O No Man's sky. You vex me so. I remember your first trailer way way back in 2013 your "target footage" of a vast an open-ended space exploration game full of procedurally constructed planets full of exotic flora and fauna; a virtual universe for gamers to explore. Your team Hello Games were a plucky indie development crew back then with wild ambition and dreams of a new and innovative game, and your leader Sean Murray was but a shy programmer, leading your ragtag fugitive fleet of devs on to a great adventure. We all gasped at the idea, the scope, the lofty heights your team wished to pursue. And we waited for what we knew would be a long time before we could get our grubby little mitts on it.
Then came Sony with a truckload of exclusivity money. Then came the rapid expansion of Hello Games from a boutique studio to a massive group of developers, growing more than ten fold in size after Sony's infusion of cash. Then came the hype train, brought on by Sony's elevation of your little indie project to a "AAA" title and Sean Murray, formerly the humble and soft-spoken face of the project was appearing on Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert making claims of what No Man's Sky could do that rivaled the tall tales of Peter Molyneux in the days of the original XBox (if you are unfamiliar Google Molyneux and Fable). No Man's Sky was touted by its director as the be-all and end-all of exploration games. Whether it was just enthusiasm or out and out misdirection isn't clear but we faithful bought into the hype. Then came another trailer and a couple of delays but we were still fine with it. After all building a whole universe takes time. And so Hello Games toiled and sweated and strained for years and begat....a big bang sized "meh"
Not that No Man's Sky was a bad game. It wasn't. There were worlds to explore aplenty. it's just that there was not much there to see once you got there. It offered a galaxy for the taking but nothing to really do in it.Many of the claims made by Murray and his PR people like multiplayer and narrative had fallen by the wayside during production and what was left were the bare bones of an underwhelming exploration and resource gathering game with nothing compelling to keep you playing it other than seeing what the next samey environment looked like and what could be had there. It was a universe bursting full of nothing.
After the massive disappointment the team at Hello Games strove to fix things, and a steady stream of patches and updates filled in some of the gaps. One update added a storyline of sorts, one expanded the species of possible flora and fauna an explorer could find on their uncharted worlds and, most recently the No Man's Sky Next update did a massive overhaul of game systems, graphics, and resource economies while also adding multiplayer options, the ability for players to own and maintain massive freighter fleets and a fast travel option to allow explorers to more easily access systems they had already traveled to, making basebuilding much less of a chore.
"And now, five years after its announcement and two years from it's original release date we finally have a No Man's Sky that almost fulfills all the promises they made upon inception."
And now, five years after its announcement and two years from it's original release date we finally have a No Man's Sky that almost fulfills all the promises they made upon inception. But the question remains. is it any good? For that i will have to give you a resounding, "Yes, but..."
Yes it is a much improved game over its original release, but it is still ostensibly the same game. Players explore uncharted systems, mine or trade for resources, build bases and interact with the four sentient alien species scattered throughout the galaxy while slowly learning their languages and rising or falling in their esteem. Sure the Atlas path adds a storyline through the game but it can be fetch-questy and puzzlingly vague as it goes on. The freighter system is neat and the ability to send your frigates on mini-quests of their own is cool, but in the end the only rewards are more resources and those are of varying worth depending on your playstyle. For instance if you are already raking in the credits by exploring and mining, a high credit item rewarded for a frigate's side mission is useless and will more than likely attract pirate raiders. Finally the UI is just clunky as hell. It shouldn't take me 20 hours of playing a game to realize how to equip new tech to my suit or ship. It shouldn't be an inventory nightmare to find and collect new artifacts or new resources. i shouldn't have to clear two slots in my inventory just to craft something I use on the regular. i have a giant freighter in orbit but i can carry more things in my backpack than I can store in its cargo holds? Its little quality-of-life problems like that that keep No Man's sky from true greatness IMHO.
No Man's Sky Next is a fun space exploration game with many of the features originally promised by Hello Games in its initial release two years ago finally being implemented, If you are like me and can't wait to warp to the next system to see what creatures and mysteries you can find then the updated version of the game will scratch that itch but do beware of the steep learning curve involved and the lack of any guidance in game that would soften that curve plus the interface quirks that can become annoying over time. Although this does set a dangerous precedent for games in the recent ship-it-now-fix-it-later culture No Man's Sky has at long last has finally fulfilled its potential. Available on Steam, PS4 and XBoxOne.