The negativity surrounding No Man's Sky following its long awaited release in August has been unparalleled. Clearly the game didn't live up to the expectations that some players had, and clearly a number of things were missing from the final product that had been promised in the lead up to release.
There were many ways to look at No Man's Sky; a definite case of the glass half-full or half-empty. Some ignored the missing bits and enjoyed what was there. Others couldn't enjoy what was there for all the things that weren't. And a third group saw what was there, but weren't overly impressed. Hello Games has a long road ahead of it if it's to convince the latter two categories of player, and the recently released Foundation Update is the first step on what promises to be a long road ahead.
As you boot up No Man's Sky anew you'll now have three choices on how to play the game. The normal experience, which is largely the same as it was when it launched. The Survival mode, that basically makes surviving much harder and requires the player to constantly manage their resources and grind away. And then there's the Creative mode that basically strips the game of resource management and challenge to allow the player to explore freely and build from the get go.
It should be said that neither of the new modes truly alters the core of the game, rather it provides the player a choice of how much grinding they want to endure. We've started two survival experiences and it certainly put us to the test. The first time we were spawned on a fairly hostile frozen planet. In survival mode your hazard protection and life support runs out rather quickly so you'll need to work from a sheltered position, mine for resources, and slowly build yourself up so you can make the trek to your spaceship. In this case we spawned about 10 minutes from the ship. The planet had decent amounts of iron, but it wasn't a great piece of rock by any means, and other important early resources seemed scarce (such as Plutonium).
Playing through those early missions and getting off the planet, something that could easily be achieved in half an hour previously, is now something that takes hours. We later rolled a new survival experience, this time spawning a bit closer to the ship, but on an equally hostile rock, this time a superheated one. Having to find refuge in caves to normalise the temperature, this rock proved a bit more generous with resources (we didn't have to go all the way to the deposit to find Herodium). Nevertheless, there was plenty of grind.
Clearly, this more challenging mode will appeal to some players. It requires a good understanding of the game, and it punishes risk taking. There is, however, no permadeath, and instead you respawn at your latest save, even if we think there are some penalties with regards to your equipment and resources, mission progress is not reset.
But this grinding is something that the update also addresses. Mainly thanks to the base building features, the ability to farm and grow resources, as well as automate resource mining from deposits. As you pick a home planet you're now able to build a strong economy, something that alters what your main objective in the game may be. Clearly as the game launched, the one objective that felt important to players was to make it to the centre of the galaxy, and you would move on as soon as you could, but now there's an alternative as you'll be motivated to cultivate and build on a planet that is suitable. This is also something that offers many interesting future scenarios, potentially allowing for alliances, a player-driven economy, and more. The addition of player-owned Freighters (something we haven't dabbled with ourselves yet) certainly lays the foundation of potential trade federations, and a deeper, more engaging economy.