What a journey No Man's Sky has been on, to the extent that where players once frothed at the mouth about Hello Games they now rent billboards saying 'thanks' and mod Sean Murray's head into the game in mock-protest at the wait for the next big thing. Well, time to say goodbye to all those locales festooned with an Irishman's head, and hello to the next major update: No Man's Sky Frontiers is now live, and is a 6.6GB download.
There have always been little points of interest scattered around the procedurally generated planets of No Man's Sky: monoliths, shelters, observatories, wrecked spacecrafts, and occasionally a little depot or manufacturing facility. But nothing that would really convince you to land your ship there and stay there for a good long while.
That's about to change. No Man's Sky Frontiers will add "living, breathing Mos Eisley type settlements" to the game's alien planets.
And you can do more than just visit these settlements. You can become the mayor and manage the alien outposts, and even grow them into proper towns. You'll find these new alien settlements on all inhabited planets in No Man's Sky's galaxies. Check out the sweet-looking Frontiers trailer above.
"These are little towns, filled with NPCs with their own tasks and problems," says the announcement from Hello Games. "Travellers can choose to help these settlements, and to even lead them. Ensure their future prosperity and happiness and maybe even develop these fledgling towns into even larger settlements."
Fallout 4 may have turned me off the idea of settlements but I'll give sci-fi colonies a go. The addition of settlements means you'll be seeing lots of new procedurally generated buildings, and that means the base-building system has been overhauled with "hundreds" of new building pieces, along with new building controls and a grid menu to make planning and construction easier.
But mayors of alien towns don't just build, they manage their flocks. "Citizens will look to you to help solve their problems, make important decisions, keep them safely below sentinel radars, and help defend against drone attacks."
That all sounds (and looks) pretty darn good. Especially since I never really got into base-building, I'm excited to find a nice little alien town and help it out rather than building my own joint from scratch. And apart from the new settlements and building system, Frontiers is also ushering in a new Expedition, which is called Cartographers and will focus on "planetary mapping and exploration." That sounds like a winner, too.
Fraser hopped into his ship and took a quick look at the update when it arrived, immediately finding his first settlement. A distress signal directed him towards it, where he found colonists under siege from Sentinels and horrible, deadly weather. Settlements in dire straits can be rescued, making the residents love you so much that they'll put you in charge.
It's hardly a paradise, but with a bit of work and community spirit, maybe it can become one.
The ambition of Hello Games (and its achievements thus far) is hard to fault. Here's the rundown of what you can expect in Frontiers:
Planetary Settlements: Clusters of pioneering aliens have banded together to build planetary settlements. These little communities, bustling with life and promise, can now be found on all inhabited planets across the galaxies.
Found your own settlement: Submit your management credentials to become overseer of a settlement, rename it, and assume leadership over its citizens. The settler population will look to you for town planning, treasury management, policy decisions and conflict resolution.
Each settlement unique: Every settlement is procedurally generated, with unique buildings, neighbourhood layouts, colour schemes, and interior and exterior decoration.
Help settlements grow: Ungoverned settlements start off small and modest, with a sparse population and only a few buildings scattered around their town centre. Provide resources to construct new buildings and transform your ramshackle collection of dwellings into a flourishing town!
Resolve citizen disputes: Settlement life is not always harmonious! As overseer, you will occasionally be called upon to help resolve disagreements between settlers. Fair and compassionate judgements will result in happier citizens!
Hundreds of new base parts: Construct your own settlement-inspired bases with a huge array of new base parts. New structural sets of timber, stone and alloy pieces create a tremendous range of possible building shapes. Over a hundred new decorative parts create all-new ways to add personal character to bases.
New Expedition season: This community adventure has a different feeling from previous expeditions. Travellers will begin their journey with a technologically unique starship, featuring an advanced waveform engine and powerful frameshift catapult.
Breathtaking nebulas: Interstellar clouds have gathered in deep space to form spectacular multi-coloured nebulas, making space skies more beautiful than ever.
Enhanced effects: Almost all of the game’s visual effects have been revisited, revamped and improved. Weapons and explosions feel much more punchy and add a new visceral element to combat.
Base building improvements: Introducing a clean, minimal, contextual HUD to place, scale, rotate and recolour base parts. See all your building parts in an easy-to-parse grid. You’ll notice some you forgot about! You can now pick up and move base parts you’ve placed, duplicate parts, or build impossible new structures in free place mode.
Twitch campaign: Coming soon another round of in-game No Man’s Sky rewards will be available to earn by watching streamers play the game on Twitch.
There's plenty more included in the update, naturally. Here are the complete patch notes.