No Man's Sky Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

This article was originally published as an in-progress review without a score prior to the arrival of the 4.0 Waypoint update, which brought a raft of new features in the days after launch. It has now been updated with our impressions of Waypoint and awarded an overall score.


It's been a long old road for Hello Games' No Man's Sky. First revealed at the VGX Awards all the way back in 2013, the procedurally generated infinite space simulator finally released — riding an enormous wave of hype — in August of 2016. However, the PS4 and PC game we got our sweaty hands on was a far cry from what had been advertised and promised during a build-up to launch that could have made Peter Molyneux blush.

Yes, No Man's Sky was not the all-encompassing wonder we'd been led to believe it would be. It had the procedurally generated planets, the 'infinite' universe in which to play, but there was a real paucity of things to actually do in the months following its initial launch. It had some serious technical issues, too. It didn't run well on consoles at the time, procedurally generated aliens and environments were a bit duff and, as a result, the fury of what seemed like the entire internet was laser-focused on Sean Murray and the small team at Hello Games. It got nasty.

No Man's Sky Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Fast forward to 2022 though, and there's possibly never been a bigger or better comeback story in the history of gaming. The No Man's Sky of today is a testament to an indie studio that point-blank refused to give up, that took the blows, admitted its mistakes, put its head down, cut comms, and concentrated on delivering — and it really did deliver. It ultimately delivered on every promise that had been made pre-release and it continued, and still continues, to deliver much more on top of that. What we've got now is a wondrous space exploration experience that lives up to the crazy pre-release hype, so excuse us if we've been getting pretty psyched about this one finally arriving on Switch.

Over the course of six years, numerous big updates have improved every aspect of what's on offer here. That dodgy procedural generation has been transformed, tweaked, and enhanced to ensure that the level of variety in planets, weather, local lifeforms, and fauna makes for a genuinely compelling exploration experience. It now feels as though you're travelling in a universe that's stuffed full of possibilities with regards to what you'll confront when you set your ship down on a planet. From weather, atmospheric hazards, and volatile plant/animal life, to jaw-dropping vistas and twisted alien environments, you just never know what you're in for when you open your ship's cockpit, and planets are now laden with gear and long-lost artefacts to discover and sell as you work to upgrade and improve every aspect of yourself and your trusty spaceship. The boring old gameplay loops of old are now a very distant memory indeed.

No Man's Sky Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The opening tutorial section has been bolstered and improved and now provides a genuinely useful introduction to the game's core systems whilst also keeping you invested through some neat storytelling. There's base building, a revamped economy systems, character customisation, space combat, farming, alien settlements, procedurally generated missions, underwater exploration, ground vehicles, portals...the list really is long and all-encompassing. In short, No Man's Sky has become the game we all hoped it would be back in 2016, but one lingering question remains: Can Hello Games take all of this and jam it onto the Nintendo Switch in a playable state? We didn't dare believe but, as it turns out, they've only gone and done just that.

There may be visual sacrifices — par for the course on Switch by now — and, yes, it takes a little longer to load into initially. Multiplayer has yet to make the jump too, and that's not an aspect of the game we're gonna hold our breath on getting in the end, but these slight grievances aside, this is a No Man's Sky port that serves up an absolutely rock-solid experience, an eminently playable version of a game that you could potentially sink hundreds of hours into enjoying.

Even in the areas we might have expected and even accepted some frame rate drops here — launching off from planets or cranking our ship to warp speed to blast our way to a far-flung location — the game holds an almost perfect 30FPS. It's remarkable really, and it makes for a Switch conversion that, for us, sits right up top with the likes of The Witcher 3, Alien Isolation, and DOOM as one of the very best ports we've seen on the console thus far, something that just shouldn't work but absolutely does.

No Man's Sky Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Of course, it's not all perfect. As we've mentioned above, there's a blurriness to the visuals in handheld mode (you can see it clearly in our screenshots) and pop-in is much more noticeable as you bound around planet surfaces. However, the graphical style of No Man's Sky — that bold, colourful, chunky aesthetic — means that none of this really matters as much as it could with another game. That slight blurriness never holds you back, everything is perfectly readable in the environments, and you can settle in and explore and scavenge and build to your heart's content without needing to stress over technical issues. What an accomplishment.

No Man's Sky is also a game that absolutely sings as a portable title; we already feel like this is gonna be our default way to play it going forward, a perfect experience for long sessions on the couch or short blasts whilst travelling. None of the sacrifices that have been made by Hello Games to get this one running well encroach upon your enjoyment of the experience, and it all still looks pretty fantastic, even with the visuals dialled down to their most basic settings.

With the arrival of the huge Waypoint Update, we've got near-total parity in terms of features — multiplayer aside, of course — with all other platforms too, and the 4.02 version of the game we tested brings a raft of fundamental changes that make for a much more streamlined and intuitive experience in terms of inventory management and mission tracking. OK, some of this may sound a little dry, but the changes really do make for a game that's much easier to comprehend and navigate. It's been a long road getting from there to here, and new players will never know any different, but NMS veterans who have been on that journey with the developers will be all the more impressed.

No Man's Sky Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

You've got a new level cap, improved autosaving, detailed entries for discoveries, breakdowns of available missions and what they entail, illustrated references for all flora and fauna, and skill trees where you can go get a handle on what tech you currently own and what's out there to work towards next. You can track accomplishments, which are now clearly detailed in the game's menus, and an inventory redesign and upgrading of storage capacities help make for a smoother time all around.

There's also a new "relaxed" mode for those who wish to explore and craft without the pressures of the default survival gameplay, and there are now a ton of tweakable elements in the game's settings for you to play with in order to create your own totally customised experience. Want to tweak how much fuel your ship needs? You can. Set enemy strength or crafting costs? Go for it. There's barely a single aspect of the core gameplay that can't now be set to your preferred level of difficulty, be that high or low.

In short, this is No Man's Sky in the best shape it's ever been, and it's all here on Switch in a port we genuinely didn't believe Hello Games could deliver in such solid form. If you're already playing this one on another console, this is a version that's still worth looking into as a delightful way to enjoy endless space exploration in a portable form factor. If you've yet to experience the joys of this infinite intergalactic survival sandbox, well, you're in for an almighty treat.

Conclusion

No Man's Sky on Switch is a fantastic port of a game we genuinely didn't really believe would make the transition to Nintendo's console without some serious technical issues. Hello Games has made the necessary cutbacks and downgrades to get this intergalactic survival sandbox playing at a super solid frame rate and the colourful, chunky graphical style here ensures that it all still looks pretty fantastic to boot. With all of the game's previous updates and content included — barring multiplayer at this point — and a plethora of customisation options courtesy of the massive Waypoint update, this is an easy recommendation for survival fans and one of the most impressive ports we've seen on Switch to date.