I've been taking No Man's Sky's new Path Finder update for a spin: it's another big addition to Hello Games' sprawling space exploration game. As with Foundation before it, Path Finder's new features are mostly centered around those who want to plant stakes on a planet or in a system and stay a while, rather than continuously and restlessly explore the galaxy.
The main draw, naturally, are the ground-based vehicles added in the update: a rugged all-terrain buggy, a speedy hoverbike that can skim over the surface, and a massive, lumbering cargo crawler known as the Colossus. I'm here to report that these vehicles have instantly turned me into a complete asshole—or perhaps they've simply brought out the asshole that I've always been, deep in my heart.
I'm not sure this was the intention, but my immediate feeling while driving these new vehicles is essentially: "Yeah, fuck this planet." Previously we could skim the surface in our ships or jetpack around in our spacesuits. But now we have tires, great big knobby rubber tires, and these tires change everything. The cars allow you to completely dominate the surface in thoughtless and destructive way, like an interplanetary version of Grand Theft Auto. You can run over alien creatures, smash through trees and rocks, and blow things up with mounted lasers and blasters. And, that's pretty much what I've been doing non-stop.
I'm not saying I didn't destroy things in No Man's Sky prior to this update. You have to if you want to get anywhere. I mined rocks, trees, asteroids, and I even occasionally killed a few innocent creatures. But the destruction before Path Finder felt so limited in scope, apart from sometimes mining an entire deposit of copper or heredium. Land on a planet, carve up a few pocketfuls of minerals, and quietly leave before the sentinels get their tin knickers in a bunch.
No more. Now I'm crushing, smashing, blasting, ramming, and ruining everything in my path. The old me would have scanned and cataloged that beast you see above. Now, it's dead, my license plate imprinted in its soft, deceased belly. I don't know what you were, gentle creature, and I don't care. Sorry, infinite worlds and never-before-seen lifeforms. You're just in my way.
Moving on: base sharing and racing are also new to the update, and I've toyed with that as well. Bases are discoverable, which means you might be visiting a new (to you) planet and simply find someone's base (here's video of someone on PS4 finding and exploring another player's base, and he's even able to use the base's vehicles docks to summon his own vehicles). Otherwise, players can upload their bases and race tracks to the Steam Workshop, and others can download them and check them out. I'm not entirely sure of the mechanics, but it looks like you basically download an instance of the planet to walk around in. Progress isn't saved while you're there, you're just sort of experiencing a copy of another player's world and work.
Racing is sort of enjoyable, but not as a race, more as an excursion across the surface an unfamiliar planet. I used Icreaka's test racing course, and It wasn't a heart-pounding experience but it was a lovely trip up from checkpoint to checkpoint, up and down hills and through interesting rock formations. I wonder if spaceship racing will be added in the future: I think that might be a bit more thrilling, honestly.
One welcome addition is the new photo mode—which was worked on by Dead End Thrills'd Duncan Harris—especially since No Man's Sky was already a great game to take pictures in. The new mode lets you pause the action, jump-into third person mode so you can view your ship, add filters, and even place the sun wherever you like, useful for creating more interesting shots but especially useful on planets, where you can turn night into day, morning into evening, dusk into a few minutes before dusk, and so on.
My only wish is that entering photo mode was done with a single click of a key: right now, it's accomplished by pressing X to bring up the little menu, then cycling to the photo mode option, then pressing F. So it takes a couple seconds, which can make it challenging to take action shots of, say, your buggy ramming an innocent alien cow to death. Still, it's a really nice feature, and one I love to see in games.
There's a lot more to the update, which I outlined here. I haven't really messed with much else yet, I've been far too busy absentmindedly running over unique alien lifeforms and leaving a trail of smashed alien cacti, and occasionally pausing for snapshots.
There's a saying: Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Clearly whoever said that didn't have a giant space car.