Action Audit: No Man’s Sky NEXT

The sky has been upgraded.

Welcome to Action Audit!  We wanted a feature of the site to be something quick and convenient to read.  Our goal with Action Audit is to give you something to consume in five minutes or less.  It will generally consist of game reviews but may occasionally spin off into other topics, such as industry news & analysis.  Reviews of this nature will end in some type of recommendation, but we do not give numerical scores.

Today’s Audit – No Man’s Sky NEXT

No Man’s Sky (NMS) was originally released two years this August.  It was heavily criticized for its lack of content, broken promises, and numerous bugs/issues.  Hello Games, the developer, has been patching and updating the game since release.  On July 24th, 2018, the massive Next update was released on Playstation, PC and Xbox.  While Next is certainly a large update to the game’s content, visuals, and systems, is it enough to turn NMS into the game that was originally promised?  And even if it does, does that make it worth your time and money?

The Good

Before I jump into what NMS Next does well, I need to be clear that I am reviewing it for what it is.  I will not be judging it against my personal wish list of what I want it to be.  It is very important to remember that at its core, NMS is a space-based survival & exploration game that uses procedural generation for nearly all of its content.  The following is what I found to be done well (or at least good enough to be enjoyable/interesting):

  • The procedural generation on planets is much improved over the original release and adds a genuine sense of adventure to the game.  In NMS Next, I was never quite sure what I was going to encounter.  This was not the case in the original release, whereas the procedural tech was limited and buggy.
  • A significant graphical overhaul compliments the improved procedural generation.  Nearly every aspect of the game has received some type of graphical upgrade.
  • The developers have implemented various quality of life improvements to nearly every aspect of the game (e.g. scanning, exploration, space stations).
  • Multiplayer is a now a functional component of the game (some limitations apply).
  • Content and game systems have been greatly expanded:
    • Become a fleet captain and command a fleet of starships
    • Crafting has been overhauled and expanded.  The game now contains a wider variety of elements and those elements can be used to make a wider variety of items/upgrades/tools.
    • Improved “story” missions (note: these can still be ignored completely if desired)
    • Player bases improvements (new materials, new shapes, new modules)
Space – there’s stuff to do now.

The Mediocre / Bad

  • Inventory management is still unnecessarily complex and confusing.  As with the original game, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for how inventory works.  I found myself constantly sorting, transferring, losing, and deleting material.  There are a dozen ways inventory management could be less of a headache.  The developers need to completely overhaul this aspect of the game, given it so critical to the flow of the game itself.
  • Every solar system has the same fundamental parts (space station, planets, asteroids, frigates/fleets, aliens).  The game does a much better job of putting it all together in Next, but it’s relatively easy to understand how the game’s higher level framework…works.  While the planet generation is much improved, the rest of the game drops into a relatively standard rhythm of actions.
  • The game still suffers from bugs, glitches, and graphical slowdown much more than it should by this stage in life cycle.  I have a relatively strong gaming PC, and there are things going on “under the hood” in NMS that create significant graphical slowdown.  I am told it’s even worse on the Xbox and Playstation versions (your experience may vary).

Our Recommendation

Buy on Sale

The Next update has brought a truckload of improvements to No Man’s Sky.  It finally feels like the grand exploration game that was “promised” at launch.   I have spent about 20 hours on it so far, and I can say with confidence, that I genuinely had a good time.  Planets are interesting and fun to explore.  The space portion of the game offers a lot more than just empty…space.  (I think I have twenty new desktop wallpapers – all generated from NMS.)  The game finally has some logical progression to it (and several stories to follow if interested).  It plays like the game they intended to build at launch.

For all the good in NMS Next, there are still a lot of significant issues.  At the time of writing this, NMS is a game that can take you soaring through space (or the atmosphere of a new planet) and then punch you down with a functionally deficient inventory system.  During some play sessions, I spent more time moving inventory around than I did playing the rest of the game.  I ran into a lot of glitches and optimization issues.  The game still has a fundamental issue, at times, with being an actual game (instead of a wallpaper simulator) because it falls into this weird middle ground between sandbox and survival.

No Man’s Sky, even with the Next update, is still a very personal experience.  A lot of people will love it for its procedural generation, base building, and (nearly) infinite worlds to explore.  Others will hate it for its inventory, glitches, and procedural familiarity (I swear I’ve seen that tree before).  It does plays well for efficient gaming.  Because NMS Next is such a slow moving experience, it can be experienced at any pace.  We do recommend it as an efficient game, but in conclusion, play it safe, buy it on sale.  

 

This concludes our Action Audit on No Man’s Sky Next.  Have you played it yet?  Do you like the improvements?  Did you find it underwhelming?  Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter.