No Man’s Sky Foundation Update Review: Is It a Good Game Yet?
This past weekend Hello Games made the surprise announcement that they had rolled out a new update for No Man’s Sky, with the so-called “foundation update” forming the basis of a proposed new direction for the much-maligned space exploration game. The free update brings with it a number of sizable changes, including purchasable freighters in which to increase your inventory space and aid you on your adventures, brand new Survival and Creative modes, improved visuals and, most importantly, a new base-building feature.
The announcement of the update saw Hello Games break its silence for the first time since the follow-up to the game’s launch, with Sean Murray stating: “We didn’t want to talk about anything in it until it was 100% certain.” Considering the incredible amount of backlash surrounding his comments prior to the game’s release, this was probably a wise move, but given that we have received such a small amount of info on the update prior to its unveiling, many are now wondering whether or not it will improve the game as much as they hope. With that being said, here are our thoughts on the foundation update and the current state of No Man’s Sky:
No Man’s Sky now being playable in three different modes is arguably the biggest change to come with this new update, with it now aping the likes of Minecraft by way of allowing you to play in a more hazardous, challenging Survival mode, or granting you access to unlimited resources and a much more leisurely experience in Creative mode. The original No Man’s Sky experience is still available in Normal mode, and your last save is still available to access (though you may return to a different location from where you left off given the changes to its universe). In terms of gameplay features, base-building now allows you to effectively call a planet “home” by way of allowing you to create a settlement, complete with save points, beacons, mining and agricultural equipment. In Creative mode you’ll be able to freely develop this base until your heart’s content, but in Normal mode you’ll be tasked with venturing out and acquiring materials in order to add to it.
Unfortunately you can’t build your base wherever you see fit — you must first find a habitable base located on a planet, then add to it from there. This ensures that there will be enough room in your surrounding area for you to expand your new home, though it also means that you won’t be able to plonk it on top of a tree and create a wonderful surrealist piece of modern art. Base-building is very simple and easy to get to grips with, having you select from different categories such as structure, infrastructure and tech, before placing it around the habitable base from the same first-person perspective. You can then journey to a space station in order to recruit aliens to work on the various aspects of your base, including developing weapons and helping you with farming, with you also able to use a terminus located in this space station to warp back to your base from anywhere in the galaxy.
The base-building shares quite a bit in common with Fallout 4‘s settlements, though doesn’t offer as robust a selection of decorative equipment for you to use in order to venture too far into absurdity. The bases are instead focused upon delivering more practical uses, helping you with gathering resources without having to venture from planet to planet in order to do so. As such, building bases in Creative mode feels a little redundant right now, with you already having access to all the resources required to expand it.
The freighters you can purchase are pricey (prepare to pay over 7 million units to get your hands on one) though bring them with them additional inventory slots and their ability to be summoned wherever you are in the galaxy. You can customize the interior of your freighter in order to develop laboratories, increasing the amount of resources you can cultivate in order to maximize your profits, while also recruiting crew members to research new technologies and help improve your resource development, maximizing the amount of profit you generate.
Survival mode is a different beast altogether, with it placing you against the odds and tasking you with staying alive for as long as possible. The threats you find in Normal mode are much more hazardous when playing in Survival, with resources being limited and threats such as pirates now being much more capable of taking you down. Survival is very much a mixed bag, as while it does present the added challenge that many have been looking for, it doesn’t mesh very well with the game in its current state. As No Man’s Sky places you on a randomized starting planet, if you begin the mode somewhere with high toxicity levels or other such dangers, you’ll likely die before you even manage to get in your ship. With you having to hurriedly gather resources before this happens, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll find yourself being forced to restart on a new starting planet several times before you eventually manage to get your ship functioning again. This makes for a very irritating experience.
Outside of these modes and features, there have also been changes to the visuals and user interface, including the addition of motion blur and a new quick menu that allows you to select items from out of your inventory on the fly, and various changes to planets including improved creature animations, increased plant life and improved skies.
Is No Man’s Sky now the game we were hoping it would be at launch?
In a nutshell: no. Though Hello Games has openly stated that this is the start of something new, as it stands the foundation update is very unlikely to appeal to those who didn’t enjoy the game at launch. Creative mode presents a new mostly hassle-free way to experience it, though the new objective of building a base is mostly made redundant as a result of the unlimited resources it offers you. Freighters are a cool inclusion, though the extra alien life you encounter as a result of their implementation are still the same boring, static individuals you will have encountered the first time round. Then there’s Survival mode, which ups the difficulty considerably but in a manner that makes it more headache-inducing than challenging.
Though Hello Games has provided a sizable update to No Man’s Sky, the truth is that it was originally so sub-par at launch that even these major changes haven’t improved it all that much. Though it’s heartening to see that Sean Murray & co. are looking to right the wrongs of the game’s regrettable launch, there still isn’t enough here to force it out of mediocrity. Hopefully this will be the start of more interesting things to come in the future, and it’s certainly a positive step to see Hello Games taking so many player requests on board, but there’s plenty of work still ahead of them if No Man’s Sky is going to come even close to approaching the game that was advertised in its pre-release material.