NO MAN’S SKY – NEXT
Not such a dead space
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.
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.
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.
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.