The patch notes for No Man’s Sky‘s next big update leaked last night, sending the game’s Reddit page into a rapturous frenzy. New story? Portals? Terrain editing? Joint exploration?
All true it seems, now that the full 1.3 “Atlas Rising” update for Hello Games’ galactic exploration simulation has landed. It includes 30 hours of newly contextualized and branching story (“the fabric of existence is starting to falter”), functional portals (their activation apparently has something to do with the arrival of a new race), completely overhauled galactic economics and conflict (star systems have economic classifications) and improved navigation, including your journey tracked from beginning to end instead of being systematically truncated.
Hello Games has also added more and better looking planetary biomes (including rare planet types), terrain manipulation and editing (you can dig up resources or just sculpt the landscape), overhauled mission generation (in scanning, trading, combat and exploration categories), far more detailed visor scans, new and higher class ships, major spaceflight tweaks and combat tune-ups as well as low flight support so you can cruise the terrain and dogfight through canyons (crashing will damage your ship, of course). They’ve also added support for Fahrenheit scale temperature displays (if you live somewhere resistant to rational measuring systems).
The most intriguing addition, however, is joint exploration. When that leaked last night, the presumption by cautious Redditors was that it would be some sort of meta layer related to the game’s collective galactic library (whereby players can upload things they’ve found and renamed to a central data repository). But no, joint exploration turns out to be actual (if rudimentary) cooperative play, in which players physically float around next to each other, and can explore the galaxy together.
To be precise, up to 16 players can see and communicate with each other as floating sparkly orbs (it’s almost reminiscent of what happens when you die in World of Warcraft). If you get within visual range of another player, you can chitchat over headsets, too. And the newly activated portals seem to be the antidote to the game’s 18 quintillion planets big problem, letting players hop around the universe and meet up at known locations, instead of performing oblique triangulations to do so.
“While interaction with others is currently very limited, this is an important first step into the world of synchronous co-op in No Man’s Sky,” writes Hello Games. Nothing ambiguous there: further fleshed out multiplayer is in the offing, and I assume its current iteration will serve as a kind of ongoing beta test for whatever’s next.
Some technical notes: The PlayStation 4 1.3 update download is over 7 gigabytes, bringing the total installed footprint on my system to 11.69 gigabytes (when the game arrived a year ago, it was just 6 gigabytes on disc, and Sony still lists its footprint as 3.7 gigabytes on the game’s official store page). Some of that new data is presumably in the new high-def textures and tweaked environments. If you’re looking for simple visual confirmation that a game, which at launch was a little squiggly when eyeballing anything up close, has completely changed its colors, the update’s teaser screens more than suffice.
A few additional small but noteworthy tweaks: You can summon your ship from anywhere on a planet, said ship no longer automatically kicks you out when you land (so you can look before you leap), and PlayStation 4 owners can finally tweak their field of view in the game’s settings. (PC players have had the option since launch.) That last bit truly was an irritating full year coming.
Buy now: No Man’s Sky for PS4, $23.99, Amazon