When No Man’s Sky was first released over 2 years ago, it made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Riding a wave of palpable buzz, the game ultimately floundered at release. Failing to deliver on consumer’s expectations, No Man’s Sky became a synonym for the hazards of unmitigated pre-order hype.
With public outcry approaching toxic levels, many developers would be tempted to throw in the towel. Instead, Hello Games chose to go back to work—and 2 years later the results are spectacular. Coinciding with its debut on Xbox One, No Man’s Sky‘s massive free update 1.5 transforms the game into a truly fun and unique gaming experience.
Platforms: Xbox One
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Genre: Action-Adventure, Survival
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Setting goals in life (and space travel)
I honestly remember very little about the few sparse hours I spent with No Man’s Sky in 2016. A faint awareness of the need to locate the centre of the universe provided some motivation. However against a backdrop of the seemingly endless and dull tasks of scanning plants and breaking rocks, I soon lost interest.
Starting up a new game on Xbox one on the other hand feels like a whole new experience. Right away I was engaged with a much more streamlined storyline, with improved guidance on how to proceed to boot. Suddenly No Man’s Sky feels like a clear vision on the path to discovery instead of a mottled, often barren sandbox.
A home among the stars
A well-constructed main storyline is great, but it still doesn’t fill the void for players looking for things to do in an environment this expansive. Luckily No Man’s Sky is quick to offer up a healthy supply of additional tasks to perform.
Firstly, the ability to craft blueprints and refine resources into the construction of a home base is a welcome addition. This provides nearly endless motivation to explore and mine the elements necessary for crafting. On top of growing aesthetic improvements, you can add helpful amenities to your base(s) such as plant farms and health stations.
Eventually you will gain the ability to teleport between bases as well as space stations. This is a huge improvement to the longevity and replayability of the game. With anchor points to expand upon that allow for easy travel, No Man’s Sky becomes much less aimless. Furthermore its repetitive tasks become less grindy and more enjoyable with increasingly tangible results.
Practical learning for a better future
Sure, building a home base is fun, but it’s important not to get too comfortable. Blueprints aren’t just for crafting fancy new home accents, they are also for improving your gear. This is ultimately important in your quest to explore.
By researching anomalies and mining new resources, you can follow blueprints to upgrade your starship, mining tool, and exosuit. These improvements will allow you to reach new locations, mine better resources, and survive in more harsh environments. The more you apply the practical knowledge you gain from mining and exploration, the further you will go.
While No Man’s Sky is particularly focused on this loop of crafting and exploration, there is still an element of combat involved. Space battles with pirates are fairly entertaining, but ground combat with local planetary sentinels is weak, and definitely not the game’s strongest feature.
Why don’t you get a job?
No Man’s Sky is quick to express the importance of economy. Not everything you need to upgrade your equipment can be harvested from the end of a laser beam. You will also need to purchase components from the alien merchants found on space stations and scattered throughout the universe.
Short on cash? Everything you mine or scavenge on your adventure has value, and can be traded for credit on the market. This adds even more motivation to scan planets for valuable resources and spend the effort it takes to extract them.
Even better yet however, alien guilds will offer you odd jobs to perform in exchange for payment. These can range from tasks such as locating missing persons to delivering packages to eliminating local wildlife and much more.
These tasks essentially serve as side quests in No Man’s Sky. They provide a reward structure that makes exploring outside the main storyline much more enjoyable.
I will survive
No Man’s Sky’s “Normal” game mode is described as a “chill exploration experience”. I found that with a little knowledge and preparation, it’s fairly easy to escape the hazards of death on a normal game. Even if death does catch up to you in normal mode, the setback is minimal.
For those who desire a bit more of an adrenaline-inducing challenge, No Man’s Sky also offers a “Survival” mode. Here resources are scarce, hazards are increased, and death comes with full loss of inventory. This really shifts the dynamic of the game, as exploration takes a backseat to simply staying alive long enough to repair your ship and travel at all.
If this still isn’t enough of a challenge for the true thrill-seeker in you, then consider “Permadeath” mode. Here all progress is wiped if you die. In this slice of reality, you only get one chance to survive as long as possible in your quest for the centre of the universe.
A few more ways to play
Rounding out the list of available modes in No Man’s Sky, the recent multiplayer update now allows you to form a squad of up to four explorers. Players can engage in co-operative base building as well as new group-focused exploration mechanics. Many players are reporting that the multiplayer features are still a bit glitchy, but patches are coming out on a regular basis to rectify issues.
Finally, “Creative” mode is a free-building sandbox where players can put their imaginations to work. Free from worry thanks to unlimited health, Creative mode provides unlimited resources and no building costs. Some story elements are unavailable as the focus is purely on construction in a relaxed environment.
In its current form, No Man’s Sky is a lot of fun. Kudos to developer Hello Games are well earned for sticking with the title since its initial release and growing it into something really enjoyable. Every time I jump into my game I’m excited to explore, craft, and see what’s around the bend with the next planet I visit or story beat I hit.
Since No Man’s Sky is just now making its debut on the Xbox One platform, exclusively-Xbox gamers get to experience the game for the first time at its peak. This is definitely the perfect time to jump in and see what the game has to offer.
+ Focused gameplay loop with fun activities to maintain interest
+ Exciting base-building and crafting features
+ Thrilling survival mode
+ Massive procedurally generated open universe
– Planetside combat is weak and uninteresting
– Multiplayer is still experiencing glitches
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5