No Man’s Sky Xbox One Review

If, at first, you don’t succeed. Try, try again. That seems to be the motto Sean Murray of Hello Games must live by. When he first appeared on the gaming scene with a demo for No Man’s Sky (NMS) back in 2016, he figuratively offered the universe. A living and dynamic one with procedurally generated planets and ecosystems. Gamers were sent a twitter with galactic sized expectations. What was initially delivered fell far below the inferred implementations. Yes, there was a universe, but it was pretty empty, pretty rigid in its gameplay and a lonely experience. Gamers were so disappointed that many lawsuits were filed against the company, all which were dismissed BTW.

The number of players fell dramatically within the first month of the game’s release and NMS seemed to be another promising game destined for the Scrap Pile of Shame. Hello Games could have walked away from the game but they must have believed in it for they continued to support. They doggedly released patches – (Foundation, Path Finder and Atlas Rises) – that added new features but were perceived as incremental improvements. Not something evolutionary. Until now.

Evolutionary Upgrade

The latest patch, the NEXT patch – which may be a play on the Star Trek franchise a la Star Trek: The Next Generation – has finally delivered a game with the scope on par or higher than what gamers initially envisioned it would be. This is an evolutionary upgrade. How far has the game come? The original game measured a relatively paltry 3GB compared to the latest version’s heftier 9GB. No doubt a lot of this increase is due to higher resolution textures but the game engine has been retooled to handle the increased load. Terran generation is improved, draw distances are further out, and pop-in has been reduced – but not eliminated. In addition, there is more variety in terrain and life forms, cloud generation – and snow and rain. One knock on the graphics side, the clouds are low-res and stick on a sore thumb. Hopefully, this will be addressed in a future patch.

And for the first time, the game is available for the Xbox One.

My review comes from a base Xbox One which runs at a 1660 x 900 display. Xbox One X owners get a full 4K and HDR presentation or they can choose from a Performance Mode that runs at a 2560 x 1440 presentation and an unlocked framerate that can hit 60fps but also has an option for a locked 30fps gives far more consistent experience. The better option is to choose a 1080p presentation and 60fps. Performance across the 3 platforms varies. Apparently, the PC version is encountering performance issues requiring tinkering with graphic options to get the best performance. Frame rates on the PS4 and PS4 Pro are fairly steady with the Xbox, not surprisingly since this is the first release of the game, encountering more variances. No doubt, future patches will continue to be released to improve platform performance.

Among other things improved the game is the move to make it more of a social experience. Multi-player has been implemented for everyone, except for GOG gamers. They are supposed to get it in a few months. Players that prefer the loner experience can still do so by restricting the game option to share the universe with one other player. Another new gameplay mode is Creative, where one whom wishes to explore the universe free of any restraints of resource gathering and crafting can do so. The Normal Mode allows you to recover your inventory if you die in the game while the Expert Mode means if you die, you lose everything and must start a new game.

No Man's Sky Alien Feature

With such a large upgrade there are some costs. Players with hundreds of hours invested will find much of their inventory obsolete. Bugs have arisen, with the most pernicious being corrupted save game files. Hello Games have promised quick fix patches to fix such problems. On the XBox side alone, a followup 3GB patch has already been released. Given the amount of changes to NMS, it really is a new game. As such, players are best to bite the bullet and start a new game.

No Man’s Sky has reached a point where not only does it meet initial promises, it now exceeds them. It is always a welcome sight to see a company to support a product after it’s launch, especially one with such a troubled one. What the game has always been successful at doing is creating moments of visual wonder and sense of scale of the universe. Now it does that even better and adds a whole bunch of functionality that makes getting around in that experience easier.

***Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher***