No Man’s Sky Next Review – Doesn’t fix all of the launch issues but finally brings the game in line with original vision

The hype surrounding No Man’s Sky was one of the biggest generated throughout the entire gaming industry, but when it released in 2016, it lacked many of the promised features, and underperformed on delivering the expected experience. This resulted in a wide community backlash, where negative reviews encompassed positive comments, but development on the game wasn’t finished. Hello Games spent the next 2 years providing consistent updates to the game, which expanded on what players could do and aligned the game with original design vision. No Man’s Sky gives players a massive universe to explore, filled with a myriad planets, star systems, and space fleets, now enabling cooperative play throughout the entire game. The Next update, coupled with previously released improvements, brings No Man’s Sky to the next level, and while players won’t be able to escape the tedious structure of its survival mode, it provides ample opportunity to create fun moments. With so many elements introduced post-launch, this feels like the game Hello games should have made at the start, although doesn’t feel vastly different from its original build. Thankfully, all the updates came at no charge, enabling early adopters to experience a fresh take on survival in a vast universe.

Developer, Publisher: Hello Games

Released: August 12, 2016 (original), July 24, 2018 (Next Update)

Reviewed on: PC; Available via: Steam

Testing specs: Core i5-6500 3.2GHz, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070

The Next update culminates in the expansion of features Hello Games added over the 2 years post-launch, and now enables players to engage in a diverse set of activities. The premise of No Man’s Sky’s Survival Mode is what makes it interesting to begin with, dropping players on a randomly generated desolate players with no general objective and a broken ship. Through scavenging resources to repair their spacecraft, players can then take to the stars, and do anything from exploring at their leisure to trading or settling down in a quiet space at the edge of the universe. No Man’s Sky has a familiar setup we’ve come to see from survival games, but its scope is much broader and existing in a vast universe is that much more appealing. The game doesn’t confine you to any one of its environments, and gives you an extensive range of zones to explore. With a variety of activities to engage in, from base building to fleet management and numerous quests, No Man’s Sky is an exploration game like no other, and Hello Games finally deliver on the original vision we were promised prior to game’s release.

While you’re supposed to play No Man’s Sky the traditional way in Survival mode, the extensive grind associated with it can really slow progress, so I set off on my playthrough in Creative. With unrestricted resource access, it allows you to fully engage in exploring the game’s beautiful universe, and still contains all of the story quests you’d normally find. Survival mode just burdens you down with endless resource gathering, as your life support and all your ship’s functions depend on vast quantities of scattered resources. Some are easy to find, plentifully available in any biome you land in, but more specialized elements can be downright painful to obtain. The very limited inventory doesn’t help either, and while it is a vast improvement over the initial build and enables stacking of resources, it’s still possible to run out of room rather quickly. Going with Creative on the other hand, removes a lot of this unnecessary grind, as a result enabling me to enjoy exploring No Man’s Sky’s universe at my own pace. The experience may be more streamlined, and give players less to do, but it is a way to go if you prefer to simply enjoy exploration.

The appeal of No Man’s Sky remains unchanged here, and you’re given a vast procedurally generated galaxy to explore, which means no two players will see the same planets, and the system’s been finally updated to incorporate a vast range of planet types. Every planet can be landed on and fully explored, on foot or in spacecraft, and you can finally set down and build a base in the environment of choosing. Supporting a diverse range of biomes, planets really shine in their variety, which makes the experience way less repetitive than at the onset of the game’s release and keeps players far more interested in No Man’s Sky’s subtle story. The game really opens up once you can leave the starter planet, albeit may seem restrictive at first, especially in Survival Mode. From there on, you can take up any trade, and make use of the game’s diverse systems, which makes No Man’s Sky unique among many typical survival games.

It wouldn’t be fun to explore the galaxy without a vast set of tools though, and following the complete list of updates, No Man’s Sky plentifully delivers in enabling player creativity through an extensive range of gear. Choose you not to fly above ground in a ship, there’s land vehicles available to construct at one of your bases, and feature some interestingly odd designs. A multitude of nimble spacecraft is available to purchase throughout your journey, and once you earn enough cash, NPCs also sell giant freighters that act as a mobile base. Creative mode makes it extremely easy to acquire any of these, of course, but the steep currency demanded otherwise makes it extremely long to acquire vehicles on a regular playthrough. You can make do with your starter ship perfectly well, upgrading it throughout the way, but would miss out on a lot of varied designs. Normally, you can have only one ship, but acquiring a freighter creates space to store player vehicles, allowing one to display a nice collection of starships acquired among the stars. Changes brought in the Next update are notably displayed here, and elevate experience to new levels with how much there is on offer here.

