No Man’s Sky’s Atlus Rises update was a nice surprise for fans of Hello Games title. It came around the one year anniversary and is the latest in a series of updates made to the controversial game that aims to make it better.
The Atlus Rises Update has been touted as the second coming of No Man’s Sky, a refresh of the game which adds in more focus and delivers the experience gamers should have gotten when the game hit retail in 2016. With “30 hours of new story” to work through, a heap of major tweaks to some of the games more lacking aspects and promises of more varied worlds, some have said that No Man’s Sky is a different game entirely.
I don’t really feel it when playing.
Don’t get me wrong. The update makes a number of changes that are better. Improved trading, better combat, and a general sense that you’re no longer playing in a sterile universe devoid of your input. At least now you have the option of joining a Guild and pointing yourself in a specific direction. It makes the tedious grind of material gathering less laborious. It doesn’t make the game hugely exciting – but it adds a sense of purpose to the core mechanics which didn’t really exist before.
The problem is that these additions don’t address the wider problems facing No Man’s Sky. Instead of injecting a sense of newly found profoundness, the game feels the same but with more little icons telling you where to go. Every now and then the story bumps along, but the procedural nature of the mission generation means that no mission feels so much more important than anything which came before. One quest blends into the next with the kind of hazy veneer that reminds me strongly of weak Grand Theft Auto clones.
The addition of fetch quests plays into the new storyline, but the problem is that these “quests” basically boil down to busy work. “Go here”, “Trade this”, “Get this many items”. The problem with this addition is that it steals slightly from the games hands off feel. Now it feels like the game is trying to keep you busy in the hope that you won’t realize the same task over and over; whereas before it was the general sense of exploration that drove things forward.
Perhaps this is showcased nowhere better than with the introduction of a halfway house multiplayer system. Here you can see other players wandering around in real time – reminding me greatly of Fable 2’s multiplayer efforts. The problem is that this really doesn’t add much to the experience. It’s kind of like Hello Games heard the complaints about the lack of multiplayer and decided to indulge that whim with minimal effort. I guess it works as a feature, but it doesn’t make the game any better for its inclusion. Heck, seeing an orb only makes you yearn more for features you know aren’t coming.
What’s more frustrating is that the update fails to address some of the base games biggest gripes. Progress is still a tedious slog while inventory management would be better managed by a three-year-old. The core gameplay remains as repetitive as ever while the highly touted improvements to the world generating biomes leads to a minimal difference. The worlds themselves are nice, but the problem is that none of the worlds make me gasp and go “this is amazing”. Hell, a fair few times I had to ask myself if I’d already been here. Without that sense of endless curiosity to fuel the desire to continue, the game doesn’t work.
The most frustrating part of the entire thing is that No Man’s Sky still retains an incredible sense of wonder. There’s little doubt that the universe Hello Games crafted has so much untapped potential. But Atlus Rises feels like it’s arriving too late to change the overall narrative. Adding in fetch quests and throwing a mysterious storyline into the mix doesn’t cover the cracks. If anything, the lack of genuinely exciting new content only makes me feel the core experience can’t be turned at this point.
All of the updates made to No Man’s Sky have made the game better. But even at its best, the game pails in comparison to other exploration games. At a time when this genre is really stepping up, No Man’s Sky feels tied to a framework that doesn’t age well. Improvements come, base building works but the entire thing just still feels like it’s missing some key ingredients.
Instead, the Atlus RisesUpdate feels like a well intended but ultimately weak attempt to keep No Man’s Sky relevant. After the dumpster fire that this game caused when it released, it’s good to see Hello Games committing to their game and trying to deliver the experience they envisioned. The problem is that the Atlus Rises Update sits upon a shaky throne. Its improvements can’t disguise the dull slog that makes up No Man’s Sky’s core experience and by not addressing those problems directly – any update to No Man’s Sky ultimately falls short.
I want to love No Man’s Sky. I still own it on the PlayStation 4 still so I can jump back in every now and then. There are so many good ideas here and it’s so frustrating to see Hello Game’s working so hard to try and salvage the wreckage of their once promising game, only for it to be undermined by previous bad decisions. If you liked the original No Man’s Sky release, then this will be right up your street. If you’re of the mindset that the game needed a major overhaul – it might be best to sit the Atlus Rises update out.
Don’t get me wrong – the game is much better now than it was twelve months ago. But being average isn’t a cause for celebration when the game has so much potential left untouched. It’s an encouraging step.