What’s New? What’s Good?
The 1.3 (now version 1.37, officially) update, subtitled “Atlas Rising”, brings a number of welcome changes. Some of these changes are actually changing somethings back to the way they were in earlier versions. Allow me to ‘splain!
One of the first things I noticed was the way the dialog and text are presented. It’s very polished with clear boxes (that sounds insane to note that text is in a box, but here we are) that makes it feel like something is happening that the player should read.
One of the things that was changed back is the fact that when you learn words from one of the alien languages they appear highlighted in a different color. That feature was turned off in the 1.2 Pathfinder update that made it difficult – for me anyway – to know I wasn’t supposed to try to read the alien words. The new old way of highlighting is far superior to the old new way in that it doesn’t give me a headache.
Basebuilding, also introduced in 1.2 Pathfinder update, gets its first update and it makes it significantly easier to get past some of the early quests for hiring specialist. For example, I was able to hire 0 specialists during 1.2. After the 1.3 update, I had nearly fully staffed my base in a matter of a day.
"There's The Problem…"
The next big improvement over 1.2 is something that was introduced in 1.2: Repair Costs. In the world of No Man's Sky, one of the ways the player could upgrade their ship was to find one run aground on the surface of whatever planet they happened to be on. This was handy and convenient, but made no narrative sense. If the player happened upon a ship, clearly broken and moored to the dirt with talk of "black boxes" and "no survivors", it makes no sense that they could simply fuel up the launch thruster with Plutonium and take off. Repair costs can range from crafting materials to "Units", the currency of the Galaxy. For example, a found ship could require repair to the Warp Drive and/or Shield Generator. Those could be repaired for a nominal cost of things like Iron, Plutonium or Heridium, some of the more plentiful material found in the game. From a narrative stand point, this makes it seem like the player is repairing these components their self. However, if one of the ship's storage slots is damaged, they can only be repaired with cold hard cash, each slot becoming more expensive than the last. This seems like a weird & arbitrary decision at first and it truly only makes sense when applied to the normal ship trading economy in the game. When the player meets a friendly Alien on a space station or a planetary trading post, the player has the option to buy the Alien's ship. The purchase price is the difference between the value of their ship minus the player's ship, based on the number of functional storage slots. For example, my current ship with 28 inventory slots may have a full value of 6.5 million Units. However, since I have yet to repair 4 of the slots, my actual value to trade may be closer to 4.8 million Units. While making little narrative sense, it works out to keep me from selling an old and busted ship as new hotness for a tidy profit to any Gek, Vykeen or Korvax who happen across my path.
"Ride or Die"
Some of the new additions to this version also include a streamlined update to the reputation system for the 3 Alien races. It also introduces the factions for whom you can perform missions and earn rewards: the Explorers Guild, the Merchants Guild, and the Mercenaries Guild. Each guild has missions in the newly added Mission Board, which is found aboard space stations in the same room as the teleporter that lets you return to your base. Each Guilds respective missions help you monitize interactions you would be having anyway. Missions range from the Mercenaries having you destroy 4 Sentinels (Yay!!!!) to the Explorers having you "collect" wildlife (…uh…) to the Merchants having you deliver parts to a trading post ("Sure, I was going that way anyway"). It's a nice layer to a game that sorely needed some levels.
Better Objectives (Minor Spoilers)
The story options of the new update are varied, as well. The Center of the Galaxy story option is still present if you already started or are starting from scratch. The Atlas Path is present as well. The new story option allows the player to follow the trail of a team of aliens who are on the trail of…something (I'm not being coy. I haven't gotten that far yet.) Again, there are many interesting directions to a game that needed… more direction.
Another subtle, but welcome change is tracking how far you are from your objectives. It's a simple marker for heads up display saying how far in kilometers, which is a nice accompaniment to the "time until arrival" marker on the heads-up display.
I think one of the things I appreciated most about this is how simply amazing the updated textures and effects look even on a 1080p TV using the PS4 Pro’s Boost Mode. It really felt like a top flight experience.
Something else I thought about revisiting this game after a few months away was the fact that I bought this digitally on launch day. I was all aboard the hype train and I did thoroughly the chill exploration I was offered. Eventually, I put it down and played other games. When the 1.2 update shipped, I knew I had to play again. That’s something I couldn’t have done with a disk I would have traded in. Now, not every game is going to get the same love from developers after being published, especially for free. I do think it’s an aspect of having a digital library that I had not fully considered.