No Man’s Sky’s next update brings 30 hours of new story, multiplayer, and more

No Man’s Sky didn’t have the best launch. In fact, I’d be willing to argue that it had the worst launch. But developer Hello Games has done an admirable job supporting the game since then, and this latest update has me seriously thinking about diving back in. The 1.3 “Atlas Rises” update, releasing today, is massive. It brings new story, new visuals, new gameplay, and the first scraps of multiplayer.

The update will feature 30 hours of new story content. The “Atlas Rises” story brings a new interdimensional alien race, and activates those ancient portals we’ve been wondering about since launch to allow fast travel to more populated planets or, say, planets with friends on them.

Wait, planets with friends on them?! Yeah: the update introduces “Joint Exploration,” a limited form of synchronous multiplayer that allows you and up to 15 other players to see each other as “strange floating orbs” and to speak with each other using proximity voice chat.  Hello Games says this is an “important first step into the world of synchronous co-op in No Man’s Sky,” so we may even be able to see each others’ spacemen someday. Joint exploration does not require PlayStation Plus, though Hello also notes that players playing through GOG Galaxy won’t be able to make use of this feature just yet.

Planets will feature crashed freighters that you can explore, with scavenging missions that you can complete for rewards. Speaking of missions, there’s a new mission board in the game with missions you can take to increase your standing with the game’s various alien races. The trading system has been overhauled, too. There are new items to trade, and new items can be made at crafting. Gas harvesters let you extract elements from a planet’s atmosphere. Most importantly, star systems are now given classes “based on their economic strengths and weaknesses,” so you know what you’ll be able to sell while you’re there.

No, we’re not done yet

There’s also a ton of new stuff just with regard to the interface. The galactic map has been given an overhaul to make it more informative and useful. The Analysis Visor has been updated with more in-depth scanning. Improvements like ship summoning and inventory management should make for less tedium and more time spent on the fun aspects of No Man’s Sky.

On the moment-to-moment gameplay side of things, space combat is deeper and more balanced, with overhauled enemy AI, improved ship maneuverability, new weapons, and a new HUD. A communicator in the ship can even let you stop a fight before it starts. There’s even in-atmosphere dog-fighting. Down on the planet, you can now not only destroy terrain, but create it, too. If you want to get up somewhere inaccessible, you can just create a landbridge to it. Or you can draw naughty stuff, which is what we all know we’re going to be doing.

The game will look different, too. The variety and look of planets has been improved with new planet types, and pure graphical improvements like higher-quality textures and enhancements like depth-of-field will make the game look better. Everything from general terrain to night skies to Atlas stations has received attention.

There’s even some new audio, including but definitely not limited to new tracks by the band responsible for the game’s excellent soundtrack, 65daysofstatic.

Are you out of breath? I’m out of breath.

Finally, No Man’s Sky is starting to sound like the game we were promised. It came out a full year ago, and the Atlas Rises update is meant to celebrate that anniversary. It’s a heck of a celebration. Remember that this update is free. It doubles the story content, introduces tons of new stuff, and improves on, apparently, every aspect of the game. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m tempted to go start the download to reinstall No Man’s Sky right now. What about you? Are you going to dive back in?

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