August 9, 2016: a date which will live in infamy. No, it didn’t quite ignite a conflict or grind the Earth’s rotation to a halt, but it did, for a small Guildford, UK-based game developer, seem very much like the beginning of the end. On that day, No Man’s Sky—a game which had generated so much hype that titles like Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Half-Life 3 nearly paled in comparison—was released to an audience of soon-to-be-disappointed gamers.
In a now famously unfortunate turn of events, Hello Games would maintain near radio silence as their credibility was decimated by a hoard of angry online consumers. The game was extremely barebones compared to what had previously been shown, and accusations of manipulation and deception would very quickly make their way to Hello Games’ head Sean Murray’s doorstep.
“It was as bad as things can get,” Murray would comment in an interview after the fact. “The internet is really good at knowing when somebody has made a mistake.” Yet, Murray’s mistake was more of a bold faced lie in the minds of many, and the poor quality of No Man’s Sky at launch would leave plenty of early adopters irrevocably spurned.
Hello Games wouldn’t give up on the project, though, and No Man’s Sky continued to receive support which would ultimately culminate in the recently-released No Man’s Sky NEXT update. This major patch has given plenty of players a reason to come back to No Man’s Sky’s cosmos, yet a few core kinks remain which still taint the experience.
30 Worth Returning: A Helping Hand
As concurrent updates have continued to add new features, resources, and items to the game over the two-year post-release span, fans have voiced concerns relating to the sheer amount of undocumented content available in-game. For months, it was up to the players to categorize and organize the resources in their inventories. The NEXT update changes this, and every element of crafting material can be found in a comprehensive guide alongside blueprints and other helpful tidbits. While some players previously may have been turned off by the game’s relatively hands-off approach to resource management, many of these issues have now been addressed.
29 Remaining Issues: Random Number Generation
No Man’s Sky is, at its core, still a game about interplanetary exploration. Though it now places an emphasis on multiplayer and toutes a relatively-engaging storyline, Hello Games has still built a survival crafting simulator very much reliant on the random generation systems which dictate the title’s inner workings. While stumbling upon a resource-rich planet or duking it out with some randomly-generated terrestrial fauna may be fun, it is equal parts frustrating to players who aren’t often afforded these experiences. Space is still a vast, unforgiving vacuum, and many players know all-too-well the sting of poor RNG.
28 Worth Returning: Character Creator
One of the most disappointing aspects of No Man’s Sky circa 2016 was the stunning lack of even the smallest amount of character customization. In fact, prior to the NEXT update, the game’s camera was tethered to a first-person perspective, and there was nary a player character model of which to speak. This has all been changed, thankfully, and the addition of a relatively-robust character creation system has come tandem to a new third-person camera option. Now players can explore the boundless cosmos as one of several different aliens, and they can deck their new creatures out in plenty of different colors and outfits.
27 Remaining Issues: Save State
Though this quirk has by and large been patched out at this point, a few players are still experiencing issues related to loading saved games. A few foul-ups and issues are to be expected for a patch of this size and scope, but it is unfortunate that hours of work and exploration could unceremoniously be corrupted and erased. Hello Games, to their credit, have mostly addressed this issue, though dedicated NMS players may want to take the old adage “save early, save often” to heart for the next couple of weeks.
26 Worth Returning: Cooperative Story Progression
At launch, the story present in No Man’s Sky was by and large considered to be pretty underwhelming. Though immense in terms of scope, there was hardly any sort of incentive aside from a vague direction to reach the center of the galaxy, the payoff for which was unimpressive, to say the least. However, though a majority of NMS’s new story beats have been added in previous updates, the NEXT update makes the game’s newly-robust campaign fully explorable in co-op. This means that players can squad up and take on the infinite together, and it adds an incredible amount of depth and replayability to a game once thought to be dead in the water.
25 Remaining Issues: Ship Customization
While plenty of players have been boasting about the impressive new fleet system by which explorers may amass an armada of ships for trading or combat purposes, the customization option available for the players own ship are still shockingly limited. In reality, there really is no way to change the cosmetic aesthetics of your ship without the use of a mod or two, and it’s a disappointing oversight given the amount of attention Hello Games has payed to other aspects of their title. Now that other players can join in the fun, it would be nice to allow players to show off their unique, flashy, custom-designed ship exteriors. That is, at the moment, not possible, still not possible.
