Anyone can play the original "release" of No Man’s Sky. Go buy a physical version of the game on the PlayStation 4. Disconnect your system from your network and install the game so you can try things as they shipped without installing the day one patch, nor the patches that have been released or will be released since the game has come out.
You can read some of my thoughts on this version of No Man’s Sky, a take on a game that some people without internet connections will be playing, but that neither Sony nor Hello Games want you to see if they can help it. It’s not nearly as enjoyable as the patched experience, but it gives you a good idea of how much a game can change by adjusting its systems, even if the core ideas and visuals behind the galaxy remain intact. Those changes aren't finished, and we already know how drastically these games can change in a relatively short amount of time.
It makes sense, I promise.
You can read our review of No Man’s Sky as well. We gave it a six. Here is our original review of Destiny. We gave it a six as well. The version of Destiny that exists now, around two years after its original release, is barely recognizable to vanilla Destiny players.
No Man’s Sky, in its current state, reminds me of vanilla Destiny in many ways. The world is there, as are the game’s basic mechanics and gameplay loop. We know what it is, but what we don’t know is what it could be. No Man’s Sky has plenty of room for additional mechanics and interactions with the vast galaxy itself, not to mention the controversial topic of interacting with other players. It doesn’t sound like it will be long until new content is released for the game.
We're totally focused on customer support right now. Then we'll move onto improving and adding features to the game— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 18, 2016
Games that change after launch are nothing new, but Destiny was pitched a bit like No Man’s Sky in that it was supposed to be an all-thing. You can play it by yourself! There is a story and some kind of online play! New content will be added frequently! It’s not an MMO but it’s not exactly not an MMO either! Everyone is tempted to call their release the Everlasting Gobstopper of games if there's even a hint it can support the claim, but unfortunately you can never tell how quickly people will suck through it until you pop it in their collective mouth.
That metaphor got away from me. I’ll admit it.
But of course now players have poured into the world of No Man’s Sky and the developers are getting a sense of how they’re playing, what they like in the game and what they’d like to see adjusted. Everyone is getting a sense for what holes exist in the game’s interactions and which ones can be filled with additional content in the coming months and, possibly, years.
Which brings us to...
The question is whether you’ll be paying for it.
"We do want to add a ton of features, like we've just discussed: Freighters, bases, these type of things," developer Sean Murray told Red Bull Games on Aug. 9. "But we want to do it for free. You've paid for the game, so you should get this stuff without paying even more money. So no, there will be no paid DLC, just patches."
On Aug. 15 we read the following on the Daily Star:
But when pushed on whether the game will always remain free, Murray couldn't categorically rule out paid for DLC further down the line, explaining that it could happen if "Maybe in the future there’s some reason why we just couldn’t possibly afford to do a certain feature without charging for it."
The conversation around whether players were "promised" features that didn’t show up due to the ongoing and iterative nature of development, especially on a game for which there exists no prior blueprint for creation, is a controversy that can rage across other articles. By now we know what No Man’s Sky is, and you can read coverage and reviews to see if that’s the kind of game you’d like to play. I enjoy what No Man’s Sky is, and have been enjoying writing about the game as I explore more of it. That feeling that it's so big and so open for interpretation and features is part of what makes it so striking.
Chilling on a grassy planet under a green night sky, taking a stroll while the music decides to play some strings— Brendan Keogh (@BRKeogh) August 18, 2016
I had the same feelings about Destiny; there were criticisms of the core game that were hard to ignore but I still felt the overall experience contained juice that was worth the squeeze. I’m nowhere near the center of the galaxy — I’m taking my time with the journey and sticking with 90 minutes or so of play a night — but I can already see so many places the game could be expanded or improved.
I doubt even think the developer knows what the first bit additions will be, and maybe everyone involved should stop guessing about whether the content will be free or for-pay until that’s locked down. But space is a big place, and there are many opportunities here for change and improvement.
Like Destiny, I have a sneaking suspicion there’s going to be a lot of loud criticism from the hardcore community around the game while huge numbers of players continue to play, enjoy and adjust to the changes. Hello Games bottled wine, not scotch. I’m looking forward to seeing how it ages.
We’re going to look back on vanilla No Man’s Sky the same way we do vanilla Destiny; with amused acceptance, and knowledge that things are a lot better now.