Six years after its launch, No Man's Sky has nearly reached another milestone, version 4.0. This comes as Hello Games' galactic sandbox prepares to expand onto yet another platform, Nintendo Switch, on October 7.
A Switch debut may not feel planet-shaking to longtime players on PC, but the 4.0 update will bring a number of changes to No Man's Sky no matter what platform you play on. And while this update might not look as dramatic as the addition of living ships or ridable sandworms or cosmic whales, there's still a lot to it.
"People are arriving, new players, and we sort of want to tidy up our house," Sean Murray said when we chatted over Zoom about the 4.0 update last week. One of the concerns for Hello Games was not just how the game will appear to new players on Switch but to returning players on PC who may have been away for a while, potentially even years.
"Something I see online occasionally, people will say, 'I like the game, but it feels overwhelming to come back,'" said Murray. "And I want [both new and returning players] to say 'This makes sense. This feels cohesive, and it doesn't feel like a bunch of disparate updates.'
"And so we dug into that a lot. If you come back to the game [in 4.0] there's actually a log where you have a summary of the story so far," Murray said. "We have an info portal that will collect together everything that you've done so far, everything you've unlocked, all of that, and give you more info on it, so that you can dig into it."
Longtime players who may feel like they've accomplished everything will find a new source of motivation in update 4.0. While No Man's Sky doesn't have level caps, it does have features like journey milestones that track everything from alien encounters to combat stats to time spent on planets with extreme weather. These milestones have been expanded in 4.0, giving players new goals to aim for. Inventory has been "streamlined" to make it easier for new players, but Murray said it's "also massively increased," so players who have unlocked the maximum amount of storage slots will be able to acquire even more.
And there's a new game mode in 4.0, called "relaxed" mode, which will give players the sandbox experience of No Man's Sky but with less of a focus on survival. Murray thinks it will be a good mode for new players to start with but he also hopes it appeals to longtime players who have played in normal or survival extensively but "just want to chill out" while continuing to progress forward. Relaxed mode won't have the challenge of normal or survival mode, but it won't unlock everything the way creative mode does.
"I don't want to oversell it and say it's a reimagining of the game or anything like that. But it is a different balance of survival sandbox," Murray said. Players will be able to swap existing saves into the new mode, and swap back if they decide they don't like it.
Survival mode itself, meanwhile, has been revisited to provide a greater challenge. "Over time, as you got better at the game and leveled up, it stopped being as difficult, so we've also revisited that and actually crank the survival element way higher."
Maybe most importantly, No Man's Sky 4.0 will give players control over the balance of the game themselves. "If you want to dial [the challenge] slightly differently, if you want to have permadeath in relaxed game mode, or whatever it is, you can do those things," Murray said. "You can change a ton of things to do with controls, a ton of things to do with difficulty, survival, crafting, you know, you can balance those your own way."
No Man's Sky update 4.0 will coincide with the game's launch on Nintendo Switch, which is happening later this week on October 7.