No Man's Sky Continues To Make Decent Progress With Its Big Update

Last weeks' No Man's Sky update brought a whole host of new stuff, including highly-anticipated vehicles. While some of the additions are awesome, others feel undercooked. It's more of a game than it's ever been, but I don't totally know if that's a good thing.

No Man's Sky after the Path Finder update is beautiful. Colours have been punched up, and the textures improve the details of the terrain, creatures and aliens, especially detail on alien skin, and the ambient lighting both in and out of doors. Describing it sounds like a list of minutia, but if you're just returning to the game every new world looks like a paradise.

I hadn't actually realised the colours used to look muted and that the textures were muddy until I saw the game the way it is now. With the improved lighting, all the colours really pop, but especially reds and oranges, which were previously less saturated.

Base building has also been fleshed out, with plenty to reward players, like me, who really give a shit about interior design and architecture. There's a new economy, nanite clusters, which you can find in bases or as rewards for talking to aliens. You can use nanite clusters to buy new blueprints for your base. Some of the new blueprints include coloured lights, decals and glass-walled observation domes. If my habits in The Sims are any indication, these changes were always going to be 100% my shit.

As I played, I got lost in base building, as the new options create structures that have diversity in the look and feel of bases. As much as I like Brutalist architecture, I'm glad Hello Games has now given me the option to make things out of wood.

However, these differences are all aesthetic. You can add new alien technicians to your base, which do give gameplay benefits, but I find it strange you can't sit in a chair. I built myself a bed and walked over to it, hoping to at least sit down on it. Spoiler alert: you can't lay on beds or sit in chairs. Not all players need or want this, but for me, not being able to interact with these objects makes them feel like filler. What's the point of making them at all if I can't do anything with them?

The Exocraft vehicles are arguably the most exciting part of the update, but unfortunately they feel a little underbaked. These newly added cars were something that players have been waiting for since release. In order to get them you need to be able to recruit a particular kind of alien for a particular kind of position in your base, relying on the most fun mechanic of all time: randomness. After a host of resource management tedium, I found the actual Exocraft disappointing.

Sure, they're useful for getting around, but they're also finicky. The Roamer is the free, default Exocraft, and it also sounds and controls like an RC car. I appreciate the extra inventory space, but after tooling around with the vehicles for a bit I realised I'd rather just use my ship to get around. Not only was my ship more familiar to me, it handles better. Even after roaming around a planet with the speed-oriented vehicle, the Nomad, in creative mode, I found myself thinking, well, my ship can fly.

The ships have also been overhauled, giving them discrete classes and ratings. On the one hand, I do love having an S-ranked something to work towards as I trudge along collecting resources. On the other, there's a part of me that wishes it was all a little more mysterious. While No Man's Sky was definitely not as full or complete a game upon launch, I loved that it could surprise me. Finding your dream ship in a space station, not knowing when you'd see that particular kind of ship again, was a thrill.

Agonising over whether it's worth the credits, comparing the inventory size and upgrades felt like real, tangible choices. Now it feels closer to ticking off boxes on a checklist. Having some of this information obscured made shopping for a new ship in a space port more fun. Now it feels like bringing a CarFax print out to a used car salesman: it's helpful, but boring.

For me, the best part of the update is the new Photo Mode. Part of what I loved about No Man's Sky upon release were the moments the sun hit from just the right angle so the red grass on a newly-discovered planet glowed. Photo Mode lets you recreate these moments, or build them yourself. You can change the position of the sun, the time of day, the amount of fog and clouds, and the depth of field. You can even throw a filter on top — I've been partial to the Vintage filter. Now that the game looks so good it's hard not to want to take pictures all the dang time.

There's parts of this update that seem like stuff for the sake of stuff. I know that I am the dissenting opinion — in fact, most players seem to really like all the additions with the update. But as I gathered nanite clusters and rode around on my Exocraft, I was struck by how I mostly seemed to be collecting resources to have more stuff, for no other reason than because the game offered me no other goals. It made me remember playing No Man's Sky at release.

While the game then was janky, repetitive and empty, the lack of a concrete goal for play made meandering around planets feel refreshing. Other players have always wanted more structure to the game, and the Path Finder update brings structure by the truckload. It's just not for me.


Comments

    You know, seeing how the game has been progressing so nicely with ALL the extra content post launch...

