When No Man’s Sky first released, I was legitimately excited. An infinite universe for me explore sounded like absolute heaven. I’ve loved anything and everything space ever since I was a kid. And so a game that let me explore an infinite universe with seamless planet entry into procedurally generated worlds sounded right up my alley.
Despite the overhype and broken promises of No Man’s Sky’s first release, I found myself enjoying the game. I really did love the aimless wandering. Those who know me will understand that this aimless exploration is my exact playstyle in pretty much every video game I play, no more so than in open world games. And No Man’s Sky is pretty much the greatest literal example of the open world.
Having not played for nearly two years, I was looking forward to jumping back into No Man’s Sky NEXT. By all accounts, Hello Games had updated it with various content patches (see my thoughts on “games as a service” here). Regardless of my fun with the original version, it did lack content. No Man’s Sky NEXT has completely sucked me back into this glorious colorful infinite universe. And I’m hooked.
It’s interesting because at its core, No Man’s Sky is a sandbox resource-gathering survival-lite game. Those who know me will tell you that I hate those types of games. In theory, I should hate No Man’s Sky, I should loathe it. But yet, as I discussed in the most recent episode of the podcast I run with Bradford, Gaming The Industry, No Man’s Sky has something that I believe games like Minecraft, ARK, and Conan: Exiles lack.
Unlike those other games, No Man’s Sky focuses primarily on exploration. The thrill of finding something new, of just wanting to peak over that next horizon before a storm rolls in, of landing on a world filled to the brim with glorious geography is so very real and tantalizingly palpable in No Man’s Sky.
This game hits some primordial ancient nerve that I fundamentally believe made humanity the explorers we are. That No Man’s Sky nails this sense of discovery with such purity is genuinely no small feat and I believe to be the game’s greatest accomplishment.
I have lost countless hours just this last week simply wandering off on my home planet, discovering all these amazing landscapes, taking sweeping screenshots, and just enjoying the simple but powerful joy of exploring. This emotion is so real and is the real reason why I keep coming back.
Of course, No Man’s Sky NEXT was a large update, adding new mechanics and features, not least of which is multiplayer. I’ve been having a blast building our Tawdry Ballz base with my friends Bradford and Pete as we trek to gather resources and build out our little fiefdom.
Even though I absolutely prefer single-player games to multiplayer ones, I feel No Man’s Sky did it right with their NEXT update. They didn’t turn this game into an MMO. I would absolutely hate that. I hope that never happens.
Instead, they largely kept No Man’s Sky as a single-player game but added in cooperative elements. This ensures and maintains the wonderful sense of scale, isolation, discovery, and mythos that I love about No Man’s Sky. Yes, you are exploring and building with your friends, but this universe is still huge and mysterious.
Really, despite the very real optimization issues and alt-tab framerate bug, I have to say that I’m in love all over again with No Man’s Sky. Wandering around our home planet when that perfect song comes on as I cast my eyes out to that glorious horizon is such an incredible sensation.
No Man’s Sky urges you to keep walking, to keep building, to keep wondering. It offers the right amount of carrots at just the right time to encourage you to keep moving forward as you continue your personal journey, whatever it may be. I’m absolutely loving this game so I think I’ll end it there and hop back in.