Score: 8/10           |         SURVIVAL         |         VIOLENT         |           MILD THEMES

“No Man’s Sky’s NEXT update and Xbox release has captured the excited feeling we had when the game first released, plus added multiplayer and many new features and systems that will add longevity to the game.”

No Man’s Sky is an action-adventure survival game developed and published by Hello Games. It was released in 2016 on PC and PS4 and in July 2018 has been released on Xbox One. I was well and truly caught in the hype train leading into the PC release. I was excited to play a space survival game, but what really excited me was the thought of being able to do this multiplayer with my mates. History shows that this wasn’t the case and ‘haters gonna hate’, however for me I still bloody loved the game for what it was.

You start out on a planet, seemingly with no memory or hints of the past, and you have broken components that the game guides you through repairing. Once you repair your multi-tool and your ship, the game essentially told you to reach for the stars, and the hand holding was over. You were thrust head-long into a sandbox and you had to explore your way to the centre of the galaxy. I wrote some first impressions back in August 2016:

“Only a few hours in and reached a second system/planet. Initially struggled with the lack of inventory however worked out what I really needed and sold/trashed the rest. There are resources everywhere and you can shift inventory items between your exosuit and the ship easily, so I got used to the inventory system quickly. Managed to find a drop pod that had a single inventory slot upgrade so that was cool.”

With the new update, inventory space is still an issue early game; however, I would almost say its more challenging now given the overhaul of resources. I’m glad I memorised the periodic table of elements back in year 11, as they came in handy when scanning for resources showing O2, H, Na, etc. However instead of just having ‘iron’ in the game, now there’s ferrite dust which needs to be converted into pure ferrite using a portable resource refiner and this system gets more complex as you progress the game. You can still shift items between your exosuit and ship, however it feels like you must be a hell of a lot closer to the ship than in previous patches. Back to the reminiscing:

“I feel a bit like Matt Damon in 2015’s The Martian, except I’m scavenging planets to repair/upgrade my ship and get into space to jump to the next system, and so on. Enjoying hopping along from settlement to settlement, meeting new aliens and learning words of their language, finding the occasional blueprint, etc. Still on the second planet and have now found 2 inventory slot upgrades. Pretty cool fun so far. I can see it being monotonous but then again later down the track I expect to be in bigger ships, fighting bigger baddies.”

I still feel like Matt Damon, and there is still the settlement hopping and searching for ancient monoliths to learn words of the alien languages, as well as scanning everything that moves trying to find that last animal species to complete the bigger nanite rewards. Blueprints have shifted to the craftable blueprint machine or can be bought via npc aliens on stations. Drop pods are still in the game, however instead of just spending units to get the upgraded exosuit slot, you now must repair the pod before you can access the item. The resources required take a bit of collecting, made worse when you must keep juggling inventory space.

Fast forward two years and three major updates to the game later, finally the NEXT update sees the game released on Xbox One, and what a ripper it is. I had previously put 47 hours into the game on PC but that pales in comparison to my wife Heather who showed me up with 100 hours. The Foundation and Pathfinder updates had us both playing again building our bases. Eventually though as much as we loved the game, it seemed an endless loop of doing the same thing over and again without any real story to drive our gameplay.

The Atlas update helped with this and there were ways to teleport to each other’s bases, but ultimately the game was still primarily a solo experience. We were longing for that multiplayer aspect, so we were pleasantly surprised to hear of the NEXT update adding multiplayer for you and up to three friends, and here it is. I was pumped to start a new game on the Xbox One given its new release on that console.

I created my game and my excited smile turned into a frown as I cursed the RNG gods as I spawned into a blizzard! I didn’t have time to marvel at my character’s backside (third person view is another new edition) as I struggled to quickly learn the Xbox controls to use my multitool to harvest resources and repair my storm shield. I finally worked it out but, in the process, accidentally shot a sentinel, and subsequently got killed by it and the cold.

I respawned, picked up my corpse and the pittance of loot I had, and started to mine ferrite dust from rocks and carbon from plants. I remembered that we used to harvest straight iron, so they have added more complexity to resources, however I obviously harvested too close the sentinel and he started shooting at me again, chasing me up this damn steep hill. I tried to outrun/jetpack boost away from it and managed to kill it, however two more sentinels then came and I got owned again. Second respawn.

Eventually the blizzard subsided, the sentinels left me alone, and I was able to breathe normally so I could get back to learning the controls and basically learning how to play the game again. Damn is this game beautiful to look at.

