That’s right… I can hardly believe it myself but I’m goin BACK into No Man’s Sky for the third time! A year after it’s release and this will be my third post covering changes we’ve seen in the game. My first post on Player Defined Goals covered the initial launch of the game, while “Survival Games” covered the Foundation update. Today we’ll be talking about the “Atlas Rises” update to No Man’s Sky, what’s changed, what’s good, and how do we define a “completed” game?
Going back through my initial post on No Man’s Sky, I’ve realized how the motivating factors have stayed true since the beginning… yet they’ve been more developed. In my original posting on No Man’s Sky, I concluded :
“I believe it’s more fun to establish your own goals, when you understand the game goals and can play with them, or go outside of them on your own. There’s a real sense of fulfillment when you feel as though you’re “gaming the system,” and working on the fringes of the game’s overarching goals. Yet when the game is purely based off of your own goals, and without the appropriate depth to make it creatively driven, players can be left feeling aimless.”
I think in many ways the game has solved this problem. There’s a TON more to do in the game, and more clear directions. Clearly defined main quests, and side quests that are generated based off of what you’re doing. They’ve also covered that creativity itch that was lacking on the initial launch. With the introduction of base building, players can potentially spend hours designing and modifying their base. While base building was introduced in the previous update, it’s been revamped in the Atlas Rises update. There’s more building materials, different quests, and higher limits to how much “stuff” you can put on your house. I have to say, this is really what hooked me back in at first. I became pretty adamant about my new base… specifically how I wanted to have a large landing pad at it’s center, which would allow ships to land and trade their goods.
Coming back into No Man’s Sky, it feels a bit like a new galaxy. Frankly some of the planets have literally changed, but there are quite a few fundamental changes. New vendors in space stations offering both new blue prints but also new quests. These quests not only help you gain units but also reputation between three different factions. Overall it feels like there is more happening when you fly into a galaxy, more ships flying around, new exotic class ships, larger fleets, etc. There’s also new alien race that you can encounter and engage with on space stations. Of all the new elements in the game, I have to really applaud the new dynamic quests that you get introduced to. While flying I received a distress call on my ship, which has never happened before. When you answer you receive a small holographic display of “someone” from this new alien race, who is stranded and lost on a planet… something I think all players experience at some point in this game… This quest brings players on a journey to find this traveler by triangulating their signal, interacting with new types of unique buildings, and communicating with some other very strange/shady characters… Overall this was very cool and brought a lot of the mystery back into the game.
The question I find myself asking is, “Does No Man’s Sky feel like a completed game?” I think due to it’s sordid history, it makes it a difficult question to answer. If someone were to enter the game now, having never played it before, would we still have the controversy that was previously felt towards the game? Having played the game through the iterations, each update does markedly improve the game. The control updates have really improved the player experience overall, the updated quests feel fresh, and base building is fun. There’s other stuff that still feels incomplete in my opinion. The idea of factions are very exciting, but there’s no real reward to gaining reputation. As you gain in level it merely unlocks high level fetch quests… There’s also no way of interacting with these factions… It would be neat to find a unique vessel that’s for the “Merchant’s Guild” that would allow me access to unique items depending on my rank, etc. I love the updates to the ships, but after talking so much about base building I realize what a bummer it is that I can’t customize my ship... I mean sure I can make upgrades for it but how neat would it be if when I added a new weapon or sensor on my ship, it was represented physically? There’s also still a pretty big inventory problem in the game, I spent ages searching out an exotic ship only to find that these ships tend to have very low inventory space… limiting a player’s upgrade possibilities. There’s also the new feature that allows you to see other players in No Man’s Sky as floating “orbs.” While neat, honestly it just highlights the fact that there still isn’t multiplayer or coop in this game. No Man’s Sky would be incredibly fun to explore with a friend, instead of the current feeling of isolation.
There are many elements to the game that are good and many that feel incomplete… yet with it’s history I’d bet they will be completed later? And is that a good thing? As a player should I be playing something that’s basically incomplete and patient for when an update arrives? I think it has a lot to do with expectations. If No Man’s Sky was initially launched as a “beta” then I think that would change the paradigm quite a bit. The other saving grace is that these updates are free, so as a player I feel less slighted as they continue to try to deliver on their promises. It’s a strange relationship between players and No Man’s Sky, after the initial heat the developers received on launch and a year later seeing them still releasing content… they’ve sort of proven their commitment. I don’t doubt that a lot of the features are going to continue to be fleshed out, but is it too late? I guess only time will tell, I could potentially see a huge resurgence in the game if they manage to figure out multiplayer. Until then No Man’s Sky continues to be a very interesting lesson in game development. Just as Hello Games hasn’t given up on No Man’s Sky, I’ll probably be back to see where they are in the future.
I make games, I play games... and sometimes I have some thoughts about that.