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No Man's Sky

Release date: August 9, 2016
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4

Return to No Man’s Sky

The worst best game is making a huge comeback with the introduction of ground vehicles, star gates, updated base building, four game modes and, finally, real multiplayer

Return to No Man’s Sky-1

Back when No Man’s Sky was building hype, pre-release, we knew, from the very first gameplay video that the game would be absolutely gorgeous. We also had reason to believe it would be optimized. And, well, we knew it would cost an arm and a leg. What we didn’t know was what the actual gameplay would be like. It turned out there was no gameplay. None. The whole game played more like a game-jam demo than a full on space adventure experience.

It was the spirit of the times. Gamers had gotten used to funding game developers with Kickstarters and pre-orders, often getting a shoddy version of the game they were promised, and no real improvements to move it towards a completed product. Even Steam’s record smashing, award winning, ground breaking Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds has yet to be properly patched for the real issues and core flaws that make the game nigh-unplayable. But we get new maps though…

But lo and behold, after almost a year of nothing but bad criticism and having his name dragged through the mud, Sean Murray pulled through, and Hello Games have been hard at work taking No Man’s Sky from rags to riches, where it counts – in the core gameplay.

Out with the old, in with the new

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The new improvements to No Man’s Sky started with alterations of the already present assets. You still have your endless universe of procedurally generated planets, but they’re no longer barren and drab. The devs breathed new life into the planets by introducing planetary building, combined with geographic terraforming. Plus, we finally got ground vehicles, for more than just cosmetics. You can use them to mine more effectively, thereby adding a difficulty curve that feels a lot more rewarding than just discovering a planet, and being bored past the first few acres.

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So it’s like Minecraft in space?

No, the building in No Man’s Sky is nothing like that of Minecraft, and that’s awesome! The devs really played their strengths, in that they went with all around smooth polygons with detailed textures that fit the rest of the game like a glove. Your planetary base is not going to be a wonky shack or a hastily built three by three. It’s going to be the pinnacle of space-age architecture, filled to the brim with utility.

The Story

The reason we like this direction is because No Man’s Sky is a very narrative driven game. Even in the earlier versions, the game tried to string together a consistent story through alien artifacts, probes, merchants, stations, and the like. In newer versions the story got a complete overhaul, where instead of throwing out the story elements from before, they rearranged them in a way that tells a tale of the universe, piquing your curiosity, encouraging you to explore further.

In fact, that’s a common thread throughout all recent updates – that the explorative nature of the game is no longer the point of the game, rather it is the beautiful bonus along the way. The journey is now fun for the sake of being fun, but you undertake the journey because you want to learn more about the universe, and boy what a universe it is…

Thinking with portals

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With all the modifications to the existing components of the game, we got a ton of new features that snapped right into place. For instance, No Man’s Sky now features actual stargates. They allow instantaneous travel between planets across vast distances through space. And, they come with a very lore-friendly implementation, with a clear shout out to the Stargate franchise, in that every planet has an address that is represented by a combination of glyphs. So to go to a specific planet you’d quite literally have to enter the address in a format like:

Return to No Man’s Sky-5
For all we know, this spells out ‘’Space Jam Appreciation Club’’

Play it your way

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There are now several different game modes, to allow people to play the game as they see fit.

Normal is standardized across the board. Things are cheap, but not too cheap, fighting is easy, but not too easy. Survival is the beefed up version in the same vein – tougher mobs, tougher universe, tougher protagonist (presumably with superior facial hair).

Permadeath is the masochist dream, letting you push your skills to the limit under Survival difficulty. And finally, you’ve got good old Creative, in case you’re the kind of busy bee who just wants to stretch some creative muscle.

The Coup De Grâce

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You could flush all the other changes down the drain and still, this one improvement will redeem the game, pull it from the depths of the seventh circle of gaming hell and elevate it to godlike status. – No Man’s Sky now has multiplayer! Not the silly ‘’You can see floating orbs representing people, once in a while’’ kind that they thought would be passable back in the day. Real, full-fledged, run-a-convoy-with-your-buddies multiplayer.

Up to 4 people can simultaneously huddle up to fight space pirates in huge, stunning space battles. Or, you could simply gather up a couple of buggies and race each other across community made tracks. There is, of course, the addition of voice chat, as well. And, well, what else could we possibly ask for?

Viktor Zafirovski