A photo mode has been added to the game where you can add photo filters, change the time of day which affects the lighting and other options and you can zoom out a fair way. Aside from this feature, you can still take some awesome screenshots just from normal gameplay. Also, if you see a mountain or a floating island in the distance, you can get to the top of it. It truly is 100% explorable, and not only above the ground, there are also caves and underwater structures to explore too.

The scanner system works a little different to the previous versions. Pressing left stick sends out a scan of the area, only this time resources that you can harvest are the only things shown on the HUD. You used to also be able to see broken machinery, ancient artefacts, crashed components etc, but now you need to use left trigger separately to highlight these, and only after you build an analysis visor upgrade.

With the left trigger held down, you can press X to highlight anything you’d like to go visit, effectively creating a waypoint on your radar. I then started to see resources and buried technology icons that were under the ground, however you need a terraforming mod for your multitool. You can only learn how to craft that by flying into space to progress the story and head to the next planet in your system. I was reluctant to leave this planet this soon as I love exploring, but eventually I really needed the terraforming tool, so off I went into space.

The space stations have been overhauled and are now marketplaces with several aliens to talk to as well as npc vendors. Here you can also find the character appearance customiser. I had to make myself look as close to a Storm Trooper, just because (massive Star Wars fan). You can also change your race to one of the five available if you wish. Later in the game you can build these appearance customisers in your base and on freighters, sweet!

Fast forward another couple of hours and I’m joined by Justin ‘Juzzza’ Bozanich. He logged into my game and started in space, then flew down on the ground. As fluid as it was for him transitioning from space through the atmosphere, I was able to watch him fly down whilst standing on the ground – very cool. Connecting the game was seamless and after the obligatory emote gestures and shooting each other (friendly fire is definitely on!), we started working together to farm for resources. Quests and resources are all unique to each character. You can transfer inventory items together however you can’t progress each other’s quests. Also only the contents of your inventory will return with you to your normal game if you joined another game.

One annoying thing we found was if Justin set a waypoint marker on his map, it would show up on mine which is a great feature however we couldn’t figure out how to turn the waypoints off. This became troublesome later when we shipped off to different planets, then tried to get back to each other. I kept seeing his name icon on the radar, so I would fly over to it, however it was his original waypoint and he was actually on the other side of the planet.

We worked together to farm resources and eventually built a small wooden house for a base to protect ourselves from the elements of the planet. Justin was easily able to help build the components of the house, consolidating our resources. Outside the house we have a signal booster, a resource harvester, a base computer and a blueprint machine. We had both earned a fair amount of nanites by this stage so had bought blueprints for a teleporter and other base modules, but didn’t have enough resources, so that was our next combined mission.

At this stage, much to Justin’s disgust, I lucked on finding an alien that wanted to give me a new multitool – from 5 slots to 20 slots hell yeah! Though only 7 slots were actually usable as there were heaps of component slots that required repairing. This was like finding an old crashed ship in previous patches, where you might save money having to buy a new ship/weapon outright, but you also need to weigh up the time and expense of finding/making resources to repair the slots.

I’m still in the first system I spawned in and have only explored 2 out of the 3 planets and am almost overwhelmed with things to do. The complexity of resource gathering and in turn crafting/base building gives you a constant to-do list of things to search and find. That’s the general theme of this new update. Things are more complex now, but this isn’t a bad thing as it’s all achievable and I think this will add longevity to the game. I like the fact that new players are hand held with quests through the initial stages, and these aren’t a chore for veterans of the game either. I look forward to completing more of the Atlas story and I also can’t wait to get myself a freighter as that will really open the multiplayer aspects and co-op missions.

Overall, I gave No Man’s Sky on Xbox an 8/10. The game plays really well on the Xbox. I’ve already racked up 16 hours of gameplay and I’m bloody addicted again. Hello Games have been quick to add post-release patches fixing things as they’ve been reported and thankfully nothing has been game breaking for me. The No Man’s Sky NEXT update and Xbox release has captured the excited feeling we had when the game first released, plus added multiplayer and many new features and systems that will add longevity to the game. I’m really enjoying playing again, as are a fair few of my mates and I can see us playing this together for a fair while to come.

No Man’s Sky is rated PG Parental Guidance for mild science fiction themes and violence. You can purchase the game through Xbox and the Microsoft Store for $79.95 and it’s also available on Steam and Playstation 4.