No Man's Sky

I’ve spent a good 600 or so hours with No Man’s Sky at this point — 172 hours just in the past year. While 600 hours is more than enough time to justify a $60 price tag for any video game, No Man’s Sky was supposed to be this near-infinite journey across the stars, one in which you could live out your most ambitious sci-fi fantasies. And it kind of was for a while, but that magic has really started to fade at this point.

I can’t help but feel like my love affair with No Man’s Sky is coming to an end. However, there are still some things that Hello Games could do to pull me back, so I’ve created a list of things that could spark fresh interest in No Man’s Sky, potentially making it relevant for another several years (and hundreds more hours of playtime).

Another Next-style revamp

No Man's Sky Next

I think I was the most invested in No Man’s Sky during the Next update, and while I’ve found myself putting in plenty of time since then, later updates have failed to really sink their claws in me the way Next did. With Next, we saw a complete reinvention of what the game even was, with every old system getting reworked into a new overarching design philosophy that tied everything together. For the first time since launch, No Man’s Sky felt like it had a singular vision.

Updates beyond that kind of just bloated out without the cohesion that Next had, oftentimes feeling like Hello Games was trying to cram several games into one. I’m not saying those updates weren’t great — some of them were absolutely incredible, and it’s hard to deny how game-changing they’ve been — but they don’t necessarily feel like they work together in any meaningful way.

I think it’s time for Hello Games to take a look at the systems that currently exist in the game, then find the thread that ties all those things together. If they can make all the disparate game features feel cohesive again, it would make the game very much worth returning to.

Multiple biomes per planet

No Man's Sky

While there are more planets in No Man’s Sky than any one explorer — or even the community at large — could ever hope to explore in a lifetime, those planets fall into a limited number of categories. You’ve got your fire planets, your lush planets, your desert planets, your toxic planets, and your irradiated planets. Hello Games has been good about adding more categories of planets, like the dead and anomalous planets, but even then, the core problem remains: Once you touch down on a planet’s surface, you pretty much know exactly what to expect from the entire thing without having to explore every nook and cranny.

One way to shake things up would be to make multiple biomes per planet. I wish that the icy parts of planets were mostly relegated to the poles, while desert parts would be closer to the equator, with some other types of biomes in between. Where are the jungles and rain forests and true badlands?

Adding underwater biomes was a great first step, as now you technically can have two biomes on the same planet, but I think exploration would be much more rewarding if you spent time roaming across a desert only to find it transition into a lush jungle rich with alien ruins. And by ruins I don’t just mean a temple here and there; I mean full-on alien cities that were abandoned at some point in history — but that’s a rant for another time…

Rivers and waterfalls

No Man's Sky

Because adding multiple biomes per planet probably won’t ever be a reality in No Man’s Sky, I would be happy with rivers and waterfalls. Currently we have oceans and lakes, but it doesn’t move and flow. Can you imagine exploring a lush planet, only to find a massive grassy field with a river cutting through the middle? Or being in a mountainous region, only to stumble upon a majestic waterfall?

And if we can get water to move rather than just being stationary, perhaps we could even get ocean currents working. I guess I haven’t really put much thought into how those might function, but I think it’s an idea that at least has some potential.

While we’re on the topic of moving water, wouldn’t it also be cool to be able to build a raft and go peacefully sailing down a stream, or chaotically tumbling through intense rapids?

A complete overhaul of the economy

No Man's Sky - Planetary Archive

In the early days, back when No Man’s Sky was still young and mostly featureless, the economy was kind of brutal. This was mostly because the ways in which you could actually make money were depressingly limited. But all these years later, there are so many ways to make money in the game that I can start a new save file and completely wreck the economy by the time I’m maybe five hours deep.

Once you’ve acquired an S-class freighter, there’s little justification in grinding any further for more money. You’ll do it just because it’s kind of fun to see your credit tally ramp up, but there’s not really anything to spend that money on. You’d be better served by grinding nanites than credits, especially if you get deep into the world of ship upgrades (which I do).

No Man’s Sky needs some premium, late-game items that justify setting up factories and cranking out those Fusion Igniters. I’m not even sure what those would be. Maybe Death Star-like space stations that are fully customizable? Or entire space colonies that can be purchased (which would be an extension of the systems already implemented in the Frontiers update). There needs to be some big-ticket items to grind for so we don’t spend too much of our time pondering the pointlessness of our own existence… or of our existence in a nearly infinite virtual universe.

Piracy, smuggling, and espionage

No Man's Sky

There are space pirates in No Man’s Sky, but they’re basically the equivalent of gnats that you have to occasionally swat. But the space-pirate concept has so much potential. Why can’t you join up with a faction of pirates and then make your living by attacking cargo ships? Why don’t space pirates have their own on-world secret bases, which you could either join as a pirate or infiltrate as an anti-pirate?

And that brings me to espionage. What if there were enemy factions that you could actually pretend to join in order to get information, which you later use to undermine that faction and ultimately crush them? An espionage system could really add a lot of tension to alien encounters.

Or how about smuggling? I would love to see some illegal items that you’d need to smuggle through scanning stations. Perhaps you could get a black-market upgrade to your ship that added secret storage compartments where illegal items would be safe from discovery. Perhaps there could be entire space stations to manage, where you launder money and hide stolen goods. Maybe those would be prone to sentinel raids, so you’d have to spend time and money beefing up your defenses. What if you could eventually buy a cloaking device that rendered said space station invisible to the naked eye?

