Atlas Rises introduces a big new story and tons of fresh details – but is it enough to encourage people back into this procedurally generated world?

Almost a year to the day since its controversial release, No Man’s Sky is still frequently awe inspiring. There’s beauty in its hyper-saturated sunsets and navy-hued space-scapes; there’s fascination in the occasionally hilarious procedurally generated creatures, or the rush of fear as a radioactive solar storm ravages a planet’s dusty surface. There’s still a thrill in diving below the top layer of cloud to find out what kind of biome lies beneath – even if a world’s surface can often look completely different to how it appeared from the dark blueness of space.

“What is No Man’s Sky?” was the question that circled, endlessly, around developer Hello Games while it worked on the game. Come its release in August 2016, it seemed that head honcho Sean Murray and his team didn’t really know the answer themselves. Part survival game, part ambient exploration, part mindless wandering simulator, part clearly unfinished experiment, it felt like a fabulous concept that had run away into something unattainably ambitious. The new Atlas Rises update is the closest the studio has come to really answering the big defining question about what its game does.

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