No Man’s Sky Next

What is starting to feel like a yearly return, I find myself once again back in the realm of No Man’s Sky. In a clear sign that Hello Games, and the gaming community, are more content with the game than early on, the second year only brought 1 content update, whereas the first year brought 3. I don’t entirely mind… diminishing returns and all, it’s the second year and while I am sure it sells a decent amount with each update, they probably sell fewer units with each update. I wonder at what point they decide to add an expansion or DLC, and I wonder how that would even look.

But I digress, the latest patch is 1.5, nicknamed Next and it is kind of a doozy. Probably the #1 most requested feature was added… multiplayer. And I’ll be honest I don’t care about that one too much. It’d be nice to play with someone, but I don’t really have any friends who would play the game, and I don’t particularly want to get randoms. Even without the multiplayer, I felt it was a really big update.

First off… the space things that they added. They added Frigates that you can hire that will fly around your freighter and give you defense power from pirates. But you can also now send the Frigates out on missions to get you resources and money and such, which is a nice touch. I have only marginally experience Freighters since the update and I do think the main pathway is less confusing than it was and the base building seems more sensical. Speaking of which, they sort of overhauled space stations. Now, instead of a couple of tunnels with tiny rooms, each having a couple of creatures. Now they opened them up and they include more creatures to interact with, a space suit customizer, shops, mission givers, and a teleporter. It feels a little more fleshed out which is appreciated. And lastly, they added ringed worlds. Yes, ringed worlds! I think they are a little more common than I’d like, nearly every system has at least one, but realistically they are pretty common in the real world. and they are gorgeous both in space and on ground.

Speaking of Bases, they enhanced bases on the ground as well. They added new parts, and now you can build more than one base, AND you can build them pretty much anywhere, and they can be pretty large as well (they used to be limited to like 250 parts or something). I’ve seen pictures of people building bases under water, in cave systems, and even on crashed freighters. With this ability coupled with portals, I can totally see myself building a network of worlds that get me any resource I want and are beautiful. This has gotten me FAR more interested in base building than I was previously. Previously, I was resigned to just build a base in my freighter, because although you could take a portal to the planet easy enough, I may as well take the base with me. Now I can do both.

They renamed pretty much everything and re-working crafting as well. Overall, I think the name changes were good. I like that I need oxygen to recharge my suit instead of thaumium for instance. Overall, the materials seem to make more sense than they used to (Platinum is actually fairly rare, instead of growing out of plants!). I also think that the crafting changes were good as well. It added a real progression to crafting. You start by crafting in a portable refiner, then move onto Medium refiner, and finally heavy refiner. I haven’t gotten too advanced into crafting to get into the nuts and bolts, but on the outside looking in, it looks much better.

They also made some tweaks to terrain generation. Overall, I think when people go looking at planets, they are much more appealing in general. I personally think that there is more variation in land formation. However, many people have noted that there is less variation in color schemes. Before you could find bright yellows and pinks all over the place, it was kind of like going to a world painted by splatoon inklings. And generally, this was more problem then good. People often complained about the eyestrain, so of course once they fix that people complain that there isn’t. Can’t win I guess. I will say, that I think the bigger complaint is that while all in all it’s better, people still want the occasional super bright colored planet. I’ve seen people complain that they only ever see red, green and grey colors, but I do get the occassional lush planet with blue grass and yellow & pink plants and it is marvelous when I do. I do think it happens, but it could probably happen a little more. They also took out the resource pillars that were common in the game previously, probably for the best, but I admit I miss the pillars sometimes. I like that they aren’t everywhere, but it’d be cool if every now and then you ran into a planet that had pillars of gold. I think the key point to take away is that what they were doing previously was only bad in its frequency, if they made them uncommon to rare planets, these things still hold a draw.

Lastly, they added third-person view and improved graphics. It seems like every major release comes with improved graphics, and it is always appreciated because it makes a beautiful game even more beautiful. I really like the added third-person view (and the character customization!). I am not a huge fan of first person so this was a nice addition, though I do admit, it took a little time to adjust to targeting what I’m shooting at. I kind of wish they had character customization parts that you could unlock, maybe they do, or maybe that’s in the plans for the future. I don’t know.

One thing I have to say, is that usually at about a month of play time the novelty kind of wears off and the grind gets annoying. So it will be interesting to see how that develops over the next couple of weeks. But an interesting point to note is that my last play through ended at about 20 hours. This kind of ended prematurely, I wasn’t quite bored of the game yet, but because my ship spawned in the ground I rage quit. In my current play through I am at 17 hours, and honestly I am getting more excited to play the game more as I go on. I have some neat plans that I hope to execute fairly soon <>. And I don’t think I’ve had this much excitement about the game in previous attempts this far into it. I feel as excited every time I sit down as the last and it is the same excitement I had before the game was released. Is the game perfect? Far from it, but this is pretty darn close to what I had imagined at launch. I look forward to seeing what Hello Games does in the next update because I honestly have no idea where they will go now.

