In the months since the release of No Man’s Sky, developer Hello Games has been nearly radio silent on the entire project, quietly updating the game with patches related solely to fixing major bugs.
Many will not reconcile their differences with Hello Games out of principal; the feeling being misled by the marketing coupled with the long stretch of silence has left a massively sour taste in the mouth of many consumers. It is very unlikely that No Man’s Sky will ever reach the heights of its ambition, and for now, it serves as the cautionary tale of what not to do with hyping a game.
Beyond that, though, the game itself is still a base for something greater…and we can see the first steps of that change with the new Foundation Update. Not quite a patch, not quite DLC, the Foundation update in some forms resembles a beta update for open-access titles…one that is chock full of features for players to get their hands on. With it, No Man’s Sky hopes to expand its galaxy beyond the 18 quintillion planets and allow players to really make their mark in the universe, although it has a long way to go before it reaches that milestone.
It probably means nothing for me to talk about my first impression of the Foundation Update for No Man’s Sky. After all, the game was given a good review from me despite the monotony of the feedback loop the original release contained. The negative reception surrounding the title has tarnished the experience for sure, but the game still has an otherworldly charm to it that is too hard to ignore. The Foundation Update makes some changes to that feedback loop in a few ways, and for my first experience with it, I tested out the survival mode to see how tough it really is now to play in the universe.
Right away, it was a challenge to make it through. Unlike the opening of the main game where resources are plentiful and you crash land on your ship, Survival mode put over 20 minutes of distance between me and my ship- smack dab in the middle of a radiation-filled planet. Everything has been reset, it’s a clean slate with a brand-new universe to explore- and with that, it means limited resources and another new problem…the factors of life support.
I was lucky that the few instances of wildlife were not hostile, but the environment was devastating; a two to three-minute walk depleted my protective shield instantly, and radiation poisoning settled in; slowly sapping my health to nothing. Resources, once plentiful and easy to harvest, took time again and had more scarcity to them. iron and carbon were abundant, as were a new resource, an exotic cave flower that was harvested for cash later.
Everything else, from plutonium crystals to zinc flowers, were rare in the unforgiving landscape. What’s worse, running and using the jetpack exhausted my life support in record time, leaving me to slowly suffocate to death if I didn’t manage the systems. With no upgrades to help me survive longer in the wild, the choice was clear. I would either take it slow or die in the desert.
Thankfully, caves dotted the landscape, leading me to seek shelter constantly. Putting the new quick inventory to good use, I crafted several save points en-route to my ship, waiting out the radiation under the cover of several cave and canyon networks. In the sky above me, donut-shaped rings of rock hover close to the ground…out of reach from the highest peaks I could find but seemingly devoid of any life on them. Rock-based trees jutted out of the ground like teeth and claws, and mangled, rooted trees lay swaying in the distance, dead and bleached by the radioactive planet. The procedurally-generated world felt more natural and less cookie-cutter, although some of the algorithms can still be seen underneath the new coat of paint. That is probably inevitable, but it is nice to see a bit more variety to an alien landscape at the very least.
It was a daunting task, one that nearly killed me six times. One moment had me exposed for too long to the radiation, forcing me to use up what was left of my life support and risk running towards my only salvation; a speck of white in the distance that had a hole in the center. That speck, it turned out, was a deposit of aluminum, with a large tunnel leading into the center of the hill it was attached to. Rare resources have been recolored and now fit into the world in a more natural way; the giant slabs of heridium and iridium still exist, but these resources can now be within the landscape as well, giving No Man’s Sky a more varied style of terrain.
The trek to my ship took nearly thirty minutes, but I finally found it, the smoking pile of bolts on the bluff of a hill. The remainder of my time was like the original opening of the game, although with how survival mode forces you to focus on resource management, it was now a race against time and resources to find what I needed to escape the planet. Another hour of travel, finding a rare deposit of heridium and a few scarce zinc flowers made my life easier.
It should be noted that throughout this time, points of interest were incredibly rare. Only two were discovered on my travels, one temple where I learned a new word in an alien language, and two abandoned houses which thankfully had much-needed supplies I can scavenge. Crafting became more important this time around. I was collecting enough carbon, platinum, plutonium and iron to create shielding from radiation or power packs for my life support, which constantly drained my resources and the scarce amounts of uncommon goods I could find.
It was thankfully not in vain. A familiar feeling washed over me when my thrusters finally engaged and I began to fly towards the reddened sky; it was one of excitement again, only this time it was compounded by my achievements. Simple things, such as the lower recharge rate for scanning to the stackable inventories for luxury artifacts, give the world a much more realized quality to them. In two hours’ time, I traveled across a hostile world relying just on my wits to struggle but ultimately survive. The ended up creating a third feeling in playing No Man’s Sky; accomplishment.
As I pulled into the nearest space station, I was startled by the number of aliens all conversing at the bar; the usual dialogues were present but one of the aliens, a stout Gek who spoke my language, offered his construction expertise to me…a hint of what is to come with the Foundation Update was we build a base along one of these planets. Only time will tell if that base will be constructed, but the promise of something to call my own is there.
That is all this really is at this point; a promise for something more. It is easy to criticize Hello Games for how horribly they bungled the games release, but at that same token, they didn’t give up either. Taking the money and running is commonplace in an industry that has seen many developers go right for the cash-grabs and never be heard from again. I don’t expect people to forgive Hello Games, and I doubt many ever will, but I can respect their drive to at least make good on their promises, no matter how lofty or impossible they may have been to begin with.
The survival mode is certainly going to provide a new challenge for players willing to test it out; and perhaps it may lead to a more dangerous, hardcore exploratory experience for the people who tolerated the smaller feedback loop of No Man’s Sky. From the onset though the survival mode has made things scarcer, and the rewards more fulfilling if you can accomplish them without dying. The smaller, quality of life improvements by adding new tech, resources and changes to the inventory, also enhance the game.
We shall see what else the Foundation Update has in store for us. For now, it is at least a glimmer of hope that No Man’s Sky can get back on the right track.
No Man's Sky's Foundation Update was played on PlayStation 4 with a copy purchased by the reviewer. The update is expected to hit the Steam version of the game at a later date.
That is just the first look at the Foundation Update, but what you do you think about it? Is it worth playing No Man's Sky again? Leave your comments below.