There is no doubt that No Man’s Sky had a fairly rough start. Released in August this year, it was certainly one of the most hyped up game releases of 2016, and with great hype comes great responsibility. Developer Hello Games faced a lot of criticism for what was deemed “false advertising” by a lot of the game’s fans. However, after months of work, Hello Games has released the No Man’s Sky Foundation update.
Foundation has now been live on PS4 and PC for just over a week. The new features and changes all seemed very impressive, but will they be enough to appease the masses of disappointed and frustrated players?
Let’s take a deeper look at the No Man’s Sky Foundation update (1.1) and whether its features measure up to the developers’ promises.
New Game Modes
One of the first features players will notice upon dusting off the cobwebs on their No Man’s Sky install is that there are now three game modes available to choose from. Players can find their existing saves in “Normal”, which remains the same relaxed exploration experience. The new modes are “Survival” and “Creative”. Both of these will require starting fresh.
Survival is a much more challenging experience. For a start, environmental dangers are much more damaging. To add to that, it’s more difficult to find resources you might need to make repairs to your exosuit or ship. Alien creatures are more hostile and dangerous, and sentinels seem to be a lot more aggressive. Doing some fairly basic resource-gathering had me chased into a building by two sentinels within a few minutes of beginning my journey in Survival mode. The sentinels can still be avoided by hiding out in a shelter of some kind, but they do a lot more damage than before.
My experience with Survival mode, especially from starting completely fresh, is that you are going to suffer a lot from extreme environments. The new starter planet I got was highly toxic, and my toxic protection drained rapidly. My life support was constantly draining and I couldn’t find the resources to recharge it. The additional challenges that come with this game mode have given it a new lease of life, however. I immediately felt more drive to survive, which was something that wasn’t apparent in the original release.
Creative mode, on the other hand, is a very relaxed experience. Creative allows players to build to their heart’s content, with much more freedom and fewer restrictions. In fact, players in Creative spawn right next to a base they can start expanding. This means they can really put the new base-building feature to the test, which we should talk about next.
This Is My Planet
Something that Sean Murray, Managing Director of Hello Games, stated very early on was that base-building would not be a thing in No Man’s Sky. The aim of the game was to be exploration. He felt that setting up camp on one planet defeated the purpose. However, the devs were very happy to take feedback and make adjustments as they saw fit if players seemed interested in a particular feature or design direction.
This is exactly what happened with base-building. It wasn’t in the initial release, but players were clearly interested in having the ability to construct buildings and have a “home planet” to return to. With the No Man’s Sky Foundation update, players can set up a base and construct buildings to call their home.
To get started, players have to locate a habitable base. Not all planets will have these buildings, but when they do there’ll be an interaction inside that allows you to set at as your home. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to expand the base using materials you’ve found on your journey.
Building Your Base
The building mechanics are pretty similar to those of Subnautica, an underwater survival game that’s currently in early access. Players can construct segments of buildings such as rooms and corridors. They can then decorate the interior using the available items, including simple items such as beds and tables with chairs, or more useful items like galactic trade terminals.
Bases can be dismantled to refund all the materials used to build them. While it’ll be a pain to have to reconstruct everything on a new planet if you decide to move, at least you get the resources back and don’t have to go and mine them all over again from scratch.
The building feature is very simple, but effective, though with some kinks that need ironing out. For example, segments are supposed to “snap” together and it can be quite fiddly at times. And while you can unlock additional construction items through quests and a Construction Terminal, there is definitely room for more. I hope to see Hello Games introduce new decorative items and ways to customize your base to your liking.
Becoming the Farmer You Always Wanted to Be
I have always fantasized about a game where I could be a space farmer. Not even kidding: the idea of farming in a dome on a planet, trying to help my colony grow, just really appeals to me. When I heard that farming was coming to No Man’s Sky, honestly, I was pretty excited.
You can build hydroponics stations and grow new plants. These provide you with necessary resources and of course cold, hard cash. I’ll be honest, while I’m glad this feature made it in, it’s not super exciting. It’s pretty simple. I’d love to see some more hands-on farming, though I fully admit that’s probably not for everyone.
Oh yeah, and remember that cold, hard cash we talked about? You will certainly need it if you want to purchase things like the new freighters.
