Hello Games has gone all out over the past few years, adding all sorts of things to No Man’s Sky. As of writing, HG has most recently come out of the left-field with the Companions update, allowing players to tame and breed almost any fauna in the in-game universe. Prior to this, in no particular order, they added mechs, living ships, survival-horror flavored derelict freighters floating about in space, the list goes on.
HG has succeeded in recovering from what was possibly one of the worst video game launches in history, appeasing early adopters and wooing newcomers with regular and significant updates, going with the kitchen sink approach and has turned their game from a slap in the face to consumers into a titanic and unparalleled intergalactic sandbox.
While the subject of poor delivery is still relevant today, I have spent quite a bit of time with No Man’s Sky and have thought of a few things that I think would make the game just a little better for everyone. Let’s start with one of my least favorite things about what is otherwise a great game –
1 – Better Item Management
Due to the nature of the game, players end up accumulating a seemingly endless amount of goods and materials. I’m sure anyone playing this game for any length of time will attest to the fact that item management leaves a lot to be desired.
For the uninitiated, the inventory system is slot-based, meaning that you have a fixed amount of slots to carry stuff in your suit, ship, freighter, exocraft and base storage. These can be expanded to a point through various means, but what does not change is that one is constantly collecting items. Most items stack; some unique items don’t. Stacks have caps, meaning once you’ve reached the cap, you will have to use another slot if you want to harvest or collect more of the item in question.
What usually happens is, once a player’s suit and ship inventory are full, they will head to their base and offload what they want to keep into their storage units until they need it. This becomes problematic when you want to find a specific item – there is no way to automatically sort or search your inventory for what you want.
Let’s say you need some cadmium to fix a broken module on your suit. You know you just mined a whole pile of the stuff a few planets ago, and it’s somewhere in your storage. Thus begins the search – you frantically check each of your storage units, somehow manage to overlook it, give up after half an hour, and then head out to either buy or mine some more. Next time you visit your storage, it’s staring you right in the face in the first container you open.
Being able to search and/or sort one’s inventory would save a lot of time. Personally, I have spent time manually organizing my storage, only for it to become a mess again after a few more hours of play. I think being able to change from a grid view to a list view might help with this, but what we really need is a sorting mechanism and perhaps a search function. Surely in such an advanced space-faring society, this kind of thing should exist.
2 – More Extensive Ship Customization
Personal starships are the bread and butter of No Man’s Sky. A lot of one’s time in-game is spent within these vessels travelling between stars, planets, and even galaxies.
Right now, ships are all procedurally generated, and it can take a long time to find one you like. The current go-to method for hunting ships is to post up at a trade outpost and save scum until a rare or exotic ship appears with the desired stats. If you don’t like the look of the ships, rinse and repeat in the next system.
Arguably, the procedurally generated nature of ships adds to the excitement of finding something really cool, be it a long-range hauler or slick fighter with the exact features that you wanted. What if the color isn’t exactly to your fancy?
I think players should be able to customize some features of their starships; this way, less time will be spent searching for the perfect ship. Heck, you can do this with the creatures now, so why not with your actual most trusted companion? The very thing that gets you from point A to Z and beyond in this game?
That said, this situation has improved some over the years – you can now upgrade your ship class and expand its inventory, meaning you can max out your starter ship if you want to. It’s expensive, but if you have a ship you’d like to hang on to rather than abandoning it for something you don’t like the look of, it’s a welcome feature.
3 – Greater Planetary Threats
I have to be honest, the most dangerous thing you will encounter on any given planet is probably the weather. Once you’ve upgraded your exosuit enough, even planets with constant storms and extreme environments aren’t much of a threat.
Even on planets with frenzied sentinels, you can avoid getting into major trouble by flying away from them. It’s the same with aggressive wildlife; even big hulking beasts can be dealt with fairly easily. I am sort of envisioning worlds with Lovecraftian abominations that even high-level players have to tread lightly on.
Cave systems could also use some reworking. They are fun enough to explore, but the biggest threat beneath the surface is a few samey toxin-spewing plants which are easily disposed of with your multitool.
Perhaps there could be some unique deep-level threats. I know this is probably a massive stretch of the imagination, but it just feels a little too safe underground – you’re already sheltered from storms, sentinels and wildlife.
A counterpoint to the argument that caves are too safe is that they are a boon to new players looking for some fast cash – I even mentioned farming albumen pearls in my money guide! In the early game, caves are arguably the best way to generate some income without exposing yourself to the elements, but it would still be cool to find something a little more interesting down there.
4 – Better Planetary Physics
Continuing with the planets, HG has done some awesome stuff creating more variation than ever before with deep valleys and high mountains. One thing that has not changed is the static nature of the planets – they don’t move.
This might be a little tricky to implement, but it would add a neat layer of realism and variation when traversing open space between the planets and also make for even better camera mode opportunities. Picture a rare planet alignment or a cool eclipse with a unique lighting effect.
5 – Biomes And Climates
You might be starting to think that I dislike the planets since I’m still with them here, but that’s not entirely true. They’re great! They just get kind of boring after a little while. It’s easy enough to hop into your trusty, unmodifiable ship and within a couple of minutes, you’re on another planet, but wouldn’t it be even better if you could find more nuance and variation on the one you’re already on?
The storms are a good start, but I think there is an opportunity to mix it up and make some planets more challenging than others by having a variety of climates. For instance, imagine a “tidally locked” planet that doesn’t rotate. One side would be a frozen wasteland, while the other would be a fiery hellscape with a thin band of pleasant weather in between. This is an extreme example; the more average planets could have polar ice caps or what have you.
6 – Deeper NPC Interaction
No Man’s Sky has a lot of NPCs; it’s just that they don’t do very much except stand around and give you missions or trade with you. It would be great if the NPCs could be overhauled to make them a little more dynamic – something like finding them wandering planets and perhaps saving them from a sentinel attack or even fighting alongside them to help them do whatever it might be that they are trying to achieve.
Even a few aggressive NPCs would be nice. Imagine coming across a hostile fortress on planets or raiding space stations and freighters. I do realize that this game is primarily about exploring a seemingly endless sandbox, but a little more depth in terms of interaction would go a long way to make doing just that so much more interesting.
7 – More Immersive Multiplayer
Let’s be honest; multiplayer isn’t exactly the main draw for this kind of game. I am personally grateful that they have not put too much focus on this, but it could be better. At this time, embarking on missions with other players tends to involve picking one of a handful of fairly generic quests from the Nexus. Some of them can be hellishly tedious, while others are easy enough to do alone.
Frankly, it doesn’t feel balanced. Either the mission is quick and painless or goes on for far too long. I have been in a party of 4, playing a mission that involved finding a specific, randomly generated item to fix an NPC’s ship. After about 30 minutes of searching, 2 members of our party gave up and called it quits. After another 15, the other player and I decided to go and abandon that mission.
Going back to climates and biomes, I think more planetary variation would make it much more interesting and rewarding to spend this kind of time searching for a specific item. These missions sometimes don’t feel all that co-operative since players just spread out and search for the item on their own and don’t interact very much.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love this game! There is more than enough to do, to see and to marvel at. If I could choose one thing from this list, it would be to improve the item management, and honestly speaking, I think Hello Games has knocked it out of the park. They have supported and updated this game for the last 5 years, and for that, I am grateful.
With talk of another game in the works, it’s only a matter of time until they close the book on No Man’s Sky. That said, I fully expect 2021 to be packed with new updates and features for the infamous intergalactic sandbox. Who knows? Perhaps some of these might make the cut.