24 Worth Returning: Biological Horror
No Man’s Sky was essentially devoid of any meaningful PvE encounters at launch, much to the chagrin of many early adopters. However, this has been amended in the two years since initial release, and Hello Game’s universe is now teeming with interesting and unique forms of life. Most captivating would be the new xenomorph-like monstrosities the game refers to as “biological horrors.” These strange extraterrestrial entities will swarm unsuspecting players and overrun those unprepared to fight. Not only do these weird beings pose a significant threat, but they add a much-needed level of intrigue and fear to the game.
23 Remaining Issues: This Place Seems Familiar…
One major complaint which persists prior to the NEXT update would be the issues of biome variety. The game has been updated to deliver more interesting and varied terrain, though that doesn’t change the fact that, on the whole, there really are only a handful of different environs players may come across. No Man’s Sky veterans will quickly become familiar with everything the game’s random generation can develop, and, despite offering a major improvement to the base game’s mechanics, things can still sometimes become dull in a hurry.
22 Worth Returning: Ancient Aliens
One of the most interesting new inclusions to planetary geometry may be the new ancient alien relics players may stumble across. These strange monoliths are beautiful while suggesting a faint hint of mystery and fear. Lucky players may be able to scavenge some valuable loot from these structures, and they break up the monotony of coming across crashed spaceship after crashed spaceship as was the case in previous iterations of this cosmically kaleidoscopic space extravaganza. New players would do well to keep an eye out for these things.
21 Remaining Issues: Seen One Alien, Seen ‘Em All
Though vastly improved from the freakshow present in the initial version of the game, No Man’s Sky still doesn’t offer a ton in the way of terrestrial animal variety. Players had tons of fun jeering at the bizarre monstrosities the game’s engine would cobble together when it was first released, and, while much less laughable these days, we aren’t quite at the jaw-dropping level of creature design present in the 2014 E3 demo. Just about every No Man’s Sky player has subtly been hoping for that awe-inspiring moment of biological discovery akin to that scene from the first Jurassic Park movie. For many, though, that just hasn’t happened yet.
20 Worth Returning: Free Of Charge
It would have been a headline for the ages had it not been handled this way, but it is worth noting that Hello Games has offered the entirety of No Man’s Sky’s post-launch content updates for absolutely free. Had they had the gall to charge for most of these fixes, it would have been nothing short of a total scandal and would have likely caused the studio to shut down, but it is likely that larger, greedier, less-scrupulous studios like EA or Ubisoft are not beyond pushing out some broken software and charging for fixes in the form of DLC. Hello Games may still be in the doghouse for many, but their tenacity is appreciable.
19 Remaining Issues: 4K Is Still Shaky
No Man’s Sky has been able to run at 4K for quite a while now, but, ever since it became an option, players have struggled with issues relating to framerate. While chugging, inconsistent frames are and will remain an unfortunate side-effect of gaming in 4K for the remainder of this console generation, things are particularly bad in Hello Game’s infamous production. In certain instances, the game simply cannot maintain 30fps at 4K on consoles, which can result in a stilted, nearly unplayable experience. While some players may prefer the increased visual fidelity to a consistent frame rate, it remains an issue for many.
18 Worth Returning: Heavenly Bodies
While it may seem like a relatively minor addition to the overall experience, NMS faithful have been losing their collective minds over the fact that some planets are now orbited by rings. It really is a thing to behold, and witnessing it on a 480p YouTube video doesn't quite do it justice. Sure, at the end of the day, it is a video game, but No Man Sky’s galaxy has nonetheless been made so much more believable my these added details. Gazing out into the night sky on a new planet and seeing a neighboring planet adorned with cascading, gold-tinted rings is an experience which, to some, redeems all of Hello Games’ previous wrongdoings.
17 Remaining Issues: Outdated
This will be a point of contention among most No Man’s Sky players, but the fact remains that Hello Games’ epic galactic adventure was conceived and developed during a time in which survival crafting games were much more popular. Before the likes of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds showed up and ushered us all kicking and screaming into the era of battle royale, games like Minecraft, Day Z, and Terraria had everybody scavenging for supplies and pursuing some nebulous, nearly-unreachable goal. Hello Games is certainly allowed to pursue whichever creative ends they see fit, but it must be said that the core identity of No Man’s Sky is a bit behind the times.
