The tale of No Man’s Sky is, well, a tragic one. Unveiled in 2013 to widespread acclaim based solely on the trailer, it quickly escalated to the top of the PS4’s “most anticipated” list. It appeared to be a game that took elements from the survival genre and expanded them into an enormous, vibrant universe where anything was possible. Exploration looked pure and exciting, boasting hundreds, if not thousands, of intriguing creatures and anomalies at every turn. Unfortunately, come release day 2016, gamers quickly found that its limitless potential was, in fact, quite limited.

Started from the bottom…

It’s cold out here

I’ll admit, I was clinging to the hype train pretty tightly for this title. While I was not initially too intrigued, my interest grew more and more as release approached, to the point that I pre-ordered on PC a week before it hit shelves. I was excited. Friends were excited. The internet was on fire! There was no way this was going to be bad, right? Right? And then the reviews came in.

Sure, they weren’t abysmal. Rather, we were all seeing something we didn’t so much expect. Mediocrity. Publications spoke of bland, lifeless worlds and even less to do on them. Inventory constraints made the game frustrating with constant micromanagement. Flight was a chore. For those of us on PC, optimization was, well, laughable at best. (I was crashing to desktop long before I crashed into any planets.) And then there was the controversy of the “multiplayer” aspects.

Oh, the places you’ll go…

No Man’s Sky promised that players would encounter one another in its vast universe with the caveat that they’d have to find each other first. Well, leave it to the gaming community to put this to the test. And they did. Almost immediately, it was proven that this function of the game was either not working or completely left out. After this? Radio silence. The developers almost seemed to disappear. But who could blame them? The less productive members of the community decided the only answer was an endless onslaught of social media harassment — something that, no matter how disappointed in a game you may be, is never acceptable.

…now we’re here!

Here we are, though, in 2018. A few months ago, we received the announcement that NMS would be making its way to the Xbox One…alongside an absolutely enormous update. Prefaced by some mysterious publicity and an alternate-reality game, Hello Games announced its massive NEXT expansion. For free! Sure, this isn’t its first update, nor its first large one. After the dust cleared months after release, the game did begin to receive more attention from its creators, but nothing that hits the scale of the NEXT update, launching today, July 24th.

Looks good, feels good

Significant graphical boosts and a hearty reworking of the user interface look to welcome players both old and new with a fresh coat of paint. Even better? Hello Games is finally adding the long-awaited multiplayer experience its followers have been hoping for since day one. Alongside all of that is an expansion of the base-building features that were patched in and brand new mission elements to flesh out the many worlds in the game’s universe. And it doesn’t stop there. Promising daily/weekly missions, events, and content, I have a good feeling I’ll be logging some serious hours trying to see all there is to see in the depths of space. (Or, more realistically, trying to find and name planets after Jeff Goldblum characters…)

Those ain’t Legos

This update will be the first time I’ve played it in awhile, but a quick internet search is proof positive that the community for this game has been thriving. Reddit’s r/NoMansSkyTheGame boasts over 144,000 subscribers and over 30,000 active at my time of viewing — that’s nothing to scoff at and doesn’t exactly give off the scent of a dead product. You really have to hand it to Hello Games; they made it clear that this game is something they’re proud of and the care they’ve shown since release proves that. They also show an open willingness to listen to their player-base (whether it’s deserved or not after the pointed harassment…) and appear to be pushing a product that’s more than worth the time and money it asks for.

You can’t take the sky from me

Today alone I’ve seen friends discussing the game, message boards reviving old NMS OTs, and a level of enthusiasm from Hello Games that would make even the hardest cynic feel something. It’s a success story, a tale of redemption, a testament to hard work, dedication, and belief in the product. Maybe, even more importantly, the devotion to making all of us believe in it, too.

Simply put, the NEXT update looks magnificent. In a world where DLC is often a bad word, putting free content like this into the world speaks volumes to the ability to update a product after day one. It’s a deep mark of creators tempering their output and it seems like No Man’s Sky is finally well-deserving of a second look. I’ve been really hoping for a reason to revisit it at length, as it always felt unique and intriguing, even if not fully compelling, and this is absolutely that reason. I’ll know for sure in a few hours, but I have high hopes that they got it right this time and we’ll only see the title continue to grow. I can’t wait to blaze new trails in the universe with some pals. See you, space cowboys!

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