Rediscovering No Man's Sky

no mans sky beyond review kotaku

The list of changes is so long, but perhaps the best indication of how far No Man's Sky has come is what happens in the first hour.

I fired up No Man's Sky last weekend in advance of the Beyond update, wanting to see how far things had come. I'd invested about 70 hours into the original version of the game across two platforms — I played it initially on a stock PS4, but frustrations with the performance and pop-in led me to grab the game on PC. I was playing side-by-side with Tegan at the time anyway, and it's not like we were playing multiplayer anyway.

Dealing with the comments and just being in the day-to-day thick of the media cycle, I remember having a bit of a disconnect from a lot of the rage at the time. No Man's Sky was a chill game for me, not quite grindy enough to be classified as a chore but also not developed enough that I could say I was playing with purpose. I was really just strip mining the galaxy, bouncing around from one spot to the next. Most of the fun was in sharing gameplay with Tegan, even though we weren't sharing the same universe.

That's not to say there wasn't some grind. It's why I eventually stopped playing, because I wanted to progress a little more quickly without hitting the brick wall of inventory limits/landing on a planet only to lose the resource lottery/not having enough credits to quickly advance from one ship to the next.

Even something as simple as the portable refiner, a creation that didn't exist in the original No Man's Sky, is a revelation in that first hour. I remember helping setup the stream in the office for Mark so he could play through the first 90 minutes of the game, just before it launched in 2016.

It was a slow, plodding affair. It took 40 minutes just to get off the starting planet, and we weren't saddled with loads of environmental hazards, sentinels, or a lack of carbon/oxygen. Some of the traversal was our fault — it was launch day, so nobody knew about the melee attack/jumppack trick yet — but for the most part, that's what the experience was.

Now? You can get off the first starting planet in about 10 minutes, and you can do it in about five if you're not fucking around.

The third-person view wasn't added to No Man's Sky until the NEXT update. It's still a little bit buggy, in so far that the camera sometimes freaks out when you're against a wall or another object, but the extra view has this strange effect that ... makes me feel a little less small.

I guess it's the reverse effect from what happened in PUBG. In that game, the third-person view gave you so much visibility that it actively slowed down gameplay; people deliberately hid in corners, moved around less, and were more cautious generally.

No Man's Sky isn't a twitch shooter, obviously. But not being in first-person — and maybe it's purely a visual perspective thing — helped the world feel a little less small. It's a factor most at play when you're still repairing your ship, low on inventory slots and resources generally, but it's one that has an immediate impact.

And this is before Beyond dropped.

Apart from the gargantuan increase to your inventory — from 250 to 10,000 — there's so much about the game that is so much more clearly outlined. And a lot of the roadblocks in the early game have been almost completely eliminated. The mining beam can be used for longer, and has a greater starting base charge, so players don't get as stuck having to find carbon or compressed carbon to recharge it all the time.

The tooltips are much better described — you have a very clear sense of how to move forward, and the game helps walk you through the initial building construction and what items you'll immediately need. Having not played the game for three years — and Hello Games probably had one eye on players who haven't played NMS at all — the system was precisely what I needed. It also had no problems changing all the tooltips from keyboard/mouse to controller and back, which is always a nice touch.

And that building camera, oh my.

It's not a perfect building system, but it's precisely the kind of thing I wish Fallout 76 had. You can place everything down in first (or third) person, like you always could, but the Beyond update adds the ability to switch to a third-person camera.

It's impossible to state how much utility that gives you once your building gets to, well, the normal size of most buildings. Any multi-storey structure, particularly one you're building with friends, is infinitely easier to put together. I'd still like a couple of separate buttons to control the camera height when building, but it's a hell of a start.

Someone asked me the other day if they should play No Man's Sky, not thinking about the Beyond update or the changes that had already been made. They'd skipped it at launch, partially because of what their media diet was like, but also because they're busy and that's just how life works sometime.

I told them they should, if they wanted a chill experience. Sure, there's the survival mode, but that's not really what the spirit of No Man's Sky is. It's the ability to wander around the world.

But I was wrong. Now is the time to play No Man's Sky. And that's not even getting into the multiplayer.


    Just wait until you try it in VR. Sitting in a ship cockpit feels incredible.

    This game is completely amazing.

      Might try that myself this weekend. :) I'm probably sticking with PC rather than PS4 where I have the PSVR, but I do want to see the VR at least once.

