First impressions are a one-time thing, by definition. When Sean Murray introduced No Man’s Sky onstage at VGX way back in 2013, he promised the world a game with an independent budget, sporting infinite possibilities carried by the magic of procedural generation.
In a world falling out of love with Minecraft and its clones, Murray’s promise turned Hello Games into a savior for a genre desperate for new life. It seemed like No Man’s Sky would be a natural progression for its genre – bringing the mundane roots of its forefathers to the stars.
Hello Games couldn’t deliver. On release, the game was crucified by a community that had received promise after promise, and felt that No Man’s Sky delivered on none of them. It was a recipe for a crash and burn that we’d seen several times before, and it inspired eager journalists to wait in the wings for their opportunity to write up their post-mortem.
Despite everything, though, No Man’s Sky refused to die. Receiving four major updates in the two years since it initially launched. Between base-building and true multiplayer functionality, Hello Games continued to pump content into the game to try and save it – all without any additional cost to its disenfranchised userbase.
On July 24th, No Man’s Sky performed a total re-release in “No Man’s Sky NEXT,” coming with some of the most requested features from what remained of the No Man’s Sky community. The release of the update also marked the release of the Xbox One version of the game, giving No Man’s Sky one last chance at a first impression.
Stranger Things // No Man's Sky pic.twitter.com/dGRCMsjT5r
— Petri Levälahti (@Berduu) August 3, 2018
For the most part, No Man’s Sky NEXT manages to surpass its predecessor and deliver something that’s truly different from the title that first launched in 2016. The addition of base-building and true multiplayer to the game has breathed new life into No Man’s Sky – Adding in a sense of purpose to a world that used to feel like a pointless sandbox with a few shiny bells and whistles to keep you occupied.
Your first hour or so in No Man’s Sky, if you’re not willing to go and look up guides online, you’re going to be a little bit lost. After finding your ship crashed not far from your spawn point, you’ll be prompted to fix the vessel by crafting several parts made out of things that you’re completely unfamiliar with. This scouting period should show you, for the most part, if No Man’s Sky is a game that’s going to be right for you. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys the old-school feeling of figuring it all out as you go along, you’ll be hooked. If you need a more defined set of instructions, you might struggle to find the fun.
Once you finally craft the parts that you need in order to get your ship running again, you take to the stars and start to figure out exactly what it is you want to do in the world. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to head out into your local space station to be introduced to a vast array of NPC’s, each of them serving as the representatives for a new mechanic added to the game since the launch of No Man’s Sky.
Features like a portal to send you between your bases and guild representatives to offer you new objectives in the world are all there, and while they won’t be immediately available, they’ll give you a good idea of what awaits you in the future. More objective focused players will frequently be coming here to get an idea of what their next goal is going to be – a gameplay loop that was sorely missing from the first release of the game.
Those who are looking for more of a pure sandbox experience, a la Minecraft in space, No Man’s Sky is now going to be a lot more suitable to your interests. Your terraforming abilities are extensive, and you can build some pretty incredible things with an active enough imagination, and enough resources to fund your base-building habit.
when we said unlimited base building… pic.twitter.com/oAbfdu97dB
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) July 25, 2018
Even after the updates, No Man’s Sky is not a perfect game. Framerate issues pop up a bit more consistently than what I would have liked, even on the Xbox One X. With the pure scale of the project, though, it can be hard for someone like me not to fall a little bit in love with the game. With a staggering amount of discoveries waiting around every corner and the option to dig into any planet you choose and make a home out of it, No Man’s Sky has wrestled Stardew Valley away from me as my go-to relaxation game.
During the time I had with the game, I didn’t get a chance to join any of my friends and play the multiplayer mode. One user on Twitter joined a chorus of users online praising the mode, however, by telling a story about an emotional roller coaster they took part in while playing the game together. From what I’ve played, it’s exactly what I imagined playing this game with friends would be like.
NO MAN'S SKY GENERATED THE COOLEST SCI-FI STORY FOR US AND I'M GOING TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT
— Xalavier Nelson Jr. (@WritNelson) July 25, 2018
One thing I also didn’t get a chance to play around with too much was the story. There were plenty of plot hooks scattered around the game that caught my interest – not to mention the interesting alien races that were populating the world around me, attempting to communicate with me in strange, yet learnable, tongues. A story certainly exists, but it seems like the game isn’t that interested in making you experience it. If you want to stay in your home system for your entire time playing No Man’s Sky, you’re more than welcome to.
It’s on that thought that I think any discussion of this game should settle down and make its bed. No Man’s Sky is a divisive game – one that people are always going to either love or hate. Even after the mega-patch that came out in July, some people just aren’t going to like what Hello Games has made here. Embracing the experience of discovery that can only be found in a universe of total procedural generation, No Man’s Sky is the only experience of its kind: One that demands your attention, and defies you not to have some fun with its now expansive toolset.
I can say without any shadow of a doubt that No Man’s Sky is a game that I’m going to get a whole lot of mileage out of. While you should seek out more footage and critique of the game to see which side of the debate you fall on, I encourage you to give it a try if it seems at all interesting to you. With two years worth of thankless work in free DLC, Hello Games has earned a second chance more than any other developer I can think of.
Further reading: Microsoft, No Man's Sky, Xbox One