Returning to No Man's Sky after the Foundation update

"We don't have base-building," Sean Murray said when I interviewed him back in March. "And the reason is, it would just make people want to stay where they are and not explore." The concept of traditional quests—which Murray described to me at the time as fetching "space chickens"—was also antithetical to the concept of No Man's Sky, which was designed around restless, endless exploration, pushing players deeper and deeper into the galaxy, and never looking back.

Things have obviously changed, as Murray predicted they might months before the game launched. His plan was to update No Man's Sky with new features based how people chose to play. "...maybe people will say ‘Hey, I just want to settle down and go fishing.’ And you know, maybe we'll support that then if there's enough of those people," he told me in the same interview.

While there's no fishing (yet), it seems there were enough people interested in settling down, because the Foundation Update provides base-building, which does include some fetch quests (though none involving chickens).

Here's a run-down of a few things Foundation gives you: 

  • Creative mode, with unlimited resources
  • Survival mode, for a more challenging experience
  • A fairly easy-to-use base building system for all modes
  • NPCs you can hire to work in your base
  • Purchasable and modifiable freighters
  • Teleporters for quick travel
  • Tweaks to UI and procedural generation
  • Inventory stacking
  • A few new graphics settings
  • A way to leave messages for other players to find

In 'normal' mode, once you find a planet with a habitable shell, you can claim it and craft a construction terminal. Hire an NPC (space stations now have several aliens in them) and he'll send you scavenging for resources for new modules. Soon you'll be able to hire other NPCs for technology and weapons development, you'll be able to farm plants for their resources, and even build your own landing pad and terminals to save your game.

The building itself is pretty easy. You select the module from the menu and snap it in place by tapping a key. It can be a bit awkward at times, especially building multi-story buildings, but that awkwardness is similar to just about any other first-person building experience (Ark, Fallout 4, Rust, etc).

Building a base doesn't mean you can't still explore. Your starter base comes with a teleporter, and every space station now has one as well. So, even if you've rocketed to new systems or galaxies, you can return to your base from any space station you visit. You can 'port in the other direction, too, from your base back to the space station, making repeat trips to buy or sell much easier.

And, since you're going to be doing more resource mining to be able to build your base, you'll need somewhere to store and transport everything. Foundation has the answer: you can fly your ship right into the landing bay of a space freighter, talk to the captain, purchase the massive barge (if you have about 7 million space-dollars. You can use your freighter to hold all your collected loot, summon it at will, and even customize the inside of it, just as you do your base.

There are some other nice improvements. You can scan planets before visiting them, to see what resources they contain—though I wish you could also scan for toxicity as well, because toxic planets bum me out. Planetary resources are more clearly marked—instead of just a red symbol with a lightning bolt, for example, plutonium, carbon, and thamium9 are now individually labeled when you scan while walking on a planet's surface. A quick access bar saves you the trouble of opening your inventory to charge devices like your weapons, mining laser, and ship shields—now you can do it with a single keypress. And product-stacking clears up some room in your inventory as well. 

Temporal Anti Aliasing gives the game a cleaner look, and some changes have been made to how planets are procedurally generated—not a massive difference that I've noticed, but a few planets I've visited have looked a bit more colorful and interesting. This is all very welcome, though I think dribbling out some of these small and useful UI changes over the past few months when everyone was wondering what the hell was being worked on might have been a good idea.

And look! You can actually land on alien creatures now rather than falling through them like a ghost.

As far as players meeting one another, well... now you can place a node on a planet and attach a message to it for other players to find, which I suppose is something. We'll see if Foundation changes more in that regard as it continues to be updated. The full list of Foundation changes can be found on the No Man's Sky site.

As far as my personal tastes go, I'm not really finding base-building all that enjoyable, and it's not really convinced me to return to the game. I like the idea of endlessly exploring more than I like the idea of building a house, but unfortunately I never found No Man's Sky's exploration all that rewarding and I'm not sure Foundation currently does much to change that. I still recognize that it's a great update, thoughtful and surprising in scope, and importantly it gives players new ways to experience the game while answering many of their wishes. A lot of players wanted the ability to create a home, and have a real home planet, and they got it.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.