First impressions: No Man’s Sky’s Foundation Update
Same same but different.
Following all the controversy of the broken promises surrounding No Man’s Sky, Hello Games has emerged from its cave of solitude to launch the potentially game-changing Foundation Update. We’re told that this will be the first of many additions to the controversy-riddled space exploration game released in August this year. It brings several major changes to the game including new game modes, visual and UI updates as well as the ability to build bases and construct new machinery. After returning to No Man’s Sky for several hours, however, the update does little to impact the core gameplay. This is still a monotonous exploration game, only now there’s a little more purpose to it.
Now offering three game modes, No Man’s Sky hopes to cater for a wider audience ranging from the millions that understand the appeal of Minecraft (I don’t) to those that love a real challenge (I don’t).
The Creative game mode option gives unlimited resources for base building and more freedom in exploration. This feels like nothing more than a demo mode that Sean Murray would use whilst sitting down with IGN to promote his lies. It should not be how No Man’s Sky should be played and will likely only be used for an hour or so as it offers no real motivation to do anything. Use it to learn about the base building mechanics and then go back to your old save in the original,Normal mode.
Survival mode is exactly what it sounds like: it’s tough. Really tough. Starting a new game had me desperately searching for resources just to stay alive without an opportunity to focus on anything else. If you’re a sadist and love torturing yourself, start a game in Survival.
Base building in NMS is slightly similar to Minecraft, and quite similar to Doom’s SnapMap feature. You’ll use the new quick access menu to select and place varying base components such as rooms and hallways. While full creativity isn’t granted with only certain components working with certain others, you can still build a base suitable to your needs with relative ease including areas for hydroponics, weapons research and more. Placing each component requires resources which leaves you with a base consisting of a dead end hallway until you venture out to find more Thamium 9, Iron or whatever else. Having a base to call your own admittedly is a nice addition, if only it didn’t take so long to build something worth writing home about.
Before your base is operational you’re also required to recruit staff from nearby space stations to actually run it. Experts in construction, weaponry, horticulture and science will grant you access to more items and in turn increase the overall efficiency of your production. These NPCs, who have much more character than the generic aliens of the original No Man’s Sky, will send you on fetch quests for resources so they can assist with expanding your base — once again necessitating the exploration factor.
In a game featuring almost unlimited locations to explore, setting a home planet that you’ll need to return to over and over again seems on the surface rather redundant. This issue is addressed in two ways. Firstly you can now build permanent way points anywhere in the galaxy so you can teleport between them and your home base as you see fit. Put to good use one could set up shop in a galaxy where the ever so valuable Vortex Cubes are bought at a high price, and then plant a way-point on a planet half way across the galaxy where the cubes are ripe for the taking earning you a solid return for your efforts.
An alternative to building a stationary home base on terra firma is that you can buy one of those huge space freighters if you have the coin. In my game a freighter with thirteen storage slots was available for roughly seven million credits. Once purchased, a freighter allows you to build a small base inside it which prevents you from having to return to the same old planet over and over. While having a mobile base on board a freighter is advantageous in that it can follow you around, the available space to build is limited when compared to a land based building and while you can easily transfer resources from your suit or ship to your freighter, retrieving items from freighter storage requires docking with it which is an arduous task. The perks of owning a freighter are in no way worth the work required to afford them.
Another big change in the Foundation Update is the inclusion of new resources and elements. These are required early on in base building and many can’t be harvested right away. You’ll need to first upgrade your mining tool or Exosuit which, yet again, encourages further exploration. Learning about the new resources and where to find them was one of the few pleasures of No Man’s Sky so this is very much a welcome addition.
There are several other tweaks to the user interface (which is still pretty average) and some visual improvements impacting ambient lighting and the landscape generation. The game still features annoying bugs that have been present since launch such as objective markers displaying unnecessarily and mission instructions not updating as well as a host of new problems. When first starting the game after the update my starship was stuck floating in mid air barely within reach of my jetpack, and on several occasions the cockpit camera gradually moved further towards the back of my ship resulting in near zero visibility whilst flying.
All these things considered, the big question is whether or not players should return to No Man’s
Lie Sky. At present, the answer is a resounding no.
For apparently nine weeks of work the changes made to the game are huge, but they’re not enough to warrant everyone getting back on board just yet. The original journey to the centre of the galaxy was a superfluous one. Once there, you’re left with nothing to show for it and for some — myself included — a significant flaw in the game’s design made this goal virtually impossible. The new base building feature may appeal to those with nothing better to do with their time as this at least adds something semi tangible and functional to the experience. Though I predict Foundation won’t be enough to repair the damage caused to this ambitious project and many players are still recovering after Hello Games sent them to the burn ward.
When we reviewed No Man’s Sky in its original form it was awarded a 6.5/10 with many points given on the ambition and originality of the project and many lost due to the repetitive nature of the experience. If it were appropriate for us to consider amending a score after a title update (which it’s not), the changes brought with Foundation are not nearly enough to impact that score. Rather than diving in now and investing further hours, we suggest waiting until No Man’s Sky is closer to being a complete game — and that may still be months or years away.