No Man’s Sky has had an interesting ride to say the least. It’s difficult to review a game that never seems to be “finished,” but here’s my take on the Foundation Update, base building, and photography updates folded in. As one of the masses who waited with growing excitement for the release of No Man’s Sky, only to feel like I had volunteered for some tedious chore after just a few hours of play, I decided to give it one more go with the newest updates. With all of my leftover feelings of betrayal, plus being gone so long I forgot what I was doing in my game, I decided a clean slate was in order and started a new game. Time to start fresh and see what could actually be seen as if it were entirely new to me.
First, I want to say what everyone already knows: this game is gorgeous. Granted, it’s hard to make space look dull or boring – it will mostly do all the work for you. But the individual planets also have a lot to offer in way of psychedelic colors, cute little critters, and various types of rocks and plant life. It’s all rendered pretty well, however, there are sometimes loading issues that can take you out of immersion in the game – like there’s a bunch of tiny creatures scurrying to create the planet as you’re just seconds away from landing on it.
The major problem with the initial release of the game was the repetitiveness of…well, everything. While boasting near-infinite possibilities in the marketing, the end game had just three alien races that you could communicate with, and maybe four world models that were basically copy-pasted in various combinations and colors throughout the whole thing. When you see a purple cow-beast on one planet, then a green one on the next planet, and a blue one on another planet, it does not count a seeing three different creatures!
There also wasn’t a whole lot to do in the entirety of space. Pretty much go to a planet, take all of its resources to fuel/build/upgrade/sell/buy your own stuff, kill a few rude creatures or drones, talk to a few (possibly) nice creatures, and then go to the next planet to do the same thing all over again. Even the scattered monoliths and other structures that (kind of) build up some sort of story piece-by-piece did little to break up the monotony.
With the foundation update, Hello Games noted that they made dozens of “tweaks” to the algorithms for generating worlds and all the things in them. This improved the variety a bit. No more “same beast, different color” on every single planet. The topography and landscapes are also improved so all of the planets don’t just blur together anymore. Space is also different from galaxy to galaxy – making some feel more populated and developed than others.
Base-building was a huge benefit that Hello Games touted with the Foundation Update. No longer were you just some random homeless person in space! Building a base gives you a sort of self-directed objective to what was originally a pretty aimless game. Now, if you so desire, you can build up different portions of the base, staff each portion with a new specialist (which you must go hire from one of the alien species), and then use them to research, farm, and more.
I mainly saw (and used) my base as a giant cash machine in my newfound mission to become a gajillionaire. Some people might have more lofty goals, but the fact is, everything is crazy expensive in space! If you want to take advantage another huge part of the Foundation Update, freighters, then you need to make lots and lots of money.
Nothing was more frustrating to me in the original No Man’s Sky release than constantly being out of storage space on myself and on my ship. After the seventh planet or so, I felt like 80% of the game consisted of condensing, selling, using, and dropping items in my inventory just so I could get more things. I quickly began hating life. Freighters are the solution. The two freighters I got had 13 inventory slots, and each slot held twice as many items as normal. It’s also very easy to store and move items around between yourself, your ship, and your freighter. *cue huge sigh of relief*
The Foundation Update also introduced Creative Mode. In this mode, you are given unlimited health and resources to just “play.” Make and build whatever you want. It’s fun to hop in and see what’s possible, but I get a little bored when God Mode isn’t earned, so I didn’t spend much time in Creative Mode. In all, the initial update to the game tells me that the weird three-month-long silence of Hello Games was spent listening to players and working hard to improve the game based on feedback. For many, it was definitely too little, too late, but it does help to ease the tedious feeling of the game.
The newest update focuses more on showing off. Version 1.2 of the game re-introduces the photography (screenshot) tools in the game with new features. To be honest, this feels a little like the developers trying to convince players to be free marketing agents. However, I can’t deny taking some of my own photos here and there because, as mentioned, the game is just so darn pretty!
The 1.2 update also improves the base-building feature by adding 40 new possible modules, adds interesting (although confusing at first) starship modification options, racing trials, and permadeath for those who want a bit more of a challenge. the land vehicles are also a really nice touch, because nothing sucks more than being stuck 10 miles from your ship and completely out of resources to fuel your suit (I’ve made some poor choices, alright?). You can also share your base online and explore other people’s bases so you can
steal their ideas check out what’s possible. You can have multiple ships (presumably for multiple purposes, but I spent all my money on freighters, so I haven’t been able to test this theory yet.)
It seems that Hello Games marketed what the game could be, released the foundation, and then started building toward that goal. This is counter to what many people were expecting, but the regular updates (another one has already been announced) does help keep the game fresh for those of us still sticking around. There are still some issues with the limited number of aliens you can actually communicate/trade with, and there’s still an underlying element of rinse-and-repeat to the game. It’s almost like a much prettier Farmville set in space. But for those of us who liked Farmville, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Is pretty enough?
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Plot - 4/10
Design - 9/10
No Man's Sky is and always was pretty, but that's not enough to convince players to stick around. The updates are helping to turn this into a full-scale game worth playing.