You’d think that space would be the last unexplored territory, but No Man’s Sky, a space exploration sim released in 2016, continues to add to and enhance its staggering array of features. What started out as a peaceful journey through a galaxy made up of more than 18 quintillion isolated planets has evolved into a much more expansive game with a more sophisticated range of gameplay options, including frontier towns to manage, outlaw space systems to smuggle goods through, multiplayer missions to complete with your friends, and a fully developed story campaign to follow at your own leisurely pace.
Also, as of October 7, it has undergone its fourth significant update. That coincided with the long-awaited introduction of the Nintendo Switch, and that is when developer Hello Games published the 4.0 update, also known as the Waypoint update. Long-time No Man’s Sky fans were once again rewarded to an astonishing array of enhancements as a result of the 4.0 update, including enhancements to visual fidelity, increased menu clarity, and a major revamp to inventory management that also briefly discouraged some players.
The variety of difficulty-setting sliders, which can change the fundamental character of one’s experience in any part of No Man’s Sky, from combat to crafting to intergalactic arbitrage, is the most obvious new feature for current players, though. There is also the option to lock yourself out of future difficulty changes, but I was hesitant to do so in my own game, which has received about 142 hours of played spaced out over several years. While choosing a game’s difficulty may seem like a standard feature to expect, the enormous array of settings they offer make No Man’s Sky a totally unique experience that’s worthwhile returning to.
Slide to the left, slide to the right
The majority of my experience with No Man’s Sky has been monotonous so far. I’ve gotten stuck in a cycle that goes something like this: land on a planet, scan the area, gather some resources from a nearby mineral node, climb back up to my freighter, and repeat. Since I started playing in 2017, the game has introduced more elaborate base-building, cooking, and animal breeding features that I never really got into. I mainly ignored the most recent updates as well, especially because, to be perfectly honest, I was starting to grow a little tired of the whole thing.
No Man’s Sky’s default experience is essentially a survival simulator with a very precise way of performing each of the different things that it does, despite the fact that there is a lot to do on paper. Sunk cost fallacy and all, I knew I wanted to stick with the same save file, but I was finding it difficult to enjoy any of the other “fun” activities that had been added to No Man’s Sky over time. There are seasonal adventures called Expeditions that require you to create a new temporary save file and finish a list of predetermined tasks in exchange for rewards you can transfer to your other save files. Nevertheless, such awards are only cosmetics meant to be worn during an already existing game experience.
Then the new difficulty slider appeared, which I soon used to give my terrain-unfriendly Geology Cannon infinite ammo and, for laughs’ sake, obliterate a sizable crater onto a planet’s surface. Don’t get me wrong, you can do whatever you want in No Man’s Sky’s survival mode with every parameter turned up to the maximum level of difficulty, but friction is the biggest drawback. Even my crater generally requires valuable time and effort when taking into account the amount of resources it would take to keep you alive and your tools fueled.
However, No Man’s Sky plays better as a sandpit than a survival sim, and that is what its alternative creative mode is allegedly all about. However, I never chose to experience or enjoy its laid-back approach to spacefaring exploration because, once again, I simply couldn’t be bothered to create a new save file. Hello there! Now, there’s a slider that you can just turn all the way to the left to make each of No Man’s Sky’s various components function as they would in creative mode. Got tired of that as well? It’s all good; simply slide it back to the right and you’re done.
With these choices, you can get rather specific, so you can decide to eliminate all fuel and crafting costs while also making other parts more challenging. For instance, you might decide that planetary combat is still what you want in order to increase the ferocity and relative strength of the roaming Sentinels, an automated combat force that typically tries to prevent you from mining, terraforming, or even just dressing inappropriately while near a planet. You can also just turn them off permanently, which will let you to continue mining and crafting indefinitely without interruption. I’ve switched off Sentinels since I absolutely detest them, and I also detest the prospect of planets becoming uninhabitable after I choose to live on them.
The possibilities with these incredibly flexible difficulty options are endless as of right now, albeit I haven’t thoroughly explored them. I could just fly to another planet and repeat the same there without any fear of repercussions once I’ve finished blowing a hole in the ocean of this planet. Alternately, I could use the entire crater as a huge aquarium, a location to grow excessive amounts of faecium, or even a tiny dance club that I could fill with all of my online pals. I refer to my “virtual pals” as “everyone I can persuade to follow me home from the Nexus.”
In any event, the new update significantly reduces boredom, especially because I may now complete my exploration of Hello Games’ expansive cosmos in exactly the way I want to—as an unstoppable entity of insane creation and destruction in equal measure. Maybe this time I’ll sit down and create the foundation I’ve been yearning to create.