How No Man’s Sky resurrected itself from no man’s land

Hello Games has expanded the No Man's Sky universe. Now, we will see if they can win some gamers back.

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What was once considered by many (including me) a potential for game of the year suddenly became really dull (No Man’s...Sigh) and a total bust, then got even worse when people decided they hated the game and wanted to return it. Now, though, it has become a much better game with a new, free expansion pack. As if that isn’t enough irony for one day, I’m seeing the potential for No Man’s Sky to become one of the best games...of 2017.

OK, let's get all of the vitriol out of the way. I understand your frustration. I get it. I will admit this seems like one of the strangest games ever released in terms of the lofty expectation, the crushing reality, and now the reconstituted potential all over again. It’s almost like the game itself and the game company is an experiment in building pieces of a puzzle, brick by brick, until something works.

The Foundation Update for the game is an amazing addition, though. It allows you to build a base on a planet, adding cargo bays and The Martian-style gardens. Another addition involves purchasing a freighter that can transport all of your gear, and you can go all Minecraft on those spaceships as well. (I’m still waiting for multiplayer additions, the ability to build your own custom spaceship, and maybe a few tweaks to the gameplay to make it easier and less repetitive.)

In my original review, I complained about how some of the planets looked the same, and many gamers noticed that as well. There’s a pink zebra on one planet, and a green zebra on another. How is that inventive? Procedurally generated content ended up being a bit boring without any true variety. It’s not enough to say that the planet is blue instead of green when many of the same plants and rocks kept popping up even though you were on the opposite end of a solar system.

This is a fairly dramatic shift to become more of a base building game. On a freighter, for example, you can decide to use resources to add a larger cargo bay so you can add more stuff, and the gameplay interface is easy to understand and use. It’s an exciting addition because it means we might see many other updates that help Hello Games live up to the potential they always had to make No Man’s Sky one of the best games ever.

Except that there is so little time. I completely forgot about the game and deleted it long ago from my PC after playing for many hours (too many hours) after the launch.

There was a sinking feeling early on when I realized it was too much of an empty space simulator and not enough of a story. There were many options for collecting resources, not enough options for using those resources in creative ways. I like how the expansion rounds out some of the gameplay, but I’d like to see many more additions in the next few months or even shortly after the holiday break.

One idea is to add a much better narrative. The original overarching mission had to do with finding the center of the galaxy, but it wasn’t that fulfilling and some of the clues were too vague. A new narrative might involve rescuing an alien race scattered around the galaxy, or maybe including some Sim City elements for creating cash-flow for a new colony, hiring workers, using them to collect more resources, and setting up a more compelling goal for a planet or solar system that involves unlocking rewards or perks. For example, maybe you have to figure out how to make an entire galaxy more profitable, which would drive you to expand, colonize, collect, and exploit more resources.

We’ll see soon enough if No Man’s Sky can live up to this lofty ideal. For now, the expansion is a step in the right direction.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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