No Man’s Sky “Next” Update- Worth a Revisit?

Posted August 2, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Nerdy Bits

Developer: Hello Games

Publishers: Hello Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Release dates: August 9, 2016 (PS4), August 12, 2016 (PC)(original release dates), Foundation Update- November 2016, Path Finder Update- March 2017, The Atlas Rises Update- August 2017, Next Update- July 24, 2018, July 24, 2018 (Xbox One)

Available on: PC, PS4 (played), Xbox One

(NOTE: Jacqueline Juretus contributed to the writing of this article.)

In 2016, No Man’s Sky released amid a lot of hype, and a big media blitz by Sean Murray, lead for developer Hello Games. The game promised us a huge amount of planets to explore, each with its own unique environments and ecosystems. We were shown plenty of screen shots and video of large herds of dinosaur like creatures and alien forests. We were told we could trade and engage in space battles, as well as establish bases. If we were lucky, we could encounter another player. The main story line, such as it was, had us searching for the center of the galaxy which when found- led us to another galaxy. On some fronts the game succeeded, but on others it fell far short of the promise laid out by Murray and Hello Games.

While many players played for so long and ultimately ditched the game to the side, the developers kept moving forward. Listening to player complaints, they began to address those issues through a series of updates beginning in November, 2016. The first update, titled Foundation, allowed players to designate a home planet and build a base, along with purchasing starship freighters. Two new play modes, Creative and Survival, were added to the original story mode. Creative Mode allowed players to indulge their creativity, allowing you to build without worrying about resource management and the ability to explore freely. Survival Mode is just what it says- you’re thrown on a world (usually one actively trying to kill you) with limited health and the need to collect resources before you died. This upped the game’s level of difficulty, trying to appeal to players who wanted more of a challenge.

The Path Finder update followed in March, 2017, adding base sharing, exocraft for exploring the planet surfaces, a Permadeath Mode (in case Survival wasn’t challenging enough for you), and enhanced graphics. August, 2017, saw the release of a third update, titled The Atlas Rises. 30 hours of narrative were added here, along with procedurally generated missions. You also gained use of portals, and a multiplayer of sorts was put in place with the co-op mode called Joint Exploration, which could take up to 16 players. On July 24 of this year, the game finally appeared on the Xbox One, along with the release of a fourth update, the game’s biggest to date, entitled “Next”.

The “Next” update included a slew of features, including multiplayer updates where you could team up with a group of friends or randomly join another player’s game. Players could choose to cooperate in exploration and base building, or pit themselves against each other. Friends could proceed through the story together, or just explore freely. Bases could now be built anywhere, and players can build multiple bases. A terrain manipulator could be used to alter the environment, and hundreds of extra pieces became available to enhance the look of your base. For the first time, both your ship and your character could be played in third person view, allowing for character customization, even allowing you to play as aliens. Add in the ability to create a fleet of freighters, new story elements, chained missions, and plenty of visual enhancements, and the game begins to resemble more of what was promised back at launch in 2016.

Immediately upon booting up the game now, the first noticeable thing are the greatly improved visuals. Environments have more details and textures, and the flora and fauna appear with some more variety, ranging from the prehistoric like creatures to bizarre bouncing mushrooms. While the enhanced visuals certainly improved on the game’s look, they’re still not perfect. I noticed both pop in and anti-aliasing being fairly common, and in a couple of cases, such as using teleporters, graphics can glitch horribly. These glitches can range from the screen going black to showing static streams of light, or giving you just a half screen picture. Frame rate slowdown is noticeable at times, especially when in multiplayer. Fortunately the flaws aren’t enough to ruin gameplay, but they are prevalent enough to be worth noting.

Overall, both planets and space stations feel more alive, though don’t go expecting anything along the lines of a Mass Effect game. Space stations are noticeably more open and populated, and wildlife engages in a bit more realistic behavior on the planets. It’s still not perfect, but animals will move in herds, and I even noticed for the first time a predator killing and eating its prey. There are also new dangers to be found, such as mysterious egg clusters found around abandoned bases. Break one of these eggs, and you’re liable to summon the creatures that laid them, vicious pack-hunting predators that would make the Xenomorph from the Alien movies proud. Facing a pack alone can end in certain death or at least force you to flee the area. Having a friend here is a great help, as multiple players working together can take out these nasties in short order.

The freighters are nice to visit and purchase for your own use, but they feel fairly empty, having only a few aliens on board. It would be nice if they felt more alive rather than floating empty hulks. Owning one requires a hefty amount of units, so be prepared to gather plenty of resources to sell to attain the necessary funds. Base building is most fun in Creative Mode, where you can just go nuts without the worry about having to constantly farm for resources. My daughter and I working together managed to build our own small city, with the only drawback being she couldn’t see any aliens I hired in her game. Hopefully, sharing these hirings will come in a future update. Also it would be nice if you and your companions could travel in the same vehicle, instead of having to take separate ones to a destination. We did encounter some connectivity issues, which caused us to get booted from the other’s game. Slowdown is also an issue, both in game and navigating the menus. Playing solo helps a bit, but even then it occurred from time to time.

Some other things to mention deal with the photo mode. Third person view allows for more character driven photographs and can be a lot of fun positioning your character in the more mountainous and varied landscapes for the perfect shot. While it’s nice you can access photo mode in multiplayer, a lot of glitches can arise such as your character suddenly sliding across the planet or vehicles moving away as you position the camera. Hopefully some of these glitches will be addressed in the weekly updates.  Another thing to note that may disappoint people who have been playing before the Next update is that a lot of your progress disappears and things get renamed, so you may be better off starting a new game.

In all, No Man’s Sky is now looking more like what we were promised in 2016. The gameplay is still repetitive, but it can also be relatively addicting. More modes to dive in help add variety. Creative Mode is most fun, as most restrictions are lifted, allowing you to build and explore with ease. The Normal Mode works well for those who want a more mission based experience, and the Survival and Permadeath Modes offer a nice challenge who like their games to task them a bit. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a much better game than it was at launch. In fact, with all of the improvements, it felt almost like a brand new game, which is always a welcome surprise in the summer when looking for something to play while waiting for the big fall releases. If you liked the game before, you’ll like it even more now. If it didn’t live up to your expectations before, the new updates make it worth either revisiting or diving in for the first time. Hello Games is still in the process of adding more updates, including community events, and it’s nice to see the game getting so much support two years after launch. No Man’s Sky has become worth your time, and it’s become even better to dive in to explore the galaxy. Now it’s off to another world, to see what else can be found…

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus