No Man’s Sky is one of the year’s biggest disappointments, up there with the likes of Star Fox Zero, Quantum Break, and Mighty No.9. And of course when I say “up there”, I mean well beyond them, past the stratosphere, into space and towards the stars. It just wasn’t the game we expected it to be, and while the question remains as to who we should lay the blame with — developer Hello Games, Sony, or both — the reality is that we simply had to play the hand we were dealt upon release.
Now, some three months since it first hit PlayStation 4 and PC, No Man’s Sky is getting a huge update, and it’s a pretty significant player as to how the community is going to rate the game from here on out.
The “Foundation Update” — otherwise known as “update 1.1” but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as promising — crept up on us after Hello Games came out of hiding and teased a major update only a few days before Thanksgiving. Sean Murray, the face (most of the brain) behind No Man’s Sky, also came out of hiding to say that the update was “meaningful“.
Looking through the update, to call it “significant” and “meaningful” would be an understatement: Hello Games and Murray seem like they are on a mission, and this update could very well put the studio and game back on the road to respectability.
Perhaps most interesting about this update is that it adds a new “Creative” difficulty mode, in which everything is free and you can go absolutely nuts doing whatever the hell you want. It might be at odds with the game’s obsession with grinding and environmental caution, but it’s a nice balance next to the new “Normal” and “Survival” modes, which, as you might expect, offer easy and extremely dangerous environmental experiences, respectively.
It might be worth taking everything listed in the game’s official patch notes with a grain of salt, because it is admittedly tough to gauge how anything that comes from Hello Games for No Man’s Sky translates into an experience. Of course the level of enjoyment is entirely subjective person to person, but gamers were almost universal in that No Man’s Sky lacked one thing in particular: a creative urge. It was simply too dull, to grindy, and too slow to care about.
This update looks to address that by adding base-building. You’ll be able to go all sorts of crazy to build structures and even recruit aliens to help you out. You will be able to build your own base, and then fast travel to it whenever you want. It might seem trivial, but the ability to customise to this level is something the initial experience was sorely lacking. You’ll also have the capacity to buy freighters, which presents an interesting shift in the game’s currency and trading mode.
Add in a photo mode — which for whatever stupid reason wasn’t in the initial release — and No Man’s Sky is suddenly starting to look like half of the creative hotbed of space exploration that was promised back at E3 2014.
Does this update make it worth returning to No Man’s Sky? I think you’d be completely justified in ignoring and/or refusing to return to the game, and while I’m inclined to criticise any game that doesn’t offer the best possible experience upon release, I can’t help but see recent examples of Destiny, Battlefield 4 and The Division as games that can slowly improve and grow with post-launch updates and expansions.
I think No Man’s Sky is coming from much farther back than those game, which will make it tough, but there’s a large world, and so Hello Games has the flexibility to experiment and grow into the game that we know today.
For the full list of update changes, check out the full list.