    That thing they launched back whenever was basically a beta...

    We really are in the era of launching unfinished products. One day I'm gonna go to Maccas and they'll give me the buns and tell me the all the fillings will arrive shortly...

      Ah, but IF they said that the new Maccas burger was currently in Early Access and not a full release, would you be as upset?

        If I bought a burger that person behind the counter said was nearly complete, but not there yet...that's my choice. I could be very very hungry and couldn't care less...

        I also buy lots of early access games when I'm very very bored and couldn't care less and just want to try something experimental and cool (but not necessarily complete, or even playable)

      Maybe it's the optimist in me, but I like to look at this as an era of actually finishing products. Think of all the games that came out pre-PS3 era that had a lot of potential, but were rushed to completion and missing features that were promised. Now imagine that the missing features were patched in to those games.

      Don't get me wrong, the over reliance of "we'll fix it with patches" is totally a bummer, but without these updates, No Man's Sky would have forever been compared to something like Spore, interesting concept that didn't deliver what was promised.

        Is it better for NMS to be compared to Spore, or SimCity? If they 'fix' the Spore type issues, the launch dramas are still going to be a point of contention, and enough for plenty to call in the lynchmob every time NMS is mentioned. SimCity had those same dramas, and while it got better (and personally, I never experienced them), was forever tainted as a result.

        Like you, I think its a good thing that we get progress past a launch. What NMS launched as wasnt what plenty wanted, but it WAS a complete product. Just a shallow one. In eras past (think Daikatana), thats all you would get, and you'd accept you wasted your cash and move on. These days, the complaints (valid or otherwise) are generally heard, and the game can change.

        In the end I'd prefer to compare NMS to Diablo 3. Shallow at launch, but building into something more complete and rounded. And with the Foundation and Pathfinder patches, its on its way.

        I agree with you man. It's also an era of game designers being able to realise the full breadth of their initial vision.

        But I would like them to tell me that...like "hey, this? this is the working product. You want the final game I set out to make? That comes in 6 - 12 months depending on sales..."

      Laughed so hard at that. Cheers for that comparison :D

    I just bought it last week since it was on sale on PSN. Enjoying it so far - perhaps a bit grind-y for my liking with all the resource gathering, but hopefully that'll be less of an issue once I get a ship with more cargo space.

    I don't know what it was like before the latest update, but I'm certainly happy enough with what I've got for my $22.

      Same. I found a better ship but all the extra slots are 700k to repair! Each!!!

        dont worry, youll find rare elements on planets you can farm to your hearts content and then sell for a but load.

          Fastest moneymaker I've found isn't gathering rare resources, but simply trading on a space station. Just find one where ships land regularly.

          - buy Dynamic Resonators at ~30k, as many as you can
          - sell them to the occasional trader that'sā€‹ willing to pay double (has a star next to the item)
          - collect 30k profit each
          - repeat until you're rich enough

          Can make a million in around 10 minutes like this, if you remember and prioritise the specific ships/traders that buy and sell the most (there's a limited number that cycle through).

            ahhh, shit, yeah i remember this now. i only did that method a little bit. but to be honest i havnt played in a long time.

    My issue is that the updates have introduced a lot more grinding into the game. Forcing you though the base mechanic to get a better mining laser didn't add anything to the game but frustration and more time spent looking for materials than before (which is saying something).

    I think the previous resource distribution was a bit much but now it's just a pain in the arse. I don't explore for the sake of it anymore - I explore to find the next resource I need to advance.

    With launchers using up all your plutonium for a liftoff in survival mode. The Exocraft isn't as pointless as you'd think.

    I for one skipped this game on release because I didn't believe the hype. But now with the two major updates it seems to have peaked my interest. Would you guys & gals recommend buying it now?

      Eh... not sure, to be honest. There's more stuff in the game, but I don't know if it's really improved it all that much. It's still basically a game where you explore different planets and try to make your way to the galactic centre. It's very grindy, and it's gotten worse with the latest updates. It's started to add a bit of depth but it's still a fairly narrow scope of gameplay - mine to get resources to build warp cells to get closer to the core.

      If you're not willing to grind for resources, I'd probably skip it. It's still mostly a curiosity at this stage. Unless you find it really cheap, at which point you've got nothing to lose?

      Give it another few updates, it's still pretty shallow.

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