No Man’s Sky
Developer Hello Games Publisher SIE Format PC, PS4 Release 2016
Anear-infinite universe of 18 quintillion planets is all well and good – but what do you do in it? This was the question repeatedly posed to Hello Games after the mysterious reveal of No Man’s
Sky, a sci-fi fantasy so ambitious that it left stars in the eyes of everyone who saw it. In the lead-up to release, the tone of the question changed: from curiosity, to concern, and eventually to scorn, as the final product turned out to be a game different from the dream.
This was perhaps to be expected: shoot for the moon, and you’ll land among the stars, they say. The trouble was that the stars weren’t particularly great either. The thrill of each new procedurally generated vista couldn’t quite outweigh the thudding repetition of the identikit architecture and pointless exercises in mining. But more than a year since release, No
Man’s Sky has changed considerably. A series of regular patches and free updates have addressed a host of the launch game’s issues – the previously clunky inventory is now a breeze to use, and there’s more variety among alien races, flora and fauna – and made an already accessible space-exploration game even simpler, letting players call their ships to their location on a whim, offering a far more informative Analysis Visor and even a combat-free Creative mode.
Entirely new features have been added, such as base building, ground vehicles, terrain deformation and a photo mode. Now there’s a reason to collect resources, as you pump them into, say, a hydroponic farm in the enviable pad you’ve built on your favourite crimsonturfed planet. The anniversary Atlas Rises update was the most significant of all, thanks to the addition of rudimentary multiplayer – finally offering closure on that launch-week PR debacle by allowing players to use a system of glyph-based coordinates, portals and voice chat to interact with one another.
Much of Sean Murray’s enthusiastic overpromising appears to have been forgiven, with a thriving online community of fans still exchanging tall tales of space travel and animated GIFs of ridiculous dinosaur creatures. Indeed, Murray and the team at Hello Games have now delivered on both the chilledout yet existentially challenging concept they wanted to realise, and almost all of the features they hinted at in E270’ s cover story. But there’s an awkward paradox at the heart of No Man’s Sky. The closer it grows to an experience that justifies the game’s lofty launch price tag – with its added missions, objectives and qualityof-life improvements – the further it moves from Hello Games’ probably ill-advised but admirable art project. At least, we suppose, there’s plenty to do now.