Go Big or Go Home
Of course, not everyone wants to settle down on one planet. For those players, they can dock on a freighter and purchase it for a few million in-game Units. These freighters can be customized much like a base (though with a few restrictions) and serve as a place to store loot. This is a great new feature, as tossing valuable resources to free up inventory space sometimes felt frustrating. Even better, their cargo bay can be expanded, providing you with even more storage space.
Freighters have a lot of the same features as regular on-planet bases. Farming is possible onboard, and materials and resources from the planet below can be teleported quickly to your Freighter for storage. Players can even recruit NPCs to join their crew, much like they can do with a base.
Getting NPC Help
Players can recruit aliens to their base from space stations, or to join their freighter crew. They will help you develop your base, and offer small quests to do for them in return. For example, the construction terminal must be staffed by a recruit from a station. This NPC will then provide you with blueprints and quests. Quests can provide you with the recipes you need to craft important components.
NPCs already existed in No Man’s Sky, but allowing players to populate their own bases and freighters with crew has done a lot to add a little bit of additional depth to the game. There’s more to do, and a lot of the new features feel like they have an added purpose. This is something that was distinctly lacking in the initial release. It’s also nice to have a reason to talk to an alien apart from trying to buy his ship!
But What About Multiplayer
Now, the real sticking point for No Man’s Sky: multiplayer. It was very unclear for a long time whether two players could meet up and play together in the game. In fact, Hello Games was a bit vague about how “multiplayer” worked. Except it didn’t, really.
Foundation hasn’t completely changed the game’s landscape. Players still cannot meet up with one another, even if they’re on the same planet at exactly the same time. However, in the build menu, you can find a “Communications Station”. This simple construction allows players to leave short messages for one another that other explorers can find if they land on your planet in the future. This is somewhat similar to the notes left in the Souls games.
What message will you choose to leave for future explorers? Perhaps a warning about hostile creatures to look out for, or maybe just a simple greeting to let explorers know they’re not alone in the universe.
It’s a small step in the right direction.
Graphical Tweaks and Performance Improvements
Hello Games has added motion blur and temporal anti-aliasing, as well as tweaking a few visual things about No Man’s Sky. For example, they’ve removed the more “dull” looking planets and made them more vibrant. For a game that had an already pretty over-saturated appearance, that is an interesting move. I was slightly disappointed to find out that my beautiful Mintberry Fields planet, which had minty grass and colorful flora, has turned green somehow in the update. However, I still decided to build my home base here.
One thing that I will praise them for is finally improving the stability of the game. Its optimization wasn’t the best, and this is coming from someone with a very beefy PC set-up. Many players had to set the game to run on only half of their cores, otherwise, they’d find micro-lag that became somewhat frustrating. This also negatively impacted people streaming the game, as it would fight with some streaming software for resources.
There has been a lot of improvement here, though. The game now runs very smoothly and doesn’t seem to have as many issues as it did before.
Is It All Enough?
The big question on everyone’s minds is: is the No Man’s Sky Foundation update enough to keep the game going? Honestly, that will depend on the player and their initial experience. I personally went in pretty blind and was pleased with the game, even though I felt like it didn’t provide a ton of content for the cost. Foundation is a great extension of what already existed and provides me with a lot of things I enjoy.
The similarities to Subnautica, in particular, have encouraged me to spend a lot longer in the game. If this really is the “foundation for things to come”, as Hello Games said in their patch notes, then this is a really great sign for the game’s future. However, they still have a long way to go to regain the trust of players who were excited and left with a sour taste in their mouths after the launch.
Anyone who already enjoyed the game, even if they’d taken an extended break like I did, will find new and engaging content to try out now. If the game wasn’t to your liking before, however, there isn’t enough of a change here to lure you back just now. No Man’s Sky is still the same game, with the same core gameplay. It’s still just as repetitive as before. The difference now is that you have more purpose in the universe than just flying around discovering things for the sake of it
This is still a game that I think has a ton of potential. If Hello Games remains dedicated to making changes, their core community will keep playing and enjoying it. It’s definitely one to watch for the upcoming winter sales, but I’d recommend against picking it up at full price just yet.
Have you been playing the No Man’s Sky Foundation update? Let us know what you think in the comments!Related: Article, Hello Games, No Man's Sky, Sandbox, Space, Survival, Update