No Man’s Sky‘s place in gaming history is going to be a dubious one. The game is a cautionary tale against pre-orders, hype, and the questionable truths of E3 presentations for years to come. Its launch and subsequent weeks after release were a myriad of angry players, less than stellar reviews and the worst post-launch reaction gaming has ever seen. Still, Hello Games have stuck with the game, releasing a few major patches to add-in content missing from the base game or fix issues players found. Their latest, patch 1.3 “Atlas Rises” is their biggest one to date, boasting a massive list of fixes and new content. Is this the patch people have been waiting for? Is No Man’s Sky finally “good”? Or is this just another in a long list of lies about the game?Planetary portal allows interstellar transportation in the blink of an eye. And they look cool.
The most noticeable change in the patch is the new graphical overhaul, and while it’s still not “next-gen” it does go a long way to helping. Textures are mostly better, with particular enhancements in NPCs, ships, flora, and fauna. Shadows and shaders now look better too, with light shafts and other new graphical features helping to sell immersion. There are also new planet textures too, including the promised desert planets and barren worlds. There are still issues with pop-in, animals still look goofy and animations are second rate. There are still performance issues even running on a decent gaming rig, but overall, it’s a nice change from the PS2 era graphics of the vanilla release, and you’ll want to pause occasionally to use the game’s camera feature to grab a snapshot every once and awhile.
Better graphics are just the beginning, as 1.3 also brings a slew of gameplay changes. Low-level flight is now enabled, meaning you can properly fly your ship through massive valleys and under natural arches, living out your planetside dogfighting dreams. Terrain manipulation is now possible via multi-tool upgrade, which is cool but rarely practical for anything other than getting out of caves or caverns when the jetpack won’t cut it. Planets now occasionally spawn portals, which can allow players to travel vast distances in seconds, although you need to find at least two of them and again there’s little practical reasoning for this.Co-op is now possible, sort of, with player glitches allowing joint exploration, however proper co-op is still absent from the game. Lastly are the changes to the universe itself, which has been re-generated to allow for economy and conflict simulation between factions, all of which the player can engage in at their leisure.Crashed freighters hold treasure if you’re daring enough to go looking.
All of this sounds good, but does it work and make the game better? Actually, sort of. A quick glance at the Steam page shows that the community is responding more positively than normal, with the game managing to grab a 70% positive rating, a far cry from the around 30% the game used to have. It’s clear that Hello’s work on the game is starting to pay off, and while the game is still nowhere near what was promised in it’s pre-release trailers and marketing material, it is starting to become a game that’s enjoyable to play. There is more planned for No Man’s Sky too, at least that’s the implication in some of the patch notes, with references to proper co-op and online play and future features buried in the list. For now, if you can grab it on sale or still have it gathering dust on a shelf, check out the 1.3 patch, it just might be your reason for returning to the galaxy.