No Man’s Sky Beyond is No Man’s Sky 2 in all but name

Hello Games is about to attempt a big and well-deserved rebrand. No Man’s Sky Beyond isn’t necessarily a new beginning, but it is the launch point for what the studio is referring to internally as ‘No Man’s Sky 2.0′. The truth is, Beyond represents something far more ambitious than that moniker alone might suggest. I know that Sean Murray will hate me for saying this but Beyond is, in essence, No Man’s Sky 2 – minus the decimal point, the zero that follows it, and Hello Games’ general hesitation to title it so.

After all, the best sequels are an expansion on an original concept, they offer up a big statement of intent for the future, and they work to embrace and thank the community for forming up in support and celebration of a game’s successes. In No Man’s Sky Beyond, Hello Games is delivering all of that and more. This free expansion has been built around three clear areas of intent: expanded Online play, full Virtual Reality support, and the introduction of an array of new features, systems, and sweeping quality of life improvements arriving under the banner of ‘No Man’s Sky 2.0’. The question I’ve been trying to answer since I walked out of Hello Games earlier this week is this: does Beyond represent the absolute culmination of the No Man’s Sky concept or is this truly as far as Hello Games can take it?

Many studios – particularly those that have sacrificed themselves to the altar of annualisation – package sequels into new locales. This is an easy way to visually stimulate a tired audience. But Hello Games can’t take No Man’s Sky to a new location; the game houses all known and unknown locations in the universe thanks to its ever-impressive procedural generation. It’s not like a new art direction is on the cards either; No Man’s Sky’s visual identity and design is heavily entrenched in a style that many of us had feared was lost to time entirely – unless you can find the aisle covering ’60s-era of science-fiction at your local dusty bookshop, of course.

And so Hello Games has delivered more than anybody could have reasonably asked of it, expected or anticipated in No Man’s Sky Beyond. When you take a step back from it and look at the entire No Man’s Sky package, it’s actually kind of awe-inspiring – the journey that No Man’s Sky has been on across the last three years is astounding, it’s now light years ahead of the game that launched in August 2016. This is worth focusing on because – and this is important – Beyond represents far more than three strands of new ideas as has been teased for months. It’s something else entirely; a package any other studio would have been proud to call a sequel.