      Yeah the VR is pretty cool, mining and scanning feels a lot better for it. And the flying is great. I lost 3 hours to it last night...
      Though I did run into an issue with the Nautilon - it's broken for some people. i.e the only way to turn is to press L2 and you can't dive.

      I don't know if it was in the last update, but moving installed tech is a really nice touch, along with the numerous other QoL changes.

        Yep, my Dad also had problems getting his Nautilon to dive. Seems like an issue with VR right now.

        Moving technology is new in the Beyond update and it is an absolute godsend.

    Basically, NMS has finally, finally become the game it deserves to be.

    People can give Sean Murray all the shit they want, but he and Hello Games really stuck in there with NMS. Quite a lot of other devs abandoned their games, or delivered paid DLC in place of the free patches and content that NMS has brought forth to fix and expand itself. This has been one *hell* of a redemption ride. I think quite at this point, I'd like to see some redone reviews for NMS, assessing it in its current form vs old form?

      No thanks. How long after release do devs get? 2 years?

        I wasn't aware there was an arbitrary ruling on a number of years? Look at it this way. How many games out there are currently STILL struggling to get their basic content in the game after 5, 6 or 7 years? Day Z is an embarassment. I love Ark, but it just announced its *second* season pass and still has glaring issues such as dinos clipping through buildings and archaic animations they promised to replace, that they still haven't. However, if you've even been following NMS, instead of just commenting 'no' (which quite frankly, is what most people do, just commenting from the sidelines with no actual knowledge), you'd have personally seen the incredible progress they've made with the game in comparison to where they started when Sony shoved them out of the gate before they were ready. So instead of 'no thanks', maybe it's moreso 'probably, why not'?

          It’s been really interesting to watch. Clearly the devs had a strong belief in the game, and I’m assuming ongoing backing from Sony. Make you wonder how many other games could be lifted to the next level with the same ongoing support. I guess the industry doesn’t (or can’t) work that way.


          so weresmurf is right.
          i understand the argument of like 'how long should we give devs post launch to fix the broken games' unfortunately it looks like games releasing in a pretty shit state is becoming the norm and i don't think we can change that, so rewarding the devs who stick with it and fix the games rather than just dumping some abortion on us and running off to the next project is about the best compromise you can get and it sends a message.

            Indeed, but mostly, I think Hello deserve credit because they haven't asked for extra money in the process. While I do love playing Ark, I do think it a bit scummy they tacked on DLC during alpha, then asked now, for 2 different season passes. I understand the costs associated with producing a game, but what Murray and co. have achieved here definitely deserves appreciation above most others.

              Worth adding that the Atlas Rises update, the first major one, nailed it as well and that was only 11 months after release (I think it dropped in July and not August from memory)

          The game has improved a lot and HG has done some great work but on the subject of being shoved out the gate, we know HG chose to do that, they weren't pushed.
          Sony did push for a release date, which is expected given them covering the marketing and publishing cost for the PS4 but we know it wasn't set in stone because HG delayed once and then chose not to delay a second time because they had run out of funds and didn't want to accept the extra funding and support that was still on offer from Sony.

          I agree they have turned things around but to forget they came back from their own choices, actions and mistakes only cheapens that victory.

            I dunno honestly, there seems to be equal amounts of evidence going both ways. At the end of the day though, what's absolutely certain to me at least, is that NMS should have been marked as 'In Alpha'. Had it of been, none of the controversy would've existed, or at least, minimalised drastically.

    "nobody knew about the melee attack/jumppack trick yet". I've started Beyond and I'm loving it - hugely improved in every way - but I cannot understand why they haven't brought this mechanic upfront more. I can't play without it, and the thought of someone not knowing about it makes me want to shout out to people like they're walking towards an open manhole cover.

    I wanted to play this under Linux, but sadly the vulkan update is pretty broken for us Proton users atm.

    I must say, I'm very impressed.

    Having not played the game since release (very disappointing ) I fired it up on xbox one and got another copy for my son (5). After some initial problems joining each others game we loaded into a very inhospitable planet with -60 degree temps. After my son died a number of times, we repaired our two ships and left the planet for the next.


    Looked great, played alot better than i remember, inventory space was a winner. One minor gripe was my sons character clipped out of a base we found on the primary planet and then all structures vanished for him, other than that was great.

    Looking forward to exploring the universe with him. Bravo

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