Return to No Man’s Sky

It has been a fortuitous week for me and No Man’s Sky. I saw the game on sale at Humble Bundle last week and decided to pick it up again to see how it is with the Foundation and Pathfinder updates. Today, they released the third major patch… Atlas Rises. I’m sure the timing of that sale was not a coincidence but it seems weird coming into it again right before a major update like this. Overall though, even before 1.3 (the newest patch), I kind of decided I was going to return to the game after 10 months of inactivity. And I felt it was worth giving a sort of review here to explain why.

First, probably the biggest thing to me, is that the game feels more diverse. I looked through the 2 major patch notes and it does look like they made additions to plant and animal parts, and made some major world generation changes. The overall result of this is that, I did get a better sense of each world being different. And even more important, I was stepping foot on more planets that seemed to have life on them. Unlike before where it seemed like almost every world was a barren wasteland with a random animal roaming around it. Even when I found myself on a barren world, there were features on it, which made it seem different than other worlds. I appreciate this a lot.

It isn’t perfect. There is still a general sense of same-ness to the worlds, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it once was.A personal pet peeve of mine, still exists… diversity within the same planet. And honestly, I don’t think that one will ever get fixed. To me it is weird that an entire planet basically has the same environment. There are certainly patches where it differs but by and large if you are on a planet it looks a certain way everywhere on that planet. Looking around the NMS reddit, and the one most requested update for 1.4 is to focus on flora and fauna to give even more real planets, and I couldn’t agree with this more. There are other wishlist items I have, but this would make the game feel complete to me.

You can also tell that a major rebalance of the game has occurred. This happened in a number of ways. First, resources. I’m not sure what exactly was already there and what is new, but I do believe that Hello Games has reclassed their star systems and resources so that the hard to get to systems have more rare resources and few planets, whereas the easy to get to systems have more planets but fewer rare resources. I also think they went and basically added logic where each planet in this type of system will have X common, Y uncommon and Z Rare resources. And I feel like they may have created rarity in the first place. Before it seemed like Gold and Copper were everywhere, but these seem far less common than they used to, and honestly this is appreciated. They’ve also added a whole bunch of new resources, I think around 20, since launch. And on top of that, they’ve created barriers to harvest, which I know some people are annoyed by, but the reality is that it helps give you a sense of something to work towards. Now I need an Advanced Mining Laser to mine Titanium, which makes sense. I actually wish there was one or two more mining tiers than just normal and advanced. There is also a Hazmat Glove that you need in order to harvest certain plants. Again, nice touch.

Then there are starships and your multi-tool. Instead of everything just being random, Hello Games has added classes and rarity to both objects in No Man’s Sky. Starships come in Shuttle, Fighter, Explorer and Hauler now. Each class has different looking ships, and each class has bonuses. For instance, Fighter ships do bonus damage when in a fight, but generally have small storage holds. Haulers get bonuses in storage and shields. Explorers get bonus to their Hyperdrive engines. And Shuttles get no bonus but tend to have more storage than Explorers and Fighters. And then there is rarity. Each ship has S, A, B, or C rarity, in that order from most rare to least. Increased rarity means increased price, but higher chance for more storage and it also gets an increase to the bonus that the class provides. So a C class Fighter will do up to 20% bonus damage, but an S class Fighter can do more than 50% bonus. Multi-Tools have been given new weapons that you can install on them and have their own specializations. They can be a Pistol (Mining bonus), Rifle (Damage Bonus), Experimental (Scanning Bonus), or Alien (A mix of bonuses). Like the starship, it has the same rarities that affect how much bonus you get, and I would also guess how many slots for modifications the item has.

I mean, all that is really just restructuring of what was there. And the reality of it is that those additions do a ton for the gameplay loop. They give you things to work for. The new rarity system also gives you more want to go back out there and find the “perfect” starship or multi tool. Resource balancing gives you more reason to explore the galaxy to find rare and exotic resources so that you can build enhancements to your gear that are more powerful. All this leads to a better overall experience… and it doesn’t even get into what they really added.

And that is Bases, Freighters, and Cars. Bases allow you to personalize your home base, increase your storage space, allow you to farm certain resources, and even automate harvesting nearby resources. Freighters allow you to get into and purchase those big ass ships that you always see flying in the distance. They are super expensive so it gives you something to save up for, and it looks like in 1.3 they are adding in classes for freighters too to give more variety and make you now want to find the perfect freighter. Freighters share storage with your base and can carry up to 9 starships and even more cargo than before. So now you can go and get a bunch of starships to make your perfect fleet for your situation. I’m less sold on the cars, I think it’ll be nice for exploring your world and getting more storage while doing it, but I don’t know the limitation of that buggy. They also added the ability to create race tracks and race other player’s track which is a nice touch but I’m unsure how interested I am in that, but I like that it is there.

And now… 1.3… The big flashy thing they added was Stargates which let you portal from one planet to another, if you know the address. This alone is pretty awesome, but they also added 30+ hours of story and lore, a fourth race, new buildings and base parts, crashed freighters, new farming branches, and NPC missions. All of this again, fleshing out the universe that much more and giving the player more to do.

I’m actually kind of excited for the game again. And unlike the last time, the game is already out! I can go play it! I have been playing it for about a week now and still enjoying going in and exploring more. I am probably going to restart with 1.3. And I’m probably going to YouTube it like I said I was going to over a year ago. It seems surreal that the game took an extra year, but it feels like it is finally starting to live up to its promise.