The Next up­date is ace, but the launch game burnt me out

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - OPINION -

Back in late 2016, I briefly be­came be­sot­ted with Hello Games’ po­lar­is­ing pro­ce­dural space romp. 40 hours counts as ‘brief’, right? In­deed, I was so ob­sessed with No Man’s Sky, I even got its plat­inum – “To­tal Per­spec­tive Vor­tex” is just one of my 22 shiny plat chil­dren. And yet even though I had a de­cent time in this campy, ex­tra grindy uni­verse, two years on I’m filled with re­gret.

That’s be­cause now No Man’s Sky is a sub­stan­tially bet­ter game than the one I unin­stalled upon mak­ing its plat­inum pop. First, the At­las Rises up­date in­tro­duced 30 hours of new story con­tent and an­cient por­tals to zip around in. Then came the Pathfinder up­date, which brought groovy space bug­gies and on­line base-shar­ing to the in­ter­galac­tic party. And now there’s Next: by far one of the most am­bi­tious pieces of DLC to ever ap­pear on PS4.

The lat­est up­date fi­nally trans­forms No Man’s Sky into that bewitching shared sci-fi uni­verse so many peo­ple hoped the game would be on re­lease. Com­pare the cur­rent ver­sion of the space sim to the bare-bones launch pack­age, and the changes and grad­ual evo­lu­tion de­liver a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. A bril­liant new third-per­son per­spec­tive; fresh alien species; weekly chal­lenges; community events; im­proved graphics and added vis­ual ef­fects; oh, and an all-singing, all-danc­ing mul­ti­player that lets you ex­plore all those trippy plan­ets with your on­line chums. For play­ers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing No Man’s Sky for the first time, the sense of won­der and awe they feel will be in­tox­i­cat­ing. While I was also briefly over­come by the breath­less scope of the launch game, it quickly be­came ap­par­ent NMS was as wide as the At­lantic ocean yet as deep as a thim­ble of wa­ter. Ex­plo­ration be­came hor­ri­bly samey within hours, and the pull of get­ting to the cen­tre of the uni­verse was a drag thanks to the over­whelm­ing re­source grind in­volved. Quite frankly, there just wasn’t enough to do. Even two years on I still feel salty about the launch game’s short­com­ings.


That’s why I’m jeal­ous of play­ers who get to ex­pe­ri­ence No Man’s Sky for the first time post-Next. Now the game’s am­bi­tion is matched by a thor­oughly di­verse fea­ture set, with the ad­di­tion of mul­ti­player, much more at­trac­tive plan­ets (those new cloud for­ma­tions? Hot. Damn.), and ex­ten­sive base man­age­ment fi­nally giv­ing gamers rea­son to put roots down on a planet and linger a while, rather than im­me­di­ately blast­ing off for that next world in the dis­tance. Hello Games may have whacked a whole lot of noses out of joint with overly am­bi­tious prom­ises and a botched PR cam­paign, but to the tiny team’s credit, since launch it’s worked qui­etly and tire­lessly to trans­form No Man’s Sky into the game many al­ways hoped it could be­come.

And yet, for this solemn space trav­eller, it’s all come too late. My Pile Of Shame has ex­panded ex­po­nen­tially in the last two years, and there’s no way I’ll ever de­vote as much time to play­ing Next as I did the launch game. While ex­plor­ing bizarre ex­trater­res­trial worlds in third-per­son is great – lord, I love the space­suits – and be­ing chased by gi­ant alien ham­sters is an ab­so­lute hoot, the in­fe­rior launch game burnt me out. If Only No Man’s Sky could have ar­rived in this sort of stel­lar shape in 2016. I might never have come back to Earth.

Dave Meik­le­ham has semi-fond mem­o­ries of scan­ning alien beast­ies as he chased down No Man’s Sky plat­inum. He also con­sid­ers it a per­fect pod­cast game – he may have lis­tened to an en­tire sea­son of Se­rial while play­ing. Still, he wishes he’d waited for Next.

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