The game delivered on its promise of offering a near-infinite, procedurally generated universe to explore, with unique biomes and aliens to discover, but enraged some gamers for either not delivering on their personal vision of what it’d be like to be a pioneering space explorer, or for failing to meet the naively excitable way in which Hello Games’ boss Sean Murray talked about the potential future scope for the game.
Fast-forward two years and No Man’s Sky remains that strange, unusually-evocative and often-inspiring game, but now with a dedicated hardcore fanbase that has been treated to a series of significant and free updates which have improved on that core initial offering. But things are about to change in a huge way.
July 24 sees the launch of No Man’s Sky Next – a mammoth, free update that adds everything from character customization to a long-awaited multiplayer mode. For many, it looks the game No Man’s Sky always promised to be.
Whether you’re new to the game, a diehard fan or a lapsed astronaut looking to jump back into hyperspace, here’s why now is the time to return to No Man’s Sky.
What's new in No Man's Sky Next?
No Man’s Sky’s base game cycle remains unchanged – you wake up having crash landed on an uncharted planet, and must scavenge enough resources to rebuild your ship and fly off to all manner of never-before-seen locations.
Recent updates since the launch have seen the addition of base building and vehicular travel, but the Next update offers a whole lot more. There are dozens upon dozens of small improvements being made to the game, but these are the things you should check out first.
No Man's Sky multiplayer
While No Man’s Sky was always devised as a relatively solitary exploration game, the potential for a Star Trek-like team of players going into the unknown together has always been a request of fans. With the Next update, that’s finally happening, as a true multiplayer mode launches.
A crew of four players can traverse the universe together, helping each other to survive and scavenge. Buildings that you create together can be shared and remain persistent for all players, while dogfights take on a new dimension as multiplayer action allows for tactical play. You’ll also be able to engage in races across the surface of planets.
If you’ve ever wondered what life as a Gek alien would be like, wonder no more – full character customisation will let you be exactly the sort of space hero you want to be, alien lifeforms included.
Building a space base was every kid’s dream, and though it’s not a new feature for Next, it’s hugely improved here. Bases can now be put anywhere on a planet, with the building blocks that make them intelligently carving the rock face for you to accommodate them. The complexity of a base being built has now been dramatically increased, including the size that they can stretch to, with hundreds of new base parts being added. And if just one base isn’t enough, you can now own multiple bases.
No Man’s Sky, with its Chris Foss-inspired designs, always looked a treat, evoking the style of classic sci-fi novels across its colourful designs and worlds. But things will look even better once the No Man’s Sky Next update lands.
For starters, you’ll be able to enjoy the entire game, whether on foot or in your ship, from a third-person point of view, letting see exactly what threads your character is rocking, and the slick chassis of your latest cruiser.
Terrain generation and draw distances have been improved dramatically too, with the topography algorithm tweaked to deliver more interesting landscapes wherever you land. You’ll enjoy generally more detail in every aspect of the game’s look in fact – from ships to to buildings to NPCs, it’s a richer-looking game, with particular effort having gone into improving the look of clouds and bodies of water.
And, for those that had a giggle at the some of the more unfortunate animations the creature algorithm generated, some more nuanced cycles will lead to more believable movement patterns.
Freighters and missions
Freighters, once the reserve of No Man’s Sky’s most elite players, will become available at a far more early point in the game for most players going forwards. These then act as new hubs for play, becoming giant portable bases for your crew. Fully customizable interiors play host to the new frigate system, in which you build a fleet of ships and either send them off on missions in your absence, or join them in quests around the galaxy.
The freighters will also act as the area where you’ll accrue missions for multiplayer gangs. From dogfighting missions and beyond into missions on planetary surfaces, they’ll be key to keeping your buddies busy with things to do.
Weekly challenges and new in-game currency
While not strictly part of the No Man’s Sky Next update, the patch paves the way for a new approach to game updates for developers Hello Games. It’ll soon kick off a new series of challenge events, running weekly, for gamers to take part in. This will unlock an in-game currency that can be used to buy additional, non-essential, extras and cosmetic items, such as unique ships and character customisation options.
And, before the dreaded “in-game purchases” gets brought up, Hello Games assured that it’ll never sell these items for real-world cash – you’ll have to earn them through good-old fashioned play.
No Man's Sky on Xbox One
No Man’s Sky began life as a PS4 console exclusive, and a PC title. But with the No Man’s Sky Next update, it’ll also finally get a launch on the Xbox One family of consoles too. It’ll land complete with all the enhancements seen cumulatively added to the other versions, meaning Xbox players will be able to jump in with the game in the best shape it’s ever been in.
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