Hello Games went into a Kim-K-post-robbery level of media shutdown after the immense critical and community backlash against their hypebeast, flagship title, No Man's Sky. No new tweets, Facebook posts, or press releases aside from a few personal comments by the studio head and some engineers. So what were they doing in that deadest of silences? Crying? Praying? Meditating? Laughing while they counted all the money you goobers spent on their unfinished game? Seemed like some combination of these was probably the truth for a while, but now we know that they were getting down to business with the first major update, hopefully titled the "Foundation Update."
The most notable addition to No Man's Sky in the update is the addition of habitable bases. Players can now create their own livable home base on any planet. The design system for the bases is also incredibly user-friendly, which is a very pleasant surprise considering how unwieldy and counter-intuitive much of the game can be. The modules, which house different specialists, are easy to customize (to a certain extent) and snap together to make a less-than-beautiful looking base of operations.
Specialists, which allow for different modules like farms, to work can be utilized after assembling the right items and recruiting the right personnel. The personnel can be difficult to find and the items are mostly assembled via traditional fetch quest mechanics via crafting recipes, but these add a much-needed goal to the game and have immediate rewards in the ability to gain better tech and make more money.
Farming is apparently so lucrative that you'd be able to afford one of the new freighter ships, which have double the cargo slots of your normal ship, all of which carry double the resources. However, to get your hands on this kinda flyer you're gonna need a cool seven million units. That number, which for people who haven't played's sake is totally scale-breaking, is so large that you might think it pointless to actually acquire one for any reason other than its trophy status. If you've built up seven million units in anything less than the most tedious way possible then what need do you really have for the freighter?
Hello Games also did great work with the flora and fauna of NMS in the Foundation Update. They removed a lot of the browns from the color palettes, making environments more vibrant and appealing and they normalized some of the animal generation to make them look more like the majestic beasts in the gameplay trailers and less like, well... randomly generated garbage critters.
This video hilariously illustrates some of the popular frustrations with the monster generation problems at release (you're gonna wanna turn that sound on for this one):
There were also updates to the pirate ship AI, making them a bit more difficult and rewarding to fight. They now fly in recognizable attack patterns and formations, while doing and avoiding more damage to you and the freighters they're attacking. You can also reap the benefits of engaging these space marauders in the new reward system that's in place for defeating them.
Is it enough?
The new stuff adds some depth and short term objectives to a game that, not unfairly, relies largely on your imagination for the big picture stuff (like why you're engaging in aimless space capitalism in the first place). However, it suffers from the same problems of (mostly) garbage UI and monotony. But the color palette and environmental/creature updates add an important and notable sense of aesthetic possibility to a game that, at its best, often prompts you to stop and stare at its beauty.
So is this enough to save No Man's Sky from its own soured reputation? Now, the answer is probably no, but that's not necessarily a death sentence for No Man's Sky. In fact, I am now more hopeful for the potential of No Man's Sky then ever before. It is, after all, called the "Foundation Update" for a reason. It's hopefully the base from which Hello Games will work to create the game that was promised to so many people and, quite frankly, would still be incredible to play. I only wish they chose not to include us in the full-price global beta that was No Man's Sky 1.0.