No Man’s Sky probably holds the dubious honor of having the worst, most incredibly botched game launch of this generation. Released two years ago, the game felt like an empty husk of a promise, with advertised features absent, and the slow, crumbling realization that maybe Sony and Hello Games had over-promised and overhyped the game just a tad. Credit where credit is due, though; instead of calling it a day and abandoning No Man’s Sky as a failed project, Hello Games continued to improve upon the base game with massive free updates. Over the past two years, the game has gotten steadily better. And with the brand new NEXT update, No Man’s Sky is actually pretty darn good now.
To be clear, No Man’s Sky doesn’t exactly deliver on every single aspect that we’d heard about during its pre-launch phase. I wrote an article a couple years back, detailing some of the key features that were supposed to be in the game. A few of them have been included, but NEXT certainly doesn’t turn it into the mythical game that we heard so much during its development period. However, now that expectations have been tempered a little after two years, and we now know that there’s basically no point in traveling to the galactic core, players can start to look at No Man’s Sky a little differently.
The biggest addition with NEXT is the online multiplayer. At the moment, it’s still rather limited, but you can now group up with three other people and actively explore the galaxy and mine for resources together. You can visit each other’s bases, and you can even help with the base-building aspect. Being able to share resources with each other is also very helpful, and just the fact that you can now play with other people adds a whole new level of enjoyment to the game.
The multiplayer component isn’t without its flaws, though. Hopping into a session with our Publisher Yami, things worked out great during our first attempt. She was able to join my session easily and enter the same star system to see what planets I’d been exploring. However, things started getting wonky later on when one of us warped to another system, and we were both unable to go to each other’s systems despite trying to join sessions the same way we did the first time.
While playing on the PS4 Pro, the game also feels buggier than it’s ever been. There are some pretty severe audio glitches that pop up occasionally, as well as frequent crashes if you’re on a particularly problematic planet. Case in point, I was mining Copper on an abandoned planet, and the game would crash every two minutes. But when I left to visit other planets, the game would be perfectly fine. It’s bizarre.
NEXT also completely overhauls the resource system, and if you’ve invested hundreds of hours into this game before the update, I’d advise hopping into a fresh file to see what’s new before doing anything else. For starters, refueling your ship is a little more complex now. Gone are the days of being able to simply grab some Plutonium lying around before blasting off. Now you have to fuel it with the much rarer Uranium, or craft fuel pods out of Ferrite and Di-hydrogen. Most of the base resources have been renamed to lend the game a greater sense of realism, and while that’s nice, extra steps have also been added to basic processes. For instance, your launch thrusters and multi-tool aren’t powered by the same resources anymore, so there’s more stuff to keep track of. The same goes for the Terrain Manipulator, life support systems, and hazard protection. It can definitely be a little overwhelming at first, and there’s quite a bit of micromanagement that you need to get used to before the game becomes fun again.
Other than that, though, it’s been a blast jumping back into space. I haven’t played the game since launch, and it almost feels like an entirely new experience. The Terrain Manipulator now allows you to shape the land however you want, and it’s used to mine for valuable metals. The third-person camera view took a bit of getting used to, but I eventually grew to love the way it looked, thanks in no small part to how well-designed and good-looking the character model is. Space stations actually feel like lively, bustling hubs now, which is huge. In the past, they were these sparse sci-fi-looking areas with two random dudes in a room, but now, they’re filled with aliens you can talk to, merchants you can buy blueprints from, and guild envoys who can give you missions to complete for more units. The AI isn’t as sophisticated as Hello Games led us to believe in the past, but at least the space station has been overhauled to serve a purpose beyond just heading there to dump your Emeril for a ton of cash.
And for newcomers or returning players who were too poor to afford a Freighter, NEXT gives everyone an opportunity to get a free one early on in the game. Freighters are essentially mobile bases that you can customize, and they also allow you to recruit Frigates and send them out on missions for more units or resources. There’s a wealth of things to do in the game, and after I completed the tutorial and obtained my Antimatter blueprint, I abandoned the ‘story.’ Who cares about what’s at the center of the galaxy when you can just muck around in space and build a money-making empire of giant ships?
Best of all, though, is the ability to build a base anywhere, and anytime you want with no real limits. Just today, I discovered a lovely tropical planet with decent weather and gorgeous scenery, and lovingly named it Homestead. For the first time, I finally started experimenting with the base-building mechanics and tried building a simple house by the seaside. It’s not perfect, but just knowing that I can warp back here anytime from any space station in the galaxy makes me feel comfortable enough to keep exploring everything that’s out there, while finding better resources to improve the base later on. And if I find a better location, I can just build another Base Computer there and start again.
Two years after launch, No Man’s Sky still retains that sense of wonder that comes with warping from system to system. You never quite know what you’re gonna find next. And after surviving through so many irradiated planets, toxic wastelands, or just planets with choking humidity and acid rain, the joy that you feel when you finally find a paradise planet you can call home is like no other.
The game still has its flaws, but NEXT has turned No Man’s Sky into a really fun game that’s worth your time in 2018. With all the other updates and live events coming up soon, it’s only going to get better.