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The No Man's Sky Next update is here, injecting Hello Games' space epic with a shipload of new content. Whether you're new to the galaxy or a returning explorer, this update makes No Man's Sky worthy of serious consideration.
While No Man's Sky originally launched on the PlayStation 4 back in 2016, the original game didn't meet the expectations of many players. Plenty of folks stuck with the game, though, drawn into its unique take on survival and discovery. Over the past two years, Hello Games has added a pair of major updates to introduce new features, bringing NMS closer and closer to the experience many thought they would be getting out of the box.
With the Next update (alongside a long-awaited launch on the Xbox One), even more of the game's early promises have been met. In short, No Man's Sky has been reworked and fleshed out to an impressive degree and, after spending a couple of weeks with this latest build, we've come up with the best reasons for players to either dive in for the first time or simply return to the largest sandbox in video games history.
Like many survival games, No Man's Sky originally dropped players onto a planet with a busted ship, no memory, and very little direction. While you're still an amnesiac space explorer with a broken ride, Hello Games has wisely improved the tutorials present within No Man's Sky. While still leaving plenty of room for self-discovery, the on-boarding for this fairly obtuse game should no longer be as big a hurdle as it used to be for newcomers to clear.
Rather than giving you a couple of prompts and letting you figure out the rest for yourself, No Man's Sky now features a pretty robust tutorial that nudges you in the right direction in order to get the ball rolling. You'll be guided through the basic processes of gathering resources, refining them, using them to craft items and then using those items to fix your ship and build new equipment.
After that, players are guided into the stars where they'll receive details on how to jump between planets and, eventually, whole new star systems. Once the basics are out of the way and No Man's Sky has taken you gingerly by the hand through the first chapters of its overarching story, there comes a moment when the player is asked if they'd rather keep on following this tale or simply be let loose on the galaxy.
No matter which route you go, additional guiding missions will pop up as you discover new game systems and features. This whole process is much more user-friendly than No Man's Sky used to be while at the same time coming up shy of being too intrusive.
One of my favorite things about the Next update in No Man's Sky is that it adds even more diversity to the game. The game's graphical overhaul is great and all, but what really boosts the experience is seeing even more varieties of, well, everything. From the planet types to the flora, fauna, ships, structures and beyond, there's simply more to discover in this latest version of the game.
In the original version of No Man's Sky, I hit a point where very little genuinely surprised me. This is because, despite the vastness of the game, the procedural generators running under the hood have a finite number of pieces to work with. With the Next update, it seems like the number of those pieces has been raised significantly so that, while I'm still seeing plenty of common elements between the designs of trees, rock formations or alien life forms, I'm still experiencing plenty of "what the hell is that?!" moments after breaking the atmosphere of new planets.
One of the big changes in recent updates to No Man's Sky is a more involved crafting system. Nowadays, you will seldom just blast a bunch of rocks into usable resources and create new modifications for your exosuit or ship. Instead, you more frequently need to collect a wider variety of resources and even get into the habit of refining them before they're actually useful. It can feel like a real time sink sometimes, but it also makes it feel like you're having to at least put in a bit of work before you can have access to needed materials and gear. That means that, when you finally build that new cannon for your ship, you'll feel a greater sense of accomplishment due to the effort you had to put into it.
One of the biggest complaints leveled against No Man's Sky back in 2016 was that, if you didn't really care about the mysterious story weaving its way through the background, a lot of the progress in the game felt directionless.
That's all changed with Next, as well as a couple of previous updates, with players now having a wide variety of objectives to tackle. On a small scale, you almost always have a needed resource to farm, blueprint to build out or location to discover.
One level higher, the game now offers all sorts of missions for players to tackle, available from either random aliens you encounter or the explorer's guild located on every space station. These typically involve scanning a certain number of lifeforms, mining a certain resource, raiding a depot or, falling back hard on MMO tropes, delivering packages. Nothing earth-shattering, but these types of missions offer yet another way to keep busy while exploring the stars.
Finally, there are now three major storylines (that I've discovered so far), each of which helps flesh out the galaxy of No Man's Sky. You can focus on these lengthy stories in any order, bounce around between them and, of course, ignore them and turn to a life of space piracy.
Another big bonus of the recent updates to No Man's Sky are all of the new ways to customize your experience. The Next update introduced a new third-person camera to the game, so of course, you'll be able to change what your character actually looks like now. On top of that, players now have the ability to create intricate bases. These were originally limited to certain locations when base-building was first introduced but, thanks to this latest update, you can now build bases (out of even more varied components) just about anywhere you want. And if you're in the market for even more personal space, you can now claim your own massive freighter. While these space hulks are primarily used to carry out side missions and gather additional resources, they also come with a large area that the player can customize with rooms and various other features that frequently serve the added purpose of giving your fleet even more abilities or stat boosts.
Probably the most highly-anticipated new feature of Next is the inclusion of multiplayer. Up to four friends can now jump into the same game session in order to explore together, build a communal base, tackle multiplayer missions or just goof around. On top of that, players can now jump into a game being hosted by a stranger or vice versa, meaning there's always a chance you'll actually come across another player in this insanely vast galaxy.
On top of that, Hello Games made the wise decision to flesh out some of the in-game features in order to make the single-player experience feel less lonely. Structures you discover on planets are more frequently occupied by alien lifeforms in Next, and space stations now house a collection of critters willing to sell you goods, give you missions or just shoot the breeze. This goes a long way toward making the galaxy fill lived in, which was sorely lacking in the base game.