It may be easy to forget that No Man’s Sky wants you to make your own fun, and a lot of its appeal is lost were you to dislike exploration in general. It’s a game I can never dedicate more than a few hours to, as both Creative and Survival modes showcase serious repetition in their design, and no matter what you do, boredom tends to swiftly come along after some time in. It’s one of those games you have to be in the right mindset to play, but offers an extremely relaxing experience that can be used to unwind after a long day. There’s something extremely basis about completing menial tasks, and it’s a similar feeling I get from playing Euro Truck Simulator 2, loading up a game to simply unwind. Flying from planet to planet in No Man’s Sky offers a similar vibe, interjected with the awe of exploring new and creative worlds.

The random generating system in No Man’s Sky creates some of the most unique biomes you’d find in gaming generally, and exhibits some truly spectacular worlds. One of the main new features introduced in the Next updates are the ringed planets, which look fantastic when you’re entering a new star system. But there’s some oddballs here too, ranging from empty barren planets to tropical worlds filled with diverse wildlife. Sometimes you can even run into artificial metal giants, which reflect sunlight off their brushed surfaces and landing on them invokes a feeling of mystery. The diversity of wildlife this brings is also noticeable, and one can sometimes run into truly unique animal creatures, ranging from tiny forms and culminating in massive dinosaur-like creatures. Exploration thus consistently remains fresh, and the variety of sights makes up for at least some of the monotony found in No Man’s Sky’s gameplay.

To break up the loneliness of galaxy exploration, the Next update finally brings the much-desired multiplayer component to the table, where you can team up with up to three other players to engage in many of the game’s activities. Joining up goes smoothly, although it is recommended to save individual progress before starting a server game, as there’s a higher frequency in bugs when playing co-op. Playing with others generally brings out the best in No Man’s Sky’s Creative mode, enabling cooperation to create structures on a truly massive scale. In Survival, you’re still dealing with the grind of resource management, although co-op at least streamlines the distribution of resources. Like in single player, expect to do the exact same things here, but having other players creates plenty of room for cooperation, and ultimately keeps the experience less boring.

Visually No Man’s Sky hasn’t changed significantly, but there’s now a whole range of new ship designs, biomes, and player animations. The Next update brings a photo mode, which this game was begging for at the very start, and features an extensive range of options to capture best quality screenshots. Beyond, there’s now a third-person mode that showcases the most out of the extended character customization, and allows players to dress up in some bright colors. The animations accompanying it are solidly executed, and compliment the range of movement options within this game. The Next update really makes No Man’s Sky feel vastly different from its initial release, which I briefly touched back in 2016, and features everything you’d expect from a game of this scope.

No Man’s Sky isn’t entirely void of story content, and there’s a slight plot hidden behind the curtains, as you travel to the center of the galaxy to uncover who you are and where you came from. Most major quests involve going from planet to planet searching for something, which unfortunately doesn’t make for a deeply engaging experience if you were to follow the campaign. Side quests, which are now more numerous than ever before, provide interesting interjections of unique story bits weaved into the main campaign. There will be plenty to do, as you aim to solve No Man’s Sky’s plot, and acquire expensive end game gear to really call the galaxy your home. The story adventure nicely compliments the game’s exploration focus, and through subtle clues, reveals the whole picture as players discover more of it.

No Man’s Sky Next brings all the features promised upon announcement, and significantly expands the base game to unrecognizable extent. It doesn’t change things dramatically, and you’re still confined to resource gathering for the majority of the game to support your adventures. Exploration is brilliant, and this is where the game really shines, thankfully giving players a multitude of ways to experience its vast stretches of space. No Man’s Sky Next finally elevates the experience to where creators originally envisioned it, giving us a complete tool set to make the most of our time in this beautiful galaxy. With incredibly diverse worlds full of alien life, No Man’s Sky keeps exploration fresh and awe-inspiring, engaging players throughout its run time, which can be tackled entirely in coop. It is a better game now than ever before, and if No Man’s Sky hasn’t sold you on its concept, the full extent of its features makes it the most distinct survival game on the market, but expect to face some of the typical grind found in the genre. It may still not be the title some wanted Hello Games to create, but No Man’s Sky now shows improvement in crucial experience to make the experience more diverse and engaging.

Pros:

  • Next brings biggest diversity yet to the game
  • Highly-anticipated multiplayer features 

Cons:

  • Persistent grind remains across Survival mode with tedious resource gathering
  • Standard exploration gets repetitive

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