No Man’s Sky

In all the history of gaming, there are only a handful of games that we can generally accept as “comebacks” from their launch failures. FF14 gets most of the attention, but we forget how it was shut down and relaunched, acting more as a sequel than an iteration. No Man’s Sky however, that’s something altogether different.

Launched in 2016, it was touted as a near-infinite procedurally generated miracle. The hype machine was going full speed. What actually launched was a proof of concept of a universe builder and exploring simulation. A sense of ownership and place just didn’t exist, and gamers were not pleased. The developers took the flak, shut down most social media, and then decided to get to work.

Foundations was the first post-launch release, about 3 months later. It started things off with being able to create a home base. There have been 30+ releases since launch, culminating with version 4.0 – Waypoint, and a Switch release. The most recent one streamlines a lot of the starting experience, and provides a “relaxed” mode that fits between survival and sandbox.

I’ve had NMS since 2018. It was on my radar for a very long time, and the mid 2010s continued failure to launch junk had me wary of jumping in. The whole “no presales” bit eventually dove into “wait for reviews”. It was the tail end of the 1.x content, which if I recall was what the game’s original launch vision was supposed to be. I gave it a go, and lasted a few days. The training wheels section was both painful and too short, with survival mechanics that were a major source of friction.

I’d pop back in every year and a bit, start a new save and see where it lead. The pandemic certainly gave time. If I played sandbox mode, the sense of exploration was dramatically neutered because you had everything at hand. If I played the normal mode, then it felt like I was in the northern wilderness continually finding base materials to fix my mining laser. I wouldn’t say I despise, but certainly have an aversion to survival mechanics that are simply time padding. I think we all have enough of that in the real world, right?

4.0 came out a week+ ago, and with it came relaxed mode. The “default” relaxed mode is essentially survival without so much friction… things take the same amount of materials to construct, but they just last longer. Not having to recharge your suit or mining laser is AMAZING! Death is far less frequent as well, which is a huge boon as combat is not this game’s strong suit. The game just becomes substantially more accessible to everyone. And on top of that, there’s a slew of additional toggles you can use to add/remove difficulty to the game.

I realize I haven’t even gotten into the game mechanics yet, and honestly, I think that’s for the best. There’s no singular answer to what NMS actually is. The things it does offer are rarely in isolation of each other, which makes it that much more surprising as you go through. You can treat it like a base builder if you want. A pirate hunter. A trade empire. An exploration adventure. In small spaces, it had multiplayer as well. It may be easier to explain the things it doesn’t do.

I’ve personally focused on the main Atlas Path quest, to find the source of truth of the universe. I’ve got a simple base, my starter ship, a stupidly powerful multi-tool (through sheer RNG), tons of new languages learnt, a settlement to take care of, and two dozen or so systems discovered. And it still feels like I’m standing in the surf of an endless ocean. A clear research path leads ahead of me. There are a dozen breadcrumbs quests open to add more complexity to the gameplay loop. And I’m still enjoying the gameplay loop.

I’m frankly awestruck as the sheer volume of content here, and overall polish. It’s one of those few games that everyone should give a try.

3 thoughts on “No Man’s Sky

  1. Maybe in our circles FFXIV might have the edge for recognition as a come-back, but I’d hazard a guess that more generally it is NMS that most people’s mind springs to first of all.

    Either way, it is undeniable how far it has come. I’m probably not going to jump back in for 4.0; as I feel like that patch is a little underwhelming just vs. the significance of the x.0 number of the patch. I do understand a lot of it was background tech for the Switch, plus, Endurance was so close (3.9x I think?) that I suspected we’d get a relatively small one here. Still… I hoped to be wrong. xD

    If I were to level just one criticism though: I wish the updates more generally would focus more of their effort on deepening systems. Not to say that they don’t do any of this — and as you also alluded to, there is a lot of interconnectivity between the various systems which helps the feeling of depth.

    But still… What I wouldn’t give for a deeper trade system that considered the fact other NPCs exist and travel too!


    • I would go so far as to call it a shallow pool, but I do agree there could be more depth to some systems. Some feel like there’s a quest or something to unlock the next level, but nope.

      I will say, as with most games with logistical planning, the move from manual to more automation is an unpleasant hurdle. Even factorio and DSP have that challenge.

      More of a nitpick mind you, this is all FREE content years after launch. I don’t get how that math works.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The commercials of it blow my mind too. I can only imagine that they do much better on the sales around update time than I would’ve thought possible this long into the games life.

        Perhaps backing that up is the fact that NMS has spent the last two weeks in the top 100 sales chart of Steam, seemingly without a discount. (Although I think there is usually a short discount period around the launch of an update, which probably helped for week 1, and it has dropped 5 places this week to the 41st slot.)

        Liked by 1 person

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