It would be impossible to discuss the massive Foundation Update to No Man’s Sky without talking about the launch of the game. NMS quickly went from one of the most anticipated games in recent memory to one of the most disappointing. While I could devote an entire post to the expectations of the game and all of the anguish the fan base suffered when the delivered product was a far cry from what was promised, it will suffice to say that NMS was as wide as an ocean but as deep as a puddle.
If you aren’t aware of the premise of NMS, I would suggest reading the write-up that Matt did for it back in August. The biggest failing that NMS had was the lack of things to do. You could explore planets endlessly but there were no real goals, no use for the resources you gathered and exploring hard to find areas yielded nothing aside from a use of your time. After three long months of complete silence from the developers, Hello Games have come out with the Foundation Update which, as I’ll discuss, goes a long way towards fixing some of the issues with NMS but leaves a lot of work left to be done.
- TL;DR: The Foundation Update brings survival mode, base building, freighters, and more to significantly improve the game while still leaving a lot left to do.
- Platform: PS4
- Time Played: 25 hours pre-update, 12 hours post-update
- What I played: Survival mode, repaired ship, built a base
The Foundation Update has too many changes to discuss in its entirety but it covers the small things from more logical grouping of resources, improved space combat, and an improved UI to big ideas like new game modes, base building, and freighters. The smaller changes do a nice job of making the planets feel a little bit more varied and help with the immersion of the game and are definitely a step in the right direction.
It’s hard to measure to a degree of certainty but the general consensus is planets are much more varied in their appearance. Mountains are bigger, animals can be more plentiful and some people have even seen beaches! Some plants are now biome specific and can even yield exotic resources by collecting them. Those who played before the update likely felt they were seeing the same things over and over and while repetition is going to happen, the improved formulas have made big strides in adding variation both between and within planets.
New Game Modes
The biggest and, in my opinion, best part of the Foundation Update is the inclusion of two new game modes, Creative and Survival, which are very similar to what Minecraft offers. Creative mode allows players to explore and build as much as they want without having to worry about their health or life support running out and building does not require any resources. For those who just love the idea of bouncing from planet to planet and setting up shop, this gives you that option, but for me the building options aren’t currently expansive enough to make this mode all that fun. What creative mode does provide is a nice framework for what people might enjoy once the game (hopefully) is more complete.
Survival mode is really where the Update makes its biggest strides. The base game suffered from being, well, boring in part because it was far too easy. Resources were incredibly plentiful, your life support and hazard protection were easy to keep topped off, and there were no real threats. All that has changed. Carbon and iron are still very easy to find, but all other resources have become much more scarce. Your life support drains significantly more quickly (and even more rapidly if you sprint or jetpack) and planets seem more likely to have some weather element making it a struggle to stay outside for long periods of time.
The game starts you off about a 10-15 minute walk from your ship and when you die, you lose all items you were carrying and hadn’t sent to your ship. It was actually quite challenging to get to my ship and it was refreshing to frantically search for a cave to crawl into and wait for my hazard protection to fill back or risk losing everything I gathered. Once I had finally made it to and repaired my ship, I was attacked by pirates in space and lost some rare, valuable resources. It’s not like I hadn’t been killed by pirates in NMS before, but this time I knew I’d actually have to work hard to replace what I lost.
One of the biggest changes that makes survival a challenge is the amount and type of resources needed to perform previously simple tasks. For instance, lifting off from a planet’s surface in your ship now requires a lot of plutonium just for one boost’s worth of charge and plutonium isn’t the easiest thing to find. As a result, the way I play the game has changed. In the past, I would see a shelter 15 minutes away, hop in my ship, and fly over there. Now, since it could take that long just to find enough plutonium to take off, I actually take the time to walk, exploring both because it was on the way and out of necessity to keep my life support topped off at all times. It can’t be understated how much it means that there was now a purpose in me walking, exploring, and collecting resources aside from merely wanting to do so.