Combined, these three systems have a lot of potential to really get you playing the game in a completely different way.

Cosmetic ship customization

No Man's Sky

I appreciate that you can now upgrade the actual stats and storage slots of your ship. That’s a huge quality-of-life upgrade that allows you to keep the ships you like cosmetically, even if the stats aren’t great in the beginning.

But why can’t you customize your ship visually? I would absolutely love to be able to change the color of my ships, and also add custom parts to them.

But this shouldn’t be easy. Perhaps you’d have to actually find a ship with the part you want before you can take it. Then you could dismantle the ship but preserve the one part you want, and maybe store it in a ship-parts warehouse of some sort. Eventually, after hundreds of hours of grinding, you’d finally have a ship that looks exactly how you want it to.

A “Caves & Cliffs” update

No Man's Sky

For a long time, Minecraft had a caves problem, in that every cave kind of felt the same. That was a pretty major problem for a game that had the word Mine in its title. But then they launched the Caves & Cliffs update, which added new cave biomes and complete overhauled cave generation to lead to some truly impressive sites.

I only bring up Minecraft here because I think No Man’s Sky really needs to rethink its caves. Where are the alien mines? Why aren’t there lush caves, or certain types of plants that can only be found there? (Okay, so there is one type of plant that can only be found in caves, but it’s just the one and it can be found in pretty much every cave so long as it’s big enough.)

Minecraft‘s Caves & Cliffs update was enough to bring me back to that game, and if No Man’s Sky does something similar, it could finally be worth spelunking in.

Full-on ranching

No Man's Sky

I was really excited by the prospect of pet breeding, which was added in the Companions update. However, in practice, this ended up being pretty shallow. I would love to be able to raise entire pastures of animals to breed, milk, and sell to other ranchers.

I’d love to build a fenced-in area and just watch my collection of cattle grow over time. Maybe there would even be alien cattle rustlers, who would drop in and attempt to steal a few for themselves. Perhaps you could even have certain types of alien critters that would serve the role of a sheepdog, helping you watch and lead your cattle.

The pet system in No Man’s Sky has so much unrealized potential, and I’d really love to see this expanded upon in the future.

Landing on asteroids and farming them for minerals

No Man's Sky

Being able to land on asteroids is one of the few features that was mentioned before launch that we never ended up seeing, even after more than five years of updates. I think this is probably because the idea seems, on the surface, to be kind of dull. The asteroids we see in the game right now are really too small to be interesting.

But I’m thinking of some slightly larger ones, perhaps with their own caves and deposits of rare ore? They wouldn’t be the size of planets; you’d be able to realistically walk the circumference of one. But how cool would it be to land on an asteroid that’s hovering over a ringed planet and just sit and chill and enjoy the scenery for a bit? Or to set up an auto harvester and a beacon so you could return to the asteroid to grab minerals whenever you’re in the area?

Asteroids would have to be reworked considerably in order for a system like this to be viable, but I do think there’s some potential here.

More sentient alien races

No Man's Sky

The major races in No Man’s Sky are the Gek, the Vy’keen, and the Korvax. Then there are a couple supplemental races: the travelers and the anomalies. While all of these are fine, I guess, it would be really cool to see some more appear, each with their own history and lore to uncover.

I’d like to see a race of bird people, or lizard people, or even humanoid dinosaurs. Or what about a race that live underwater exclusively and can’t travel off-world without creating water chambers on their spacecraft? It would be cool to have a sentient race that has the ability to fly, or maybe one that’s really tiny or really massive.

I think Hello Games definitely has the creativity to add some more alien races to the game, and I would love to see that happen.

Another fauna overhaul

No Man's Sky

At one point (I believe this was during Next), Hello Games added herd mechanics to animal behavior. They also revamped fauna generation at one point, which led to more varied creatures. With the Prisms update, they even added fur! However, there is plenty of room for growth here. Despite slightly better behavior and slightly more variety, both fauna behavior and aesthetic can become super repetitive pretty quickly.

I think this is one area where No Man’s Sky has really failed to live up to the collective imagination of the community. We need more animal variety, and we need more complex animal behavior. I know it’s been said before, but in the infamous E3 2014 trailer, we saw animals crashing through foliage to chase other animals. We’ve never really seen anything close to that in the actual game, and it would really do a lot to make various ecosystems feel less samey.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

…and make playing coop feel like youre not alone

Super Nonsense
Super Nonsense
3 months ago

The big problem for me that’s never been improved is the actual gameplay. Everything from moving to shooting to resource management to flying feels like garbage. The constant resource need is awful and I don’t want my only other option to be the impotent creative mode. The other aspect is I want realistic star systems and a good galaxy map. planets and asteroids orbiting stars, no space filled with rocks everywhere. I’d like to see actual civilized planets with full cities, encounter alien races in space, larger capital ships, realistic crews, etc. It’s semi admirable that they’ve stuck with the game after their initial release and lies, but they really need to move on to a sequel and a generational leap in their concept. Also, please lose the awful story. It’s so bad and I don’t need a universe where I won’t see 99.9+% of it anyway. One realistically sized galaxy to explore solo, with friends, and a MMORPG environment would be fine.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x