Developer Hello Games has released the first major update to No Man’s Sky since the game’s release in an attempt to it closer to what was allegedly intended.
The release of No Man’s Sky will go down in gaming history, but not in the way lead developer Sean Murray and his team might have hoped. Aside from being technically broken in myriad ways, the procedural galaxy exploration sim was almost irredeemably boring. Worse, the game was empty of any real reason to explore it in the first place, with same-y planets populated by scarce and oddly similar beings cloaked in muddy, lifeless textures. I was not a fan.
The fan response was what you’d expect. Hello Games had committed not only the cardinal sin of releasing a broken tech demo as a full-priced game; they’d sold a game that was far from finished. It so scarcely resembled their promotional material that the ASA stepped in to investigate. In the end, No Man’s Sky is widely credited as the catalyst for new standards of advertising on Steam.
It was a rough launch.
Afterward, Hello Games retreated into radio silence. A peculiar “hack” resulted in varying letters of apology and candid admissions of frustration, but they were almost immediately rescinded. It would prove to be the most interaction anyone would have with the company or its founder for months.
Aside from mostly nondescript patches, the developers have continued their silence until yesterday. The “Foundation” patch has brought the fetal beginnings of new features to the game, in what the team is calling “a foundation for things to come” in “the first of many free updates.”
The 1.3 gigabyte patch has added two additional modes of play. “Creative” removes what little challenge the game offers, and allows you unlimited freedom to build a base with the newly included construction tools. “Survival” attempts to ratchet up the difficulty of the game, making its systems noticeably less forgiving of the unwary explorer.
The highlight of the update is its modular base building mechanic. Your relentless grind for various materials can be funneled into — and eventually enhanced by — the construction of a home on the planet of your choice. Creating an outpost capable of supporting allies will attract them to it, adding an element of life and nominal interactivity to what is essentially another outpost, albeit in a location of your choosing.
There are new plants to grow, automated harvesters to tend to the flora in your absence, and a teleporter for easy return to your burgeoning homestead. If you become successful enough in your planetary strip-mining efforts, you can also purchase one of the enormous freighters to haul your bounty toward somewhere you can sell it for maximum profit. There are a host of little “quality of life” style updates besides, adding some minor graphical touches and making the interface very slightly less cumbersome.
Despite all of this, the Foundation Update is just that. It widens the scope of the endless resource grind, but has yet to offer compelling incentive to participate. Base building will provide an interesting distraction for some, but isn’t much more than a way for you to cobble together your own version of the many similar structures generated on the planets already.
It remains to be seen whether this represents a step forward for the team, and if they can ever regain even a modicum of consumer trust. It is, however, a hesitant step in the right direction.
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