Although Hello Games did a great job of increasing the difficulty of the game for those who want it, there are still a number of shortcomings with survival mode. First of all, there were no notable changes to the animals you encounter in the game which means that the vast majority of them are still passive. With no multiplayer and the only “enemies” being pirates that only attack in space, the only real threat to your survival is running out of resources to keep your protections fueled. As you progress in the game, you get more storage space and more money to buy resources and before you know it, survival mode isn’t really about surviving so much as collecting rare resources to help with base building. This may very well be fixed if future updates provide a wider array of animal behavior and if they truly implement the promised feature of faction warfare, but for now, it’s really you against the elements.
Survival is vastly improved from the original game mode but it will require some well done future updates for us to really feel like we’re struggling to survive instead of just filling our inventories.
Base Building and Freighters
The other big change with the Foundation Update is the ability to construct bases. If you find a base on a planet, you can make it your home planet and, with lots of iron, you can start adding new parts to the base to make it your own. While that may sound a bit simple, and in certain regards it is, it actually results in a whole new series of objectives and goals. The number of things you can build are limited initially but after recruiting aliens to man parts of your base, they will start giving you blueprints that require rare resources as well as missions to go to distress beacons or abandoned buildings to learn new technologies. It quickly becomes obvious just how many new elements and technologies there are in the game now than before the update.
Some of the features of the base are super useful, such as containers which can store resources that you don’t want to waste your valuable suit or ship slots on. It’s not only parts of the base that you can learn to build. You start off being able to build save points anywhere you want and a communication system where you can leave message for other players to read (hopefully a hint towards more multiplayer feature in the future). You will also learn to build a contraption that automatically mines a resource that you attach it to. This provides a great foundation (heh) for what you can do in the future. Some have even suggested that the game code reveals plans to include land vehicles in the future update which would be amazing.
I admittedly haven’t gone far enough into exploring this aspect of the update, but the fact that I’m 10 hours in and I still feel like there’s still a lot to discover is a major improvement from the base game. If the developers continue to expand what we’re able to build, it could be a much needed draw for people to keep finding blueprints and gathering resources. I hope they also make it possible for players to find each other’s bases more easily which would just add another reason to try to impress with the biggest, coolest base.
I haven’t had a chance to really play around too much with freighters quite yet but they are rather cool. Freighters are large ships, manned by aliens, which you can buy for a healthy sum of credits and use to store a lot of resources as well as a number of ships. Your freighter will automatically warp to you when you summon it from anywhere in the universe. Aside from trying to generate a lot of money to afford the freighter, I’m not sure this adds much to the way the game will be played, but it is incredibly cool and definitely helps people who want to focus on buying and selling items in bulk, something I hope a future update further expands upon. I would love to see them put in more types and styles of ships for people to acquire.
These updates are a fantastic start but there’s much more to be done. One of the biggest things is that the entire premise of the game is based on eventually making it to the center of the universe, but currently doing so is not very rewarding. Adding more to the “story” of the game or creating something more worthwhile at the center would really help in the exploration.
Alien interactions could also be much improved. It’s nice to now see multiple aliens in a single location, but having a better faction system and making it harder to be on good terms would be a nice change. This could also work into the economics systems which are way too simplistic.
Animals are also due for an improvement. As I mentioned, we need more hostile animals to create a more threatening environment and they need to be able to interact in more believable ways that feel more natural.
One thing Hello Games made clear with the Foundation Update is that this is just laying the groundwork for future updates, some of which will be even bigger. As the game stands now, it is significantly more challenging and provides a lot more to do than in its original form. However, there is still so much missing from both what was promised and what is needed to make a complete game that will keep people coming back for more than a few weeks after the update.
As it stands now, if you’ve already invested the $60 to buy the game, I highly recommend giving it another shot if for no other reason than getting some more bang for your buck in what is now a much better experience. However, if you’re looking for the complete NMS package, you’ve got a bit more waiting to do. As long as Hello Games continues to build on what they now have, I think we may eventually get a very good game, even if it never really becomes the game we were promised.