16 Worth Returning: It Finally Has (A Lot) Of Content
We all know that No Man’s Sky was a painfully barebones, shallow experience when it launched back in 2016. It may have delivered on the vaguest of promises and been an all-around functioning title, but it was so devoid of content that many players simply gave up before ever reaching the center of the galaxy. Much has changed over the 24 months since the game was first made publicly available, of course, and the game is absolutely brimming with content when compared to the build released at launch. It may not be the most gripping sci-fi title available, but No Man’s Sky is and has always been about player-ordained entertainment. Players are invited to make their own fun in No Man’s Sky, and, after NEXT, that is much easier to do.
15 Remaining Issues: Performance On PC Is Still Lackluster
If there’s one thing that grinds the graphics cards of most dedicated PC gamers, it’s the rampant console-ification of the video game market. In generations past, games were developed with PC in mind and then downgraded and ported over to consoles. Today, the opposite is true, and many products arrive on Windows and Mac lacking in many necessary PC-centric features. This is, to some extent, still true of No Man’s Sky, and game performance varies wildly depending on the player’s setup. This is to be expected given the hundreds of thousands of unique systems on which the game could be run, but it is a shame to see that, even after this massive update, major issues persist.
14 Worth Returning: Squashing The Bugs
Not only was the original version of No man’s Sky a completely underwhelming and mostly uninteresting experience, but it also came riddled with weird bugs and glitches which made the experience nearly painful to play. To the minds of many, the first versions of No Man’s Sky simply weren’t worth the effort they required to push through, and plenty of players simply requested refunds rather than doing their best with what was given to them. Two years later, the NEXT patch has by-and-large ironed out many of the recurring issues which sidelined many fans, and Hello Games’ cartoony space-sim is all the better for it.
13 Remaining Issues: Not Built For Combat
Despite new and unique PvP elements present in the game, No Man’s Sky still obviously wasn’t built from the ground up to implement deep combat systems. While players can certainly make do with what they have, the game’s singular weapon, though infinitely customizable, just doesn’t provide enough visceral sci-fi firepower to make these segments of the game really all that memorable. This is a shame, as many new story elements require the player to get their hands dirty, and a new set of menacing alien monsters leave absolutely no room for peaceful negotiations. This will vary on a case-by-case basis, but the combat in No Man’s Sky just isn’t all that compelling.
12 Worth Returning: Brave New World
Planet terrain generation was painfully dull and uninteresting at launch, and most heavenly bodies available to explore in No Man’s Sky were ludicrously boring. Aside from the occasional biome made hazardous by either extreme cold or ridiculously acidic environs, most worlds felt much to homogenous. In a game largely centered around the joys of galactic exploration, it was very disappointing to hop from planet to planet only to play spot the difference in each new section. NEXT has made No Man’s Sky’s worlds much more interesting and individual, which, in turn, makes for a vastly improved overall experience.
11 Remaining Issues: What is NEXT For The GOG Version?
Though it must be a relatively small fraction of the total No Man’s Sky player base, those who saw fit to purchase the game from CD Projekt Red’s famous Good ol’ Games service may be disappointed to learn that many of the updates featured in the NEXT content patch will not be making their way to the platform until later this year. This would be a major bummer for newcomers to the game, and CD Projekt Red has, independent of Hello Games themselves, started offering refunds to players spurned by this seemingly unfair practice. CD Projekt Red is covering these costs themselves, which is a great gesture, but it would be even better if their benevolence weren’t necessary in the first place.
10 Worth Returning: Multiplayer
This should be obvious to just about anyone with a casual understanding of No Man’s Sky, but long-promised multiplayer features have finally made their way into the game via the NEXT updates. This has opened up an entirely new dimension of gameplay and revitalized the experience in ways previously considered to be impossible. It is great to see Hello Games stay true to their words and provide loyal players with all of the features they originally planned on including. It would have been nice to have had access to this sort of gameplay from the get-go, but the fact that we’ve received these updates at all is sort of an industry marvel.
9 Remaining Issues: Too little, Too Late
Mileage may vary when it comes to No Man Sky’s gameplay, and it’s fair to say that, even after all of these new content patches, fixes, and ancillary additions, No Man’s Sky still isn’t for everyone. A small fraction of early adopters may have felt so betrayed by Hello Games that they either refunded the game of swore off of it entirely. Boycotts and outrage are fairly standard occurrences in the internet age, but the backlash surrounding No Man’s Sky was severe enough to permanently damage the game’s reputation. NMS may have gone through an impressive metamorphosis, but, for some players, there will never be a good reason to return.
