Every now and again a game appears that sparks instantaneous hype and expectations. No Man’s Sky arguably had the most explosive reveal in video game history. A short but striking premier at E3 2014 had players worldwide hailing No Man’s Sky as “Winning E3 forever” and being an “everything game”. Touting procedurally generated planets and landscapes where there would be “infinite” planets, I was immediately skeptical of No Man’s Sky. Not only of the literal impossibility of infinite planets, but in my experience, procedurally generated games almost always mean unpolished, uninteresting, and unstable. While I’m not saying I knew it would turn out the way it did, I just don’t see why everyone just assumed it would be this amazing, deep, incomparable game. Was it carefully planned hype? The right amount of advertising? Or as I believe it to be, blatant lies.
A new IP from a relatively small indie developer with no previous release of the like under their belts, I knew the title ran the risk of disaster. I wasn’t interested in the game regardless of how I imagined it would turn out; it just didn’t interest me that much. However, because I try my best to play every game I can, I did rent the title. Of course I had heard the horror stories of crashing, freezing, lost saves, and the massive deception that was the mulitplayer aspect, but I still wanted to give the game a go. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed parts of the game. The first few planets were somewhat exciting to explore. Meeting the first few aliens was a gripping experience. Upgrading started off actually feeling rewarding. It was at about the tenth planet where I started to realize I was in a loop. A sort of Westworld robot host, living man-made hell. I did the same things over and over, with only slight differences, but always the same outcome. Due to boredom and lack of good modern cinema, I actually achieved the Platinum on the PS4 version of the game. I walked away tired of the repetitive gameplay, but happy with the bits I actually found enjoyable.
The rest of the world seemed to fall into two extremes; Blind devotion to the title, and ones that wanted development lead Sean Murray dead. Both of these options are pretty ridiculous, and I couldn’t seem to understand why people jumped to these radical stances. Why did gamers feel so strongly about this game in particular? After a bit of research I discovered the source of the anger from those let down by the release. It seems, at least in my opinion, Sean Murray and other members of the Hello Games team made endless promises of features and game mechanics that simply didn’t appear in the final product. Now I’m sure they wanted to include all the ideas and promises they told us pre-release, but the fact of the matter is they were no where to be found. I personally know a handful of people who pre-ordered the title purely for the multiplayer experience that was very much absent in the final product, which wasn’t addressed until after release.
Were they lying to us? I know this is debatable, but I have to say I think they were. They were aware that a major selling point was the multiplayer factor. They knew it wasn’t going to be included in the final release. But instead of making that clear, and potentiality losing loads of sales, they said it would be “nearly impossible” to find another player due to the so-called infinite universe the game featured. They thought, “Hey, this is safe. They can’t really prove we’re lying. Let’s go with that!” Well it backfired hard when two streamers proved this false on release day. Oh, awkward. But Sean Murray being the charmer that he is just brushed it off turning it into an incredible feat rather than proof of a lie. But enough about the original release, let’s talk about No Man’s Sky today.
The No Man’s Sky NEXT update is a complete overhaul to the original release that coincides with the Xbox ONE release. The update will finally be adding online multiplayer for up to four players, third-person mode, actual story missions, enhanced graphics, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t care to list. From what I have read, and the small amount I’ve played, the update is very impressive. I wholeheartedly commend them for releasing this free to all current owners. Well it’s still fifty USD for Xbox owners, since it was previously PS4 and PC exclusive. Oh, and if you bought via GOG.com you’re probably never getting the update, but other than that, 100% free. Is it possible this update was designed to help sales of the Xbox version? I mean no one in their right mind would buy the original version of the game after seeing the disastrous PS4 release. Hmm…nah, they did this for the fans, they love the fans!
But here’s the real question: Should we really applaud this? An update released two years later that add features originally promised for the core game, free or not, doesn’t really sit right with me. While I am truly glad people seem to be enjoying this update, I can’t say I think these practices should be supported. Is it better than nothing? Sure. But I can’t help but be bothered that Hello Games never properly addressed the misleading information involved with No Man’s Sky. A massive amount of fans were unbelievably let down with the initial release. The lack of communication from the developers was unforgivable. And upon looking back at pre-release interviews, it’s clear we were flat-out lied to about what the game would offer. Thanking game companies and creators for taking us out to dinner after they rob us doesn’t fix the problem, it’s still our stolen money they bought us dinner with.
I only played a few minutes of the updated version myself. I know it’s just my opinion, but it’s still boring, it’s still lifeless, and I still just don’t care to explore anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m positive it’s an improvement, but that wouldn’t exactly be hard. So here’s what I’m asking: Do you think we should be thankful for this update? If so, in what way? I can’t help but see people who have always defended No Man’s Sky, still defending No Man’s Sky. This game invokes a very vicious response to criticism, and I don’t think that’s healthy to the industry.