No Man’s Sky: The Return

Almost a year ago the gaming world was in a frenzy about an upcoming game from a little studio that looked to be game-changing. That game was No Man’s Sky, and that developer was Surrey-based Hello Games.

With a massive push from Sony, who had the console-exclusive rights to the game, No Man’s Sky gained more publicity than seemed fair for any other indie developer studio. The pressure was on to deliver the goods the world wanted, the game that had been promised: a free-roaming game allowing you to explore an endless universe.

Was it a multiplayer game? Well, the answers to the questions had been vague, then Sony announced they wouldn’t consider PS Plus needed to play the game – a sure sign something was up and if the subscription needed to play multiplayer games wasn’t needed here, then what was it?

And so the game launched and within a day two players had managed to be on the same planet in the same galaxy and lo and behold the internet went crazy when they reported they couldn’t see each other. The game was essentially assassinated in a few weeks. Followed by periods of radio silence from Hello Games, it seemed like we’d all fallen for a massive con job.

I bought the PC version of the game. Do I regret buying it? Not really. I wanted to explore strange, new worlds and that’s exactly what I got. But after a while the game became repetitive, the universe was a lot emptier than I imagined, and whilst not disliking the game, other things held my attention. Although the game was still being developed, the updates passed me by as an announcement I would flick past on Twitter.

Then fast forward eight months later and I’m in an exploratory mood again. I had been spending a lot of time on consoles and went back to my PC and scrolled through my Steam library – and there it was – No Man’s Sky. On booting up the game for the first time in months I was asked to pick a mode – I went with Creative and was genuinely impressed with the additions Hello Games have given the game. Base-building, exploratory surface vehicles, even mining equipment to set up and freighters – it’s all here – additional purpose to the game. The game has become a kind of Minecraft in space.

So is that something Hello Games should be punished for? Personally I feel they were demonised by a public that had been whipped into a frenzy by advertising. No, the game wasn’t perfect, it lacked a narrative and multiplayer, but for a game like this does it need a narrative? I would say not. It gives us a sandpit, a playground where we can use our imagination to do whatever we want to do (except play with friends) and they’ve only added to that with the Foundation and Pathfinder updates. I spent a solid three hours just driving around a planet and exploring all the new features and I am impressed.

Hopefully the game will prosper and grow despite the low player-base (I counted just over a 1,000 on Steam when I was on). What this game really needs though is a genuine multiplayer community where people can interact. I believe it’s coming. At the moment you can interact by leaving things for other players to find, but I think if Hello added true multiplayer then we would see a massive revival of interest in NMS.

With the update, it doesn’t look like No Man’s Sky has been abandoned at all – far from it. On Steam the game was opened up for Steam Workshop, meaning any number of people in the modding community can add content to the game. Often this will expand a game’s lifespan far beyond what was intended. Not that I believe No Man’s Sky was meant to have a shelf life of less than a year, but if it does pick up a strong community following then rest assured the game will exist into the future.

For now however, I’m thankful Hello continue to develop the game and look forward to what else they have to offer.I don’t need narratives in my games, after all, sometimes games are just experiences, but it is reassuring to know that Hello still have a lot of interest in what they have produced, and it is still quite the achievement, even if the universe does feel empty and lonely, but who are we to say that’s not what’s waiting for us out there… isolation…

and loneliness…

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