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No Man’s SkyCredit: Hello Games

If you were wondering what kind of a game No Man’s Sky Next is, all you have to do is go on Twitter: just searching “No Man’s Sky” should about do it. You’ll see an endless wave of vexing, fascinating and beautiful screenshots, from fleets of mining ships making their way through orange and red nebulas to lush tropical planets covered in strange loping animals. No Man’s Sky Next came with, among other things, a big visual overhaul, and it’s made what was already a good looking game into a flat-out beautiful one, as well as something much closer to those early trailers. This is a game about exploration at its heart, and there’s more to see than ever before.

But let’s back up a second, because there’s a question to be answered here. The other day I wondered whether now was finally the time to return to No Man’s Sky, after two years of updates and a massive overhaul that feels almost like a new game. And after putting about a dozen hours into the new build, I think I can answer that question.

The answer is no. But we’re really close.

The problem is that things just aren’t really there on a technical level yet. To start with, enabling “high quality” mode on my Xbox One X rendered the game virtually unplayable, which isn’t a great sign when you’re working with the most powerful console on the market: I’ve heard that things can get pretty rough on the original PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. It’s a minor annoyance for me because all I had to do was switch over to a performance mode. It’s a bigger issue for others.

Aside from that, however, the biggest problem I’ve encountered is that the quest system is pretty much unworkable. Most of my main quests have been alright, but I’ve had problems pop up with nearly every one of my side quests. Quests disappear, change their parameters or just don’t spawn the right targets, and if I try to abandon them my game instantly crashes.

No Man’s Sky NextCredit: Hello Games

In one instance, I was sent to raid a building down on a planet for industrial secrets. I underestimated the local opposition and had to turn tail and run, but for some reason, once I left the atmosphere the game told me that I had in fact completed the mission. So I went back to hand it in and my ship immediately got stuck inside the architecture of a freighter and I had to reboot. When I did, not only that quest but all my other quests were gone as well.

Another one of my quests asks me to go read the archives on my base computer, except the game has no earthly idea where my base is. I have two base computers in the game now, which has apparently confused the poor quest mechanic, but neither of them will give me the information I need. The quest icon now points me towards my capital ship, which has no computer on it.

Ther are other problems with Next: mostly that the game introduces a material refining system that functions as little more than a bonehead error that forces players to take an annoying extra step in making materials, especially grating in a game with no shortage of items to begin with. Also, a game with such a big emphasis on base building and inventory management should really make it easier to build storage. Why is it my character can build a hyperdrive, but not a box? Such errors happen, and it’s not the end of the world. The quest thing is a real stumbling block, however: I feel like there’s a whole side of the game that just isn’t working.

All in all, however, I’ve loved my time with No Man’s Sky Next. It’s every bit the strange, contemplative space exploration title I remember falling into at launch, just with lots more to do, slightly friendlier systems and vastly improved visuals. I haven’t touched the multiplayer side of things yet, but I’m excited to make some planet-spanning civilizations with a like-minded group of weirdos.

I was never as down on this game as some others, and I’m still not. It’s a unique, bizarre and endlessly fascinating title. But maybe give it just like a week or two more in the oven. Sean Murray announced a hotfix that is going into the testing phase on PC and said that PS4 and Xbox One patches should be arriving soon. We’ll see what the game is like after those take effect: if you’ve been waiting this long, might be best to wait just a little while longer.

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