- Starfield's entry into space genre's orbit has benefitted everyone else, most especially No Man's Sky.
- No Man's Sky has done an excellent job salvaging its reputation following a botched launch.
- It remains to be seen if No Man's Sky can maintain its current momentum.
Starfield isn't a space sim. It's an RPG set in space. Better yet, it's a Bethesda game with the universe as your playground. This is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your personal preference. But, for the thousands of players (at least on Steam) that might not have liked Starfield as well as they hoped, No Man's Sky has welcomed them with open arms.
No Man's Sky by Hello Games, despite its controversial launch seven years ago, has become a quintessential name in a relatively empty genre, all things considered. The recent spike in its popularity, as noted by Hello Games founder Sean Murray, underscores the game's undying appeal.
According to Murray, this month has been the biggest for the game in years, across every platform and SteamDB proves it.
7 years in and No Man's Sky is having its biggest month in the last few years! 💪
Welcome to the community ❤️ pic.twitter.com/rNKMGFXoBS
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) September 11, 2023
This surge comes amid the much-anticipated release of Starfield by Bethesda, another cosmic sandbox with overlapping elements. While some might speculate that the fresh influx into NMS is a consequence of disillusioned Starfield gamers, the evidence is more anecdotal than concrete. Still, given the magnitude of Starfield's release, it isn't surprising that the other space-oriented titles, like No Man's Sky, are enjoying heightened visibility. The resemblance between the two has instigated both returning players and newcomers to dip their toes in the vast universe of NMS.
Make no mistake, this isn't to stir up discussions about which game is better. No Man's Sky and Starfield offer distinctly different experiences.
For starters, No Man's Sky's appeal lies in its extensive sandbox nature, combined with years of post-launch evolution. It has several of the features - from intricate base-building mechanisms to expansive fleets - that came from many years of mistakes and updates, aging like fine wine. Although Starfield boasts of finely crafted RPG elements that NMS may lack, the latter's sheer exploration possibilities are arguably unparalleled.
It makes little sense to compare both games, as one will inevitably come out superior depending on who you ask.
Interestingly, No Man's Sky's rise is also attributed to its latest update, Echoes, launched just last month, coinciding with its seventh anniversary. Echoes introduced intriguing elements, such as a new robotic faction and advanced space combat capabilities, enhancing the player's space exploration experience.
The overarching sentiment suggests that while Starfield is undeniably a titan in its own right, the cosmic arena is large enough to accommodate multiple star players. Either that, or we're talking about a "rising tide lifts all boats" kind of a situation. Starfield's introduction might have even indirectly catalyzed a resurgence in interest for space-themed games. If the latter is the case, then everybody benefits.
At the end of the day, what kind of game you play all depends on what you want. If you prefer an expansive, sandbox-type exploration experience, akin to a space version of Minecraft, No Man's Sky is your best option. On the other hand, Starfield leans more towards space and ground combats, enriched with compelling narratives.
Of course, No Man's Sky and Starfield aren't the only big players in this genre. Elite Dangerous is an excellent game for those looking for a more immersive piloting experience.
Between these three and a handful of others, you'll have plenty of options for exploring the cosmos.
Speaking of Starfield, the critical opinion on the game has gotten worse. It remains to be seen if the slide will continue before the year ends or if Bethesda can do something to put a stop to it.