We’ve all seen this tale play out many times before. Man (or company) hypes up new-looking game to ridiculous levels. People buy the game. The game is massively underwhelming to its buyers. Game dies faster than most. Everybody moves on.
Do you miss Peter Molyneux yet?
Anyway, if the game and its community are lucky, the developers will keep working on the game despite the bad press. Most don’t ever reach the level they aimed for to begin with. However, a lucky few not only manage to reignite the fire that they had, but surpass it outright. No Man’s Sky is infamous for just how much did not come to be when the game launched, even earning it the derogatory name of One Man’s Lie, in reference to developer Sean Murray. But now, after two years of continued work on the game, a much-touted update to the game, labelled No Man’s Sky NEXT, has arrived, alongside a release for Xbox One. I never played the original game back in 2016; I avoided it and decided to wait for reviews at the time. But with people saying this is now a truly great game, I finally decided to give it a chance. Does it finally justify its existence?
For a start, the game will plop you on a random planet with a broken ship. Immediately, it will begin bombarding you with help messages to get you started, and you had best be on your toes because if you’ll likely have to contend with a planetary hazard, ranging from radiation to extreme temperatures to poison and so on. Your shields will last about two minutes against the environment before crapping out and leaving you for dead. But stupidly, gathering the necessary materials for your immediate survival is not the game’s priority, meaning that by the time you work out what to grab by yourself (or where to find it, as you start with a broken scanner) it may be too late, and you die.
As far as bad starts go, this one is way up there. I was ready to pass off the game from the get go and this did not help matters. Still, I persevered. After all, you can hardly say whether or not a game of this scope is bad if you give up barely an hour in right? So I went on. Slowly, things began to come together in terms of the basic game flow. Once you get a basic material economy going for yourself and get your ship back to full running capacity, your objective becomes to obtain the materials necessary to get hyperdrive going, and begin travelling in direction of the centre of the galaxy. At this point, I still wasn’t really enthralled by the game. It just seemed like yet another crafting survival game that had been improved in some minor aspects. Still, I persevered again. And just as I was ready to call time on the game and finish up with it…
…The game decided to throw some nitrous into its engine.
The game starts to pack a ton of stuff to do in front of you, right around the time a massive freighter-class ship begs for your help as you warp into a new solar system. Suddenly, you’ve got your own freighter, and the makings of your own fleet. More main missions open up, you start to really begin getting better equipment and vehicles, the base building will be taking shape by now, resources flow more easily… the game stops being so much of a chore, demanding you take care of basic necessities every five seconds. Hell, don’t care about reaching the middle of the galaxy? Screw it, do something else! Be a trader, fight pirates, expand your fleet, investigate anomalies in the system. Hell, with all of the new biomes implemented, you might find some incredible sights. Don’t want to travel across galaxies when you’ve already found paradise? Set up a proper base with all the commodities you want, and build a signal booster to find the various hidden treasures and buildings the planet has to offer.
And then there is the most important feature to be added; the multiplayer. Long was this touted as being possible in the game, but now it is a reality. The feature is, however, somewhat basic in its implementation. You can turn it on and off at will mid-game, you can join others at the start-up screen, but that’s about it. Where you load in also seems to be a bit wonky, and due to a lack of other friends playing I was unable to test it more precisely, but be wary of being relocated in-game if you load into a session with others that aren’t already where you are. Still, the functionality is there at least for those who want it.
Another nagging issue for the game is that, in spite of having been out for two years, it runs poorly on PC. Despite the graphics not exactly being top-tier, things can slow to a crawl in some areas for seemingly no reason, and while I haven’t suffered any crashes, it can sting to see a game that has been out this long be so un-optimized, update or not.
There will surely be much debate about whether or not those who were burned by this game’s original release should give it another chance with their time. But at the least, it isn’t an empty wasteland of broken promises anymore. There is stuff to do, and sights to see. It is, at least, a game. Is it worth your time? ‘Maybe’ is the only real answer one can give. If you’ve had your fair share of crafting survival games, or you already have hundreds of hours sunk into Elite: Dangerous, then maybe let this one slip by for now. But for those who were always curious… perhaps this game’s time has come at last.
++ Much more to do than original
+ Multiplayer for those who want it
- Early game is a slog
-- Poor performance on PC