NO MAN’S SKY – NEXT

Not such a dead space

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTEST - @PhilIwa­niuk

So, I’ve seen things you wouldn’t be­lieve. At­tack ships on fire off the shoul­der of Planet McPlan­e­ty­face 5. I watched pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated di­nosaur-dogs glit­ter in the dark near the DON’T GO HERE gate. All of these mo­ments will be lost in time, like pos­i­tive user re­views in a Me­ta­critic hate mob. Time to… wait, an up­date? So here we are, two years clear of No Man’s Sky’s dis­as­trous re­lease re­cep­tion, play­ing it again. Never has there been such a strik­ing ex­am­ple of – nor such a pil­lo­ried scape­goat for – pre-re­lease porkies. “There’ll be mul­ti­player,” Hello Games told the world, sweat­ing vis­i­bly. “And ringed plan­ets,” while in the back­ground a poly­graph ma­chine drew fu­ri­ous, er­ratic lines. “And large-scale bat­tles that play­ers can join” the com­pany fin­ished, while cross­ing its in­dex fin­ger over its mid­dle one. Fans went bal­lis­tic upon re­al­is­ing that none of these things were true – and more – and the re­sul­tant back­lash seemed to have done in No Man’s Sky for good.

But quite un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally of the games in­dus­try, the devs at Hello Games per­se­vered with up­dates to their game. Slowly, it be­gan to take on more of the as­pect that its de­vel­oper had de­scribed in the years be­fore re­lease, and this Next up­date is the cul­mi­na­tion of that process. There’s real, hon­est, four-player mul­ti­player now, along with col­lab­o­ra­tive base­build­ing any­where you please, the abil­ity to ground-at­tack from your space­ship, and other more in­ci­den­tal ad­di­tions. Which leaves us with one in­can­des­cent ques­tion: is it worth go­ing back to?

JOIN THE ’CLUB

Oddly enough the an­swer to that ques­tion lies with Drive­club. Evo­lu­tion’s con­nected racer is the real poster boy for turn­ing around a stinker of a re­lease, such was the team’s dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion to iron out server prob­lems, ad­dress fan com­plaints, and add gen­er­ous swathes of new con­tent in the process to sweeten the deal. There was lit­tle fan­fare for it, but two years af­ter its ini­tial re­lease Drive­club had be­come an in­fin­itely bet­ter game which de­liv­ered on all the con­fer­ence floor prom­ises. Why you’re read­ing about it in a No Man’s Sky re-re­view is be­cause, vi­tally, it was never the fun­da­men­tals of driv­ing that were the prob­lem. The same can’t be said of No Man’s Sky. Yes, the ab­sent fea­tures did the real dam­age, but there were also prob­lems in­her­ent to the ex­pe­ri­ence. The grind of re­source gath­er­ing and keep­ing var­i­ous sur­vival bars re­plen­ished. The repet­i­tive na­ture of plan­e­tary ex­plo­ration. These aren’t things you can eas­ily fix with a few patch notes. Un­like Drive­club, No Man’s Sky’s core ex­pe­ri­ence

“THE VARI­A­TION OF PLAN­ETS, CON­DI­TIONS, AND WILDLIFE IS IM­PROVED.”

needed as much at­ten­tion as the fea­tures list.

CRE­ATIVE SPACE

The Cre­ative mode up­date, re­leased prior to this, re­moved all sur­vival game con­straints and re­leased you in No Man’s Sky to build and ex­plore stress-free, and there have been in­ven­tory-stack­ing and re­source-sim­pli­fy­ing tweaks in the in­ter­ven­ing two years too. Even the vari­a­tion of plan­ets, con­di­tions, and wildlife is im­proved, which in­jects a thrill back into the game for both lapsed play­ers and the loyal.

But all these laud­able ef­forts to pol­ish No Man’s Sky can’t dis­lodge the fact that some­where in be­tween the lol­lop­ing ran­domised beast­ies, the prog score, and the new­found ca­ma­raderie of build­ing a space-shack with mates, there’s still room for it to feel slightly dull.

That’s not to write off the unique, faintly mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence off com­pletely. It has its mo­ments, times when ev­ery­thing aligns and you find your­self bat­tling enor­mous hos­tile plants along­side strangers with whom you’ve formed an un­spo­ken al­liance of con­ve­nience in the mid­dle of a ra­di­a­tion storm. The trad­ing sys­tem goes chasm-deep, and be­comes a game all by it­self for those who want that. Like­wise the cre­ation tools, which al­low you to build from ground level into the at­mos­phere, and can be used like Lego if that’s your thing. It’s just that the real bread and but­ter will al­ways be re­source gath­er­ing and sur­vival, and in No Man’s Sky those el­e­ments are still a tad te­dious.

VER­DICT

A gar­gan­tuan ef­fort to turn a vil­i­fied space game into some­thing closer to what fans were hop­ing for, de­liv­ered com­pe­tently but with­out fix­ing its in­her­ent na­ture, which is still an aquired taste. Phil Iwa­niuk

Third-per­son mode makes scan­ning the en­vi­ron­ment a bit friend­lier, at the cost of some im­mer­sion.

INFO

FOR­MAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB HELLO GAMES/ SONY DEV HELLO GAMES

Right Al­though he has far from the tra­di­tional run­ner’s build, this chap can re­ally mo­tor.Be­low He’s a friend now. Turn your back and the ship’s toast. Yay mul­ti­player!

Above left An early-game dwelling. Hey, it’ll keep you alive.

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