No Man’s Sky: ‘Frontiers’ expansion adds towns and overhauls base building

Hello Games revealed its 17th major expansion (version 3.6) for No Man’s Sky today. Called “Frontiers,” it’s mostly focused on adding settlements to the surfaces of planets in the game’s procedurally generated universe. Players will be able to visit and even manage these towns. The update also brings significant changes to base building.

When Hello Games first launched its space exploration game in 2016, it fell well short of what the developer had spent years promising to players. In one of the gaming industry’s biggest comeback stories in recent memory though, Hello Games has spent the last five years dropping meaty expansions. It has added multiplayer, base building, VR, and a lot more, all for free. It’s safe to say the No Man’s Sky of 2021 isn’t the same game it was in 2016.

Hello Games teased Frontiers in early August to celebrate No Man’s Sky’s fifth anniversