Let’s be straight clear on this: No Man’s Sky was and probably still is a modern commercial failure. It is a shining example of either the falsity of advertising, the unstoppable force of corporation crushing the small company under pressure, or a mix of both at once. It is the modern Fable if such cannot be considered an insult.
I personally feel somewhat sympathy towards Hello Games. No Man’s Sky reached what I call ‘Critical Hype.’ Imagine if you will that hype is a quantifiable phenomenon. Now up to a certain point hype is a good thing if it stays below or matches the quality of the game in exchange. There are plenty of examples of this. However, if the hype overtakes this critical threshold then the game starts becoming a failure just because your consumers have now imagined a game you do not have.
No Man’s Sky is the textbook example of this. The game’s hype pumped up by E3, TV appearances and outright lies made the game so hyped that I’m not even sure the hypothetical game we saw in the trailers would have made the cut; the game we got certainly could not match.
Now don’t paint me entirely cynical: I have given the game plenty of tries: I gave it a good run at launch, and another go when Atlas Rises was released. Honestly, the most fun I had was a day with a friend of mine where we played the game on Skype with each other because it felt barely like the multiplayer we had been promised. But like with many reviews, everything here has been written before playing, so now I will be diving in and seeing whether this really is a step forward or a step sideways.
The “NEXT” step if you will.
So here’s the skinny: NEXT will not make you magically love No Man’s Sky again because it certainly hasn’t for me. NEXT is a necessity, something required to push the game towards that advertised product and something which means that we may all consider buying the next game they put out.
Now do not take this as an entirely bad thing, NEXT is a good solid step in the right direction, a step which has taken far too long to do and personally does not fix a lot of the problems the game still has. NEXT brings the game from being miles away from the advertised product to being feet away.
Naturally, the reason that NEXT has people in a spin is that of the addition of multiplayer. Now there are two stages of multiplayer: Passive Single Player, where other single players will pass by you every now and then; and proper multiplayer where you and friends can do things together.
Multiplayer exists in this weird sphere where you exist in the same world but can do very little together. You can run around, build things, mine things, and fly around. But you do all these things alongside each other and there is nothing specific you do together. There are no ships you fly together for example, which would have been pretty sweet for a squad to travel in, although transport of multiple players in a fleet vessel was not tried. The hope is they build upon this though I’m doubtful.
Hello Games does have plans for weekly and monthly challenges and competitions, and they assure us that there are no microtransactions in the future either. But the main new focus here is also the graphical overhaul and the gameplay overhaul.
The graphical overhaul was definitely needed, even if the game still gives me an aneurism when it loads with brutal frame drop. I jumped into my old save, instantly bombed it to a new system and dived on to the nearest planet. I instantly saw the difference, and in a good way too. The trees seemed more natural and spaced sensibly, landmarks looked more realistic, grass existed so every planet was not just a plain lifeless pastel floor. It makes planets and world feel far more alive, and looking up I could see the next planet in the sky, the ring surrounding it carving through the blue above. It almost was poetic and made me feel like the planet I was on was a real and unique object rather than the next mine I had to carve up for resources.
This leads quite nicely towards talking about the shift in resources in the game. Now overall you won’t feel too painful about the transfer to this new system if like me you haven’t touched the game since about three days after Atlas Rises released. To smooth out this change, however, spend some time reading through what each part of your equipment now needs. With the improved scanner, you’ll be a lot more at home finding the resources required and just like before popping asteroids like an 80’s gamer gives you plenty of fuel for speedy travelling so you should never get stuck. Spawning has been shifted a bit for minerals on planets however so don’t be afraid of using your ship to bolt between veins.
Playing No Man’s Sky now feel a great deal better than it did at launch and a lot of that can be put down to the improvement that NEXT has brought. But being better does not equal being good and since I can find no review of No Man’s Sky on our site (if there is one and I am wrong, the kind administrator which link it here: Admin reply “We thought it would be best to not add to the flame surrounding the game with many reviews flying around the web, so we skipped this game on its original launch”) to compare to I will have to discuss this against my feeling from first playing the game.
The experience still feels one adrift in space. While there is now stuff to do for sure overall you still have a limited set of goals which draw away from a lot of the content about in the game. You can follow three paths: Go to the centre of the galaxy, discern what the Atlas want, or follow the newer story from Atlas Rises. These sit in juxtaposition to all the side content of the game however which all focuses you on staying in one spot, making a base, building vehicles; things which all don’t seem to fit in a game about exploring all around you. NEXT doesn’t really improve upon these features at all, instead of leaving you in the same weird clash of features.
NEXT was a necessity. Hello Games could not leave the game in its current state and ever hope to exist in the industry. NEXT is however a stark improvement, one which fixes a lot of faults even if it still doesn’t sort underlying issues I have for the game overall. This is very much a situation where I cannot really pin down who will like this next step. If you hated the underlying issues with No Man’s Sky then NEXT has not fixed it. But the improvements may allow those of you who found a glint of something special in this to mine out the vein and gather some enjoyment from the experience.