Review – No Man’s Sky NEXT
No Man’s Sky launched just shy of two years ago on PS4 to a resounding ‘is that it?’ from fans and critics alike, as Hello Games fell short on the majority of promises they’d laid out leading up to the 2016 launch. Multiplayer was missing in action, the procedurally generated creatures were far simpler than had been shown in pre-release footage, and features like commanding armadas of AI-controlled space ships were nowhere to be found.
At the time I gave the game, a first-person adventure title with survival and exploration elements, a 2.5/5 with this final note: “No Man’s Sky has been compared to Minecraft, but as it sits that’s not a very apt comparison. The game is, as a friend called it, a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s a sandbox without the bucket and shovel. They have big plans for future updates, so perhaps it’ll be a game to check out at that point.”
Fast forward to today, and No Man’s Sky is a much different game after receiving three major updates that helped bring it up to – if not exactly what had been promised back in 2016, at least very close to it. A fourth major update hit, titled NEXT, released this week alongside the game’s long-awaited arrival to the Xbox One, bringing the game even closer to that ‘play it forever, do whatever you want’ vision from 2016.
Players, once they’ve put a little time into the game, can now control freighters and frigates – deploying them on missions to earn resources or using them to aid in exploration. There’s also an all-new third-person perspective, though its implementation isn’t without some jankiness – it’s better than Bethesda’s third-person mode for games like Skyrim, but still not exactly smooth. Base building – introduced in one of the earlier updates – sees more improvements, with bigger bases and the ability to build more than one base.
There’s also a visual upgrade, with improved atmospheric effects, far better draw distances, and a new cloud rendering system. The upgrades are extremely noticeable for Xbox One X owners, who can choose between a native 4K ‘High Quality’ mode or go for the ‘High Performance’ mode that drops to a 1440p image to allow for 60 fps play.
Hello Games still has some work to do, with an interface dominated by ‘hold to use’ buttons that just feel clunky and outdated. A little work on the crafting system would also go a long way towards making the game less chore-like at times, but these are pretty minor quibbles compared to what the game was like at launch.
4.5/5 – No Man’s Sky has come a long way from that humbling start for Hello Games. There could still be improvements to some gameplay systems and the user interface, but overall this is a greatly improved package that’s brand new for most Xbox One gamers and well worth going back to for PC and PS4 players who dropped it shortly after launch.