3 reasons why you’ve probably already stopped playing through the No Man’s Sky NEXT update

It’s a very pretty game…..but…..

It’s a very pretty game…..but…..

By now we’re all aware of what they say about assumptions and why we shouldn’t make them, but to give a middle finger squarely to the popular idiom, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’ve probably already stopped playing No Man’s Sky’s NEXT update.

It has nothing to do with quality I’m sure, because the NEXT update graced us with a slew of improvements that greatly enhanced the playability of the game, fixed a space-tanker load of bugs and simplified the crafting tree from something the size of Santa’s delivery inventory to a bachelor’s moderate shopping list.

However 120 hours in I can’t shake the feeling that Hello Games have still missed the boat when it comes to understanding what makes huge open world (galaxy, I guess) games so enjoyable. While the NEXT update definitely upped the ante when it came to bringing old players back into the fold and easing new players into the world, there are three thoughts I’m taking away from my game experience. Conclusions I’m POSITIVE that any player, such as yourself, have also made since downloading the update and taking another stab at the game.

So here I am, making assumptions. An ass out of you and me. Here are 3 reasons why you’ve probably stopped playing the No Man’s Sky NEXT update:

1. About 100 hours in you’ve had an existential crisis

You’ve built your Quantum Processor factory, you’ve set your freighter up with all the bells and whistles that would make the Jones’s salivate with envy and the shiny new S-Class Hauler you own, that cost you the equivalent of the GDP of a medium sized European nation, has so many slots that passersby are beginning to drop their mail in it.

Awesome. Now what?

While the premise of the game is to reach the center of the galaxy, the premise of A game in general is give the user a level of satisfaction while they attempt to achieve the criteria to win. For a lot of us, base building and swimming like Scrooge McDuck through piles of fake money doesn’t quite cut the mustard as an overall gaming experience. That isn’t to say that people that DO enjoy these qualities don’t exist, but they exist on a tier of gamer that are akin to people that spend hundreds of hours making a 1:1 scale replica of the USS Enterprise out of blocks in Minecraft.

Expecting us to believe that acquiring credits or building intricate bases is enough to keep us interested as we travel hundreds of thousands of light years towards the center of the galaxy is giving our attention spans far too much credit. It would be like building a game with all the complexity and size of Fallout 4 and expecting the player to be interested only in settlement building.

“Another settlement needs your help”. Sorry Preston, the game doesn’t allow me to do that. If you can lure the bad guys here I can set up a turret. On another topic, have you seen the new atrium I built? It’s to die for. Look at those panoramic views.

2. What you see is what you get and you’ve been deluding yourself if you think it’s going to change

I know what you’re going to say already, I know it: “You’ve put over 100 hours into this game, how can you say anything negative about it? Clearly you enjoyed it”. Have you ever eaten an entire KFC Zinger burger meal? While standing in the queue you salivate at the thought of it, however once you find a table and start tearing into the soggy chips and the dry chicken patty covered in 3 pieces of brown lettuce you start to realise that what you were sold wasn’t a meal, it was the promise of satisfaction.

Inevitably at some point in the future we end up going back for more punishment, because somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves that the restaurant was having an off day, they were rushed or perhaps the person making your burger on that particular day was an uneducated 25-fingered putz.

At some juncture in our gaming experience we’ve convinced ourselves that the game is going to miraculously change, like the frogs in Jurassic Park spontaneously changing sex. The reality of course is that when your game loads up for the very first time and you find yourself crashed on an alien world, whatever you see in front of you IS the game, that’s it; no level of extra experience is going to change the fact that you’re going to craft objects by mining resources so you can fly around and earn money.

Money that allows you to buy better ships with more spaces for holding resources and better tools to, yep, mine resources with.

So yes, I’ve put in over 100 hours into the game, because I convinced myself over and over again that THIS time the lukewarm KFC meal will be better. It will. I swear.

3. Oh look, another alien with thick front legs and tiny back legs

Perhaps the game’s alien encounter engine is broken just in my game alone, but at least one-quarter of all the worlds I land on are populated by lizards with fat front legs and spindly little back legs.

Either something is broken, God was in a rush and just hit CTRL + V on his blueprint machine or the game’s procedurally generated encounter engine doesn’t do what it says on the tin.

Look, it may sound like I’m coming down hard on the game. Like I mentioned previously I’ve put over 100+ hours into it, so deep down at some point I definitely got my money’s worth. But in the end I gave up on my journey long before I reached the galactic center, something I’m sure many of you have done too, because the ride to get there is paved with exhaustive pockets of tedium and repetition. What started as a voyage of discovery ended up as an intergalactic long-form version of a game of monopoly; buy, sell, mine, scavenge, all so I can reach a destination I no longer cared about. All it needs is a space jail.

In the end No Man’s Sky NEXT is a pretty great foundation to begin building a proper RPG from, something that Star Citizen and potentially Bethesda’s Starfield will be. I’m grateful that No Man’s Sky exists, but to borrow, tweak and terribly butcher a quote from an amazing movie:

This game is the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now.

And ultimately, that’s why you’ve stopped playing.

- Andrew Archer