One Year After Launch, No Man’s Sky Getting Third Major Update
When No Man’s Sky launched last year it flew into a buzzsaw of criticism. The game’s lead designer and studio head, Sean Murray, lied about what the final game would look like and, in the process, created an enormous amount of user expectation that the game didn’t even come close to fulfilling. Over the last year, Hello Games has worked to repair the damage it did to its own reputation by cranking out updates and improvements to NMS. The third major update, Atlas Rises, is arriving soon, with new story material, the ability to quickly travel between locations, and a variety of other changes and improvements. The update is expected to be available later this week.
Atlas Rises is the conclusion of an augmented-reality game that NMS has been playing with its fans for the past few months, when it mailed cassette tapes to people with a code word hidden within sounds on the tape. That code word turned out to be “portals,” and that’s one of the major features the new update delivers. As Eurogamer notes, the portals are themselves a huge callout to Stargate, with a DHD (dial-home device) and ring-like teleporter.
I can hear Walter now. “Chevron 1 is… lit up.”
Over the last 12 months, NMS has added vehicles, the ability to own multiple starships with meaningfully different variations, base-building, space-based freighters, a survival-style play mode, the option to share base designs with other players, support for user modding, a permadeath option, and now, with Atlas Rising, a significant plot overhaul and additional storyline.
These new updates (the author hadn’t previously tested any of them) fundamentally transform the game, Eurogamer points out, by giving you a central location to return to rather than continuing to push forward into new territory forever. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, having a permanent base allows for new gameplay options and abilities, but it also changes the focus of NMS from a game where you were forever pushing forward into new frontiers into a game where you have a more conventional cycle of building, resource gathering, and research. It’s a far cry from where the game was when it launched, when it inspired videos like the below.
Eurogamer writes that the end result is a game that remains broad but fairly shallow, with a story that’s still frustratingly opaque and little difference between the various alien factions. Alternately, even a simple multiplayer system that let you explore and play with friends would open up an entire new world of gameplay options and collaborations.
The consistent criticism of NMS has been that it’s shallow, and issues like this are why I’ve never had much love for games that rely on procedurally generated content to drive their worlds. Telling a good story often takes a backseat in these designs, and it’s extremely difficult to build a procedural world that doesn’t wear out quickly. Still, Hello Games deserves credit for sticking with its title and continuing to update it.
According to Steam Spy, NMS still has a faithful community of 40K to 60K users who log in on a regular basis. While the game should never have launched in the state it was in a year ago, and Sean Murray has to own the way he helped create that disaster, both he and Hello Games have spent a year hammering No Man’s Sky into shape. The current title is, by all accounts, vastly better than what shipped with 1.0, and if you’ve still got the game in your Steam library it may be worth a second look.