Major 'No Man's Sky' update arrives with a few surprises

The Foundation Update includes more than just the promised base building.

That promised Foundation Update for No Man's Sky? It's already here for both PC and PS4... and it includes much, much more than Hello Games hinted at just a couple of days ago. The centerpiece remains base building, which turns out to be simple but helpful. If you find an uninhabited base, you can use modular structures to make it your own -- including automated resource farming and storage so you don't have to traipse across the planet harvesting items. You can also hire aliens to research technology, and teleport to and from space stations. And did we mention that you can buy freighters, which serve as spaceborne bases that you can summon anywhere in the galaxy? If you hated the forced mineral-gathering marches that you experienced on launch, you might be happy with this alone. Thankfully, there's more.

The update also introduces Creative and Survival modes, in case you want to either remove restrictions or add an extra challenge on hostile worlds. You'll see new biomes and star-specific resources, along with new equipment to collect rare goods. The interface has received a healthy makeover, too. There's a smart quick access menu that helps you quickly switch to and interact with items (say, charging your mining beam). You can stack more items in a given inventory slot, get a clearer view of which minerals are nearby, quickly view your objectives and get a heads-up when pirates are nearby.

Visuals are also getting a boost: there's both motion blur and temporal antialiasing options (at least on PCs), and lower-end PCs can enable texture streaming to lighten the burden on their systems. On the PS4, there's a photo mode to preserve scenic views for posterity.

It's too soon to say if the Foundation Update will please all the players upset that they didn't get the game they expected. Base building and the Creative mode should eliminate some of the drudgery, but will they be enough? This is just the first of a string of promised upgrades, however, and it's important enough that historically quiet company chief Sean Murray has stressed that it's extremely "meaningful" for the team. If nothing else, it shows that Hello Games hasn't been deaf to complaints -- it just wanted to have an answer ready before it spoke up.