It’s been a full day since the fabled day-one update released for No Man’s Sky, so as promised in the original review (which has proven to be quite divisive…) I’ve loaded up my star ship (my body) with fuel (Red Bull, whiskey, and cornflakes – I’m off Rice Crispies…) and I’ve set off an a brand new adventure.
In some way, I think our review of No Man’s Sky is going to be quite unique in the sense that, at least as far as I know, we’re the only site that’s going to be able to compare the original on-the-disc release and the “full-fat” experience with the day-one update. There’s a lot more to say on that, but that’s for another article later today.
Right here and now I want to focus on what the game is like in its current condition, the one that the majority will play once they update to the version 1.03.
I’ll be honest and say straight away that even if this was the version I’d first laid my hands upon, the game would still be getting an 8/10. Not that numbers mean much these days, but it’s still essentially the same game I played a few days ago, albeit with some nice changes and additions thrown in to make life a little more bearable in the harshness of space.
You still start out in the same fashion and you still need to toil to get that initial “holy moly” feeling of taking off from whatever planet you’ve started on. One thing that did stick out, though I can’t be sure if this was due to the update, was that the planet I spawned on was a little more lively than the one I remember starting my journey with in the original review. It doesn’t say much, but I want to point out as much as possible how different, or not, as may be the case, the game plays.
It’s worth noting that I completely wiped my old save away (R.I.P OG Pure PlayStation planet) and started afresh, so my adventure this time around was a little different. I still fixed my ship up the same way and I still made the same basic path from the first planet to the space station, as prompted by the game. There’s something I didn’t really mention in the original review due to not wanting to spoil it (I did try to keep it vague but informative) but the game isn’t your nanny; if you want something done, you’re going to have to figure it out. You do get a few hints and tips to begin with to set you off on your journey, but once you’ve proven to the game that you know how to build a hyperdrive and that you’re now capable of crafting what’s needed to move throughout the infinite universe, you’re all alone.
What is different is how you go about your journey. Close to the beginning there are certain prompts that could lead you on a pre-destined adventure that you’re free to take on at your own pace. You could, in theory, start this adventure and go down the narrative path for as long as you like before ditching it in favour of having a mooch around the galaxy. This is what I’ve found myself doing. I started off going down the narrative path (which has been re-worked slightly with the new update) but found myself more interested in getting as many references to The Killers as possible into the game by way of naming planets. If you do stumble across a planet named The Killers, thank me when you get the chance.
So, exploration. What’s changed? Honestly, I can’t see much change in the basic gameplay. I’m still running/jet-packing around worlds. I’m still searching high and low for valuable minerals to keep myself alive, and I’m still being forced to hunt down Plutonium and Thanium to keep my starship juiced up. Oh, and I’m still having to scrounge around for the bits needed to power my hyperdrive to get me from one system to another, while also still being required to buy certain items to keep the loop going.
While the core gameplay isn’t much different to what’s on the disc, there are some noticeable changes that happen all around you. Flying through space was fun the first time around and I managed to get in some trouble with the inter-galactic space cops (Sentinels) on more than a few occasions. To be honest, I probably had more battle with these space cops than I did with other explorers (A.I, of course) but this time around I’m finding it easier to pick a fight with something that isn’t a machine. Well, it’s all A.I, but you get the point.
Space is a little more populated, though it’s still possible to enter systems where there’s nothing but a few asteroid and a space station. It’s not just space that’s sees more activity either, as when you head down to the surface of a planet (which still has a fair bit of pop-in, but it’s not nearly as bad) and start wandering around, there’s now a better chance of catching a glimpse of a passing starship flying overhead, or maybe a trio flying in formation. These are things I did see in the version I reviewed, but I don’t remember seeing them quite as frequently, so again, it’s worth noting.
Planets have supposedly been given a bit more life to them, though to be honest I’m not seeing much difference when it comes to what’s running around. Strange creatures and weird beasts are still as varied and weird and wonderful. There’s some joy to be had in watching them go by, scanning them into your database and collecting fat stack of cash (Units) for your troubles, but it’s even more fun to watch the buggers scrap it out and see who’s higher up in the food chain. Naturally, when I came across a beast that had established its dominance by killing a lesser being, I killed it. I WILL rule this universe, damn it.
For me, the real improvements have been the changes to the way inventory space is managed. It was a royal pain in the arse getting the “inventory full” message every time I mined for goodies, but now the inventories hold a lot more per slot. It’s really useful, especially when you’re entering the horrible planets that just seem to exist to make life hard. There’s more variety in the dangers a planet can throw at you now as the initial dangers have been ramped up to make it harder to wander around without having to mine for essential minerals to keep your life support systems and shields running.
It’s not just the inventory space and management that’s easier to contend with either, as the trading has been revamped, too. When I originally reviewed the game I noted how little I needed to actually trade throughout my journey to the centre, and while it’s still kind of true – you can get by with receiving credits for naming and uploading planets and what not – but it’s definitely easier to expand your arsenal and your starship by doing some wheeling and dealing.
While I doubt I’ll ever play every aspect of No Man’s Sky – Hello Games has stated that it intends to constantly update the game – I’m about as happy as I’ll ever be with my own thoughts on it. It’s not a perfect game, not by a long shot, but it’s still a bloody fun game, at least when you’re not wandering around an underground cave for an hour because you forgot the way out. Seriously, that was an hour I wished never happened.
Is it fair to review an update? No, I don’t think so, but this isn’t the place for that discussion. All I’m doing here is updating my thoughts and putting them on a page. To me, the original review still stands as it’s basically the same game – mine, fly, explore, trade, kill etc but the update makes it a little easier to get along in the world while giving you a bit more to do.
At the end of the day, the update was an update. It didn’t change the game so much that I went into like “holy waffles, Batman, what the devil is this?” It made life for the player a little easier in some way, and a little harder in others. It fixed some bugs (not that I really came across all that many, apart from crashing a couple of times) and it made some balances to the in-game systems. Still, it won’t please everyone, and I get that “fans” of the game’s marketing will still find fault somewhere within this gigantic wall of text, but I’m hoping that there’s a clearer picture of what No Man’s Sky is: a bloody marvelous game.
Now that No Man’s Sky is out in North America, have you had a chance to play? Did you play without the update? Comment down below, but please do try to keep the death threats away from the public view; I’m a jealous man and I prefer not to share those juicy threats with the rest of the world; I’m actually making a collection of them. Thanks.
Review Part 2: No Man's Sky
It's the same game with a few new features and balances and tweaks. Is it more enjoyable? Yeah, a bit. Is it worth downloading the update to a memory stick by piggy backing Starbucks' WiFi? Yeah. Is it a vastly different game to what's on the disc? No.
It's a great game. Enjoy it.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game purchased at the cost of the reviewer. This has no effect on the content or score of the final review. For more information, please read our Review Policy.