NO MAN’S SKY IS BACK

Have we fi­nally got the game promised in 2016?

Maximum PC - - QUICKSTART - –CL

THE LAT­EST UP­DATE for No­Man’sSky, called Next, has man­aged to push the game up Steam’s charts. As we write, it’s the sixth most pop­u­lar game be­ing played. Quite a turn­around for a ti­tle that crashed and burned so badly in 2016.

No­Man’sSky’s claim to fame is its vast pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated uni­verse. You’re free to ex­plore, trade, craft, and fight as you jour­ney to the cen­ter of the galaxy. There have been four ma­jor up­dates, but it’s this lat­est one that’s turned things around. Next was launched on July 24, at the same time as the Xbox One ver­sion, and com­pat­i­bil­ity with the Chi­nese WeGame dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem. It over­hauls the game en­gine and, more cru­cially, adds sup­port for mul­ti­player.

No­Man’sSky was orig­i­nally re­leased in Au­gust 2016, af­ter con­sid­er­able pro­mo­tion. Talk of 18 quin­til­lion plan­ets to ex­plore had gamers itch­ing to en­ter its huge sand­box. On launch, it sold well, and peaked at 212,321 con­cur­rent play­ers. Then it all went wrong.

Pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial had fea­tures that hadn’t made the fi­nal cut. It looked pretty, but game­play was repet­i­tive, and it could be played through rather quickly if you didn’t hang around and ad­mire the scenery. Peo­ple com­plained loudly. The num­ber of play­ers crashed to un­der 1,000. There was a huge gap be­tween ex­pec­ta­tions and ac­tu­al­ity. The game be­came some­thing of an ab­ject les­son in how not to han­dle mar­ket­ing, with its bub­ble of hype, dis­il­lu­sion­ment, and back­lash.

The de­vel­oper, Hello Games, has stuck with it, and now we have some­thing that looks more like the game we were hop­ing for, com­plete with a mul­ti­player mode, al­beit a limited one. A true open MMG with a galaxy this size would be al­most im­pos­si­ble tech­ni­cally, and any­way, even with all of Earth’s pop­u­la­tion play­ing, the chances of meet­ing some­one at ran­dom would be next to zero. It looks as if No­Man’s Sky is go­ing to make it af­ter all.

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