No Man's Sky is the epitome of a game having a colourful history. From the hype of the pre-launch trailer and outlandish promises from Sean Murray's team to the plummeting player numbers just after launch and the unending mockery from gamers and critics alike, No Man's Sky went from the world stage to the bargain bin very quickly, and in the eyes of many, that was where it would always remain, slowly dying until its expansive universe finally became devoid of life.
Hello Games seem determined to keep the game alive though, having just released the biggest patch No Man's Sky has seen to date. The NEXT update is a massive free update that has recently come to No Man's Sky, and the biggest update to hit the game in its 2-year run. Whilst the Atlas Rises, Pathfinder, and Foundation updates for the game have augmented No Man's Sky for the better, NEXT revamps almost all aspects of the game in some way or another whilst managing to leave the game, at its core, true to the original in both tone and gameplay fundamentals.
What does NEXT offer?
So what specifically does NEXT introduce? Lets take a look at a little list of the main features:
- Full Multiplayer
- Near-unlimited base building
- Addition of hundreds of new base parts
- Command of Freighter fleets
- Freighter specialization abilities
- Freighters may be summoned at any time
- Graphical overhaul
- Character customization
- Improved Terrain Manipulator
- Third person mode
- True low-flight in spacecraft
- Gestures for your character
- Rework of all core resources
- Deployable tech
- Deeper crafting system
- Visor improvements
- Overhaul of early-game missions
- Guilds and missions for said guilds
- Vastly improved draw distance
- Improved planetary terrain generation
- More representative planet surfaces from orbit
- More diverse universe
- New dynamic tessellation enabling detailed terrain height maps
- Biome-specific particle effects
- More detail added to ships, NPCs and building textures
- Improved space visuals & Asteroid Rings
- Improved water visuals
- Dynamic volumetric clouds
- UI Overhaul, including HUD remix, HUD message location prioritizing,
- Quality of Life improvements made to the build menu
- Maintenance and Repair interactions have been overhauled
- Players can repair damaged ships and multi-tools
- Space stations now have a huge marketplace
- New points-of-interest on planets
- Various AI improvements to animals and Sentinels
- New hazardous Flora and Fauna
- Various audio improvements
Yeah, it really is that big an update. In terms of sheer content, Hello Games have outdone themselves. For a small team, this amount of content is indeed very impressive. However, given No Man's Sky's history, players are of course wary to trust this game and the studio behind it. So, lets take a look at exactly how good NEXT is.
No Man's Sky has always been a game I reservedly enjoyed. Whilst I did find myself disappointed at the lack of content around the 20 hour mark, the game was something of a meditative experience. There was something quite lonely yet calming about traversing the universe, just one man and his ship. Every world felt foreign, even the most calm and inviting ones, and the game in my opinion, gave a really deep and intense feeling of one man just existing in a world that is unfathomly large. This wasn't enough for most players though, and understandably so. Not everyone wants to experience what can be interpreted as a fairly monotone game, and after some of the promotional material seemed to promise more than what was actually in the game, early adopters felt cheated. Whilst the game remained popular with its small crowd of loyal fans over on Reddit, Hello Games weren't content with that, and set out to right their wrongs with various small updates alongside their previous large content updates that introduced base building, improved economy and introduced land vehicles to the game.
My opinion on the update
NEXT though, in my opinion, turns the game into more of what people expected it to be. It improves some of the already-existing features with massive revamps, whilst fine-tuning some other aspects with just a few tweaks. Third person mode and the graphical improvements to the game are perhaps some of the most important changes on the surface level. As much as I enjoyed the visual presentation of the game on launch, these vast improvements are, in one word, amazing. The worlds feel actually alive, with every rock and crevice being intricately mapped and detailed. Third person mode is something I wasn't 100% sure about how much I'd enjoy it, but I'd say this is the definitive way to play the game. You really get a sense of the grandiose scale of the world compared to yourself. Gone is the floaty feeling of the first-person camera, your character moves with weight and purpose in third person, in a way that truly suits the game. First person mode is still there if you prefer it.
The various new features, including missions, improved space stations, AI improvements and multiplayer are very much welcome indeed. It makes the universe feel much more alive, and whilst you still feel like a stranger in a foreign place, that foreign place no longer feels like a barren wasteland. Multiplayer is also very interesting. Whilst you can indeed team up with your friends and explore the universe together, there is something about knowing other people are indeed out there. They may occasionally join your game, and whilst universal voice chat can be an annoyance, especially if the other wanderer in your universe is blasting the latest hits down his microphone, there is something enthralling about knowing someone else is out there, in your game, that you could reasonably go and see. Staring up at another planet, at that "Player" icon, and knowing that he could indeed be doing the exact same thing as you, is a surreal experience I've never felt in a video game before. There are a few unfortunate detractory factors, mainly just in performance though. The game will sometimes drop some frames here and there on particularly graphically-intensive sections, namely entering planets at high speed or high-frequency terrain manipulation. This is only really a minor thing though, the frames will only drop slightly then will return to its solid performance rate that it otherwise holds almost flawlessly.
There is also the issue of GOG multiplayer functionality. If you only use Steam, you might not know of GOG. Simply, it is another PC gaming distribution platform. No Man's Sky NEXT's multiplayer is not currently available on GOG and will be coming later in the year. This is apparently due to difficulties in networking across various platforms, and ensuring multiplayer parity on the GOG Galaxy is unfortunately not quite ready just yet. Hello Games released a statement on this issue saying the following:
"For a small, independent studio, developing the feature across multiple platforms is a hugely ambitious and technical challenge which resulted in this delayed release, Hello Games is however joining forces with GOG.COM to introduce full multiplayer via the GOG Galaxy platform. We appreciate your immense support and patience."
In the meantime, if you're a GOG user and this is negatively affecting you, GOG are currently offering a refund on No Man's Sky if you are so inclined, no matter when you bought the game. This policy extends until Sunday the 29th of July, so tomorrow as of the time of writing.
Overall, No Man's Sky NEXT is an amazing update. Free for all players on all available platforms now, this patch really does feel like it has turned No Man's Sky into what it truly could have been at launch, and the recent spate of positive reviews for the game show that players are feeling that same sentiment. NEXT vastly improves the game whilst leaving its core tone and feeling intact. Don't be expecting to be engaging in Michael Bay-esque space battles with hundreds of other players, or huge fights for territory, but instead expect a very humbling and calming experience that offers not only aesthetic pleasure, but indeed a truly interesting and enjoyable game experience, one that is different from anything else you might experience. Yes, it's still a survival-based resource gathering game, but it now has so much more to offer for your enjoyment, and No Man's Sky is now finally the game we all wanted it to be.
|Brilliant graphical and audio improvements||Slight performance issues occasionally|
|AI Improvements make the world feel more alive & responsive||GOG Multiplayer delay|
|Resource & Crafting rework works well|
|Keeps core theme whilst adding plenty of new, exciting features|