8 Worth Returning: Improved Tutorial
This applies less to returning veterans of No Man’s Sky’s colorful vacuum and more to new players, but the game’s tutorial has been revamped to be much more informative and slightly less obtuse than before. The gameplay systems on offer in Hello Games space exploration software aren’t all that in depth, and those familiar with similarly-structured survival experiences likely won’t feel all that out of place. However, for those either just joining or returning after years of inactivity, NMS’s new, more streamlined tutorial is likely to improve initial opinions and enhance public perception of the game as a whole.
7 Remaining Issues: Turn And Burn
Exploration in the initial release of this colorful, cartoony space exploration title didn’t feel all that rewarding or even totally necessary. What was out there waiting for players to discover in far-off star systems probably wouldn’t be all that different from what was already at their feet, and interstellar was so resource intensive that it almost wasn’t even worth the effort. That said, while some of these mechanics have been fine-tuned, base building still requires an obscene amount of resources, and player-generated structures are likely to be stationed around massive craters carved out of the planet by bored individuals in search of resources. Base building is now a major draw to the game, but it’s also far too costly at present.
6 Worth Returning: Commander To The Bridge
The earliest gameplay examples of No Man’s Sky from 2014 promised grand PvP space battles, epic player-led gunship armadas, and fantastical fleets exploring the far-flung reaches of deep space. Nothing of that sort, of course, was available upon release of Hello Games’ hotly anticipated sim. However, stalwart players who managed to stick to the game despite all of its shortcomings were recently rewarded with huge updates to in-game interplanetary travel. The NEXT update allows players to amass entire battalions of ships and use them for trading, combat, and tons of other stuff.
5 Remaining Issues: Refinery
In an attempt to add a layer of depth to the crafting elements available in No Man’s Sky, Hello Games has seen fit to implement the brand-new refining mechanic. Now, players can refine resources to make them more potent and useful. The downside of this is that crafting in video games is more often than not a means to an end. While the construction of sprawling bases or upgraded weaponry is what spurs the player onward, resource allocation is very seldom considered to be a worthwhile addition to the gameplay. The new refinery system muddles the crafting elements of the game and, in the minds of some players, introduces an unnecessary element of complication to the game as a whole.
4 Worth Returning: Weekly Events
While No Man’s Sky pre-NEXT was an incredibly isolated experience, this colorful space exploration title now oozes with multiplayer elements. Not only can players squad up to take on alien hoards, plan out and construct massive terrestrial bases, and engage in PvP space combat, but they can also compete to outdo each other in weekly events which reward players with useful rewards and bragging rights. This is a feature seen in games of all sorts these days, and it’s certainly a welcome inclusion to No Man’s Sky.
3 Remaining Issues: Trust Me, I’m An Engineer
Base building mechanics were introduced to No Man’s Sky not long after initial release, and, though fairly rudimentary when first included in the Foundation Update in November of 2016, they were nonetheless a necessary addition which may have brought the game back from the brink of total player abandonment. While slightly more robust and developed in 2018, the base building options available in No Man’s Sky are still relatively lackluster. Players are limited in that they may only cobble structures together out of a set of prefab building pieces, which makes each and every base feel relatively homogenous regardless of layout.
2 Worth Returning: Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Obtaining rare resources used to be a total drag and would quickly devolve into little more than a boring time sink as players were forced into nearly stripmining entire planets by themselves in pursuit of some seemingly magical ore made mandatory by some crafting schematic. The NEXT update has severely reduced these issues, and every material available in the in-game guide can be found by way of a revolutionary new mini side quest system. Selecting an item in the guide will introduce a set of waypoints which the player may follow to find said material, and it dramatically reduces the amount of uninteresting down time in the game.
1 Remaining Issues: Mining Operation
Despite the new, streamlined system by which players can quickly discover any item they want, scanning planets and mining for resources remains nonetheless relatively boring. This will vary from person to person, but the act of carving out a planet’s countryside in pursuit of some more materials is much more tiresome than it should be. These qualms are reduced in the game’s creative mode, of course, though the issues persist for those hoping to strike a balance between the game’s various difficulty modes.