Three days have passed since No Man’s Sky was made available for PC users around the world. That additional three-days-delay Hello Games decided to go with for the PC version puzzled us at first, but we were quick to appreciate how the developers must have been hard at work to deliver the perfect experience they wanted us to have. Our excitement with this game, sadly, quickly dissipated when we finally got our hands on it.
An Unstable Poorly Optimized Experience
For some us, the trip was over before it had even begun. Rather odd design choices on Hello Games‘ part resulted in No Man’s Sky being incompatible with most older systems, to the point where the game wouldn’t even start or would close a few seconds afterwards. People discussing this specific issue quickly flooded the game’s SubReddit. Scrambling for a fix, users started tweaking the game files, changing some of the options and even downloading third-party software. All of this brought them nowhere.
Of the few who managed to actually get the game running, many reported inconsistent performances. From the broke college student to the professional streamer, players lamented FPS drops, crackling audio and an overall bemusing experience. Some of these professionals were not even able to play No Man’s Sky on stream albeit owning top of the line machines.
It's been a very long night, a lot of the team are still here though! We are currently testing fixes for older AMD Phenom CPUs + more
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 13, 2016
Probably having learned a thing or two from another disastrous case of customer communication, Hello Games was quick to respond. Sean Murray himself tweeted out to reassure the game’s fans. The culprit for these issues had been found and a fix was well on its way. Everything was going to be okay.
Where Do We stand Now?
As mentioned before, the main culprit seems to have been found, mostly thanks to Reddit. No Man’s Sky lacks the necessary files to be compatible with SSE4.1, a CPU instruction set used in many older processors. The inability for these CPUs to handle the instructions the title sends them would cause the game to crash. Most older processors such as the once common Phenom II from AMD are currently affected by the issue and, although being well over the minimum requirements, seem to be unable to run the game. Other issues include the fact that No Man’s Sky requires your graphics card to be fully compatible with OpenGL 4.5. Out of date drivers also might cause instability, according to Mr. Murray, who suggests you check for any update you may find.
An experimental branch containing some hotfixes has been created and Hello Games is currently working on it. The latest experimental patch was supposed to include a recompiled version of the game which would have added full support for older processors. According to Reddit and to my personal experience, the update still doesn’t make No Man’s Sky compatible with the Phenom II series or with similar CPUs. Multiple other fixes are also in the making. These aim at improving both the game responsiveness and performance on a wider array of cards.
All of these updates are currently opt-in only. To access the experimental branch you will have to right-click on the game from your Steam library page and select “Properties”. You can then select the Betas tab and input the code: “3xperimental” (without quotation marks) in order to opt in. Your game will then be updated to the latest available patch. A full list of the changes Hello Games is working on can be found here.
So.. Should I Break My Piggy Bank?
If you have been in the market for some new components for a while and you already own the game, then No Man’s Sky might be a good reason to finally invest some money. This title shouldn’t be your only reason, though. Issues aside, the game has received mixed reviews across the board, with aggregates such as Metacritic showing scores as low as 2.9 out of 10 for the PC version. Several players describe the experience as outright boring and not fun. Rumors also accuse Hello Games of releasing a broken game on PC in order to boost they PS4 version sales.
If you still don’t own the game, then I would personally suggest to wait. While this article doesn’t want to be a review, my limited first impressions with No Man’s Sky on PC were obviously not positive. The game might offer some fun moments, but all in all it is yet another survival title that has you collecting items and crafting for no express purpose. Visiting the center of the galaxy surely is appealing, if only performances would allow it. If you’re still hell bent on buying it now, you should go with the Steam version. While the game is sold on both GoG and Steam, it seems like only those who bought it on the latter have access to the experimental updates.
There’s no denying that No Man’s Sky will soon be perfectly playable on PC. Hello Games are, apparently, pulling all-nighters to make sure the fixes are ready as soon as possible. We have to ask ourselves, though, how the game could have been released without adequate testing. My suggestion is, once again, to wait a few more days to prevent these issues from ruining your experience.