No Man's Sky developer Hello Games just released Atlas Rises, the third major update for the space exploration game, on both PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. Coming 367 days after No Man’s Sky launched, Atlas Rises sounds like the game’s biggest expansion yet. Significant new elements include a preliminary implementation of multiplayer features, 30 hours of story content alongside a revamped quest system, the ability to edit terrain, and an overhauled galactic economy.
“This update marks the one year anniversary of No Man’s Sky, and a lot has changed,” said Hello Games. “This is the next step on our journey.”
As with the two previous expansions to No Man’s Sky, November’s Foundation update and March’s Path Finder update, the Atlas Rises update is full of changes and fixes based on community feedback. No Man’s Sky players have long been asking for features such as the ability to salvage crashed freighters, fly close to planets’ surfaces and land a ship without being automatically ejected from the cockpit — and they can now do all of those things.
Hello Games’ willingness to adapt to its fans’ desires is noteworthy, particularly because some of its post-launch changes to No Man’s Sky have seemed to contradict the studio’s original vision for a “chill game.” At launch, the game was a relatively directionless experience. It soon became clear that the majority of players wanted more structure — or at least more activities — and Hello Games has responded in Atlas Rises with a new story. Here’s the studio’s synopsis:
In the Atlas Rises story, the fabric of existence is starting to falter. A mysterious new interdimensional race have appeared. Glitches are causing ancient portals to activate. [...] Discover the truth behind the Abandoned Building logs, the World of Glass, the Sentinels, the Redemption of the Gek, and the meaning of sixteen… After Waking Titan, Atlas Rises.
Hello Games is promising “double the lore and interactions of the existing game”; presumably, the new alien race will provide much of that. The studio has implemented a proper quest system, along with new features to support it, such as a communicator inside your ship that allows you to interact with characters even when you’re on the go. The developer has also expanded upon the existing fetch-quest-style missions with “constantly generated” missions that are “unique and rewarding.” And the process of building up your reputation with each alien race — as well as other elements of your progress through the game — is now codified and tracked in the redesigned menu interface.
The Atlas Rises update also brings more variety to No Man’s Sky, just as the Foundation and Path Finder updates did. In this case, the changes are centered around planets and their biomes, with new “exotic planet types” popping up as you approach the galactic core. Atlas Rises also gives you the power to change planets yourself: A new terrain manipulator allows you to sculpt the landscape with the Multi-Tool. It works “anywhere on any planet,” and lets you choose from various materials, shapes and sizes.
While that’s a lonely pursuit, the Atlas Rises update finally introduces an incipient form of multiplayer action, a feature that had been perhaps the most controversial omission from No Man’s Sky. If you see glowing orbs floating near you, that means that other people are in your vicinity. You can communicate with each other using proximity-based voice chat, although it sounds like there isn’t much to do besides explore together. The game currently supports as many as 16 players in this setup.
“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,” said Hello Games. Presumably, then, true cooperative play is in the works, or at least in the cards.
The Atlas Rises update introduces another long-awaited feature that will help connect people: portals. Yes, Hello Games has finally activated the massive black monoliths that can be found throughout No Man’s Sky. Portals let you travel to other players’ bases and planets you’ve visited before, and you can even use them to jump to a random new planet. The monoliths have their own hieroglyphics, though, and you’ll have to figure out the language to master portal-based travel.
There’s yet more to discover in Atlas Rises: graphical upgrades, a revamped economy with a deeper trading system, improvements to dogfighting. Read Hello Games’ full patch notes for all the details. And in case you were thinking of jumping back into No Man’s Sky with Atlas Rises, the game is on sale for $23.99 — 60 percent off its regular price of $59.99 — on GOG, the Humble Store, the PlayStation Store and Steam for the next few days.