planets than you will great ones, but that’s kind of the point – to make the great ones feel more special. If you’re looking to pew pew aliens all across the universe you will probably be disappointed – that’s not to say you can’t go on a path of wanton destruction, it’s just not the main focus of the game and doesn’t really have a rewarding loop to it. No Man’s Sky is a game more about exploration, crafting and discovery, and if those things don’t interest you, then you should probably avoid the game.

Probably the most notable addition to the NEXT update is multiplayer – being able to load in with 3 other players and kind of do whatever you want together. But there have also been changes to the tutorial and starting few hours, a lot of the elements have been overhauled. The visuals have had an upgrade along with a whole host of other things.

Before NEXT, I was the only person who owned NMS in my close gaming group, everyone else wasn’t that interested – probably because of the backlash. I’d only put around 15 hours in to the game before, I didn’t hate it, in fact the opening couple of hours were really fun and fascinating. It’s just that there was so much missing that I was hoping would be there and was led to believe would be in the game that it left me with a bitter underwhelming taste.

But I’m not going to dwell on that, I’m over it, because now in just a few days I’ve doubled my time in NMS and then some, I’ve also how got five other friends to play with as they’ve all been caught up in the excitement of NEXT. Since starting again, I’ve had an incredible time.

My first time playing with friends was brilliant, we all kind of worked together to complete our first few ‘tutorial’ steps and help each other out with resources if we needed. There was a lot of “Hey come and look at this cool thing” or comments to that effect. The more we explored the more we got lost in our own worlds. We started building small bases, crafting better things, finding new ships, interacting with aliens races, hunting down bounties, investigating new planets – all together, all at the same time all as a little team with all of space to explore.

Our first few planets and solar systems were pretty uninviting, with most of them having some kind of toxic atmosphere. I wanted to find something lush, something green and vibrant. After I while I left my group to their own devices and set about finding a paradise world – we’re still in the same game at this point too, you can travel any distance away from your co-op buddies, you’re not ‘tethered’ to each other in any way.

I fuelled my newly acquired, bigger ship with enough jump fuel to allow me to check out a few new nearby solar systems. Pretty much the first new system I jump to, there is a battle breaking out, a freighter is under attack from a band of smaller ships and they’re requesting my help. I knew right away that this was the random encounter that, if you fought them off, you would be offered the freighter. Taking out the ships was fairly easy – the space combat in NMS is quite simple and arcade like rather than a simulator.

I then get asked aboard the freighter by the Captain and he gladly hands over the reins of the huge ship to me! I’m now the proud owner of my first freighter. From here you can add other ships to your fleet – up to 50, and send them out on missions which will get you various rewards. Friends can come aboard and you can all warp around to places – although this seems a bit buggy at the moment because the only time we tried it, we ended sinking through the floor of our friend’s freighter and dying… so watch out for the one.

Unfortunately that’s not the only bug I’ve encountered; there are issues with damaging your own ship when firing weapons – which I think it just in co-op. Glitching in to the scenery in various ways can happen, and there is mention of game breaking save bug too, although thankfully I’ve not had that one yet.

Those issues aside, I’ve been having a blast with the game. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint why, but there is just this desire to keep playing, to keep looking for new worlds, new ships and cool unique things. There seems to be a lot more that you can find hidden on the planets, like ancient relics that can be sold for large profits. Crashed freighters have been reworked and now have buried treasure around them – which can usually be sold for over a million in total. Ancient ruins have had a similar treatment and are half buried underground with more treasures to find. Caves seem bigger, mountains taller, it all just seems to have improved – even if only slightly, in all areas.

When I first played No Man’s Sky, I wrote about how it disappointed me. I wrote about how I wanted to feel immersed in universe where things mattered, where I could meet aliens and find interesting worlds. I’m starting to feel like that now. Space stations now feel more alive with numerous alien races to talk with. You can gain good standing with them that offers its own rewards. Is it perfect? No. Could there be more to the space battles like faction wars – yes. But NEXT feels like a massive step in the right direction and the fact that I can’t stop playing it and can’t stop talking/reading about it when I’m not playing is testament to the games progress.

I’m glad Hello Games stuck with No Man’s Sky as I now think they’ve created something they can be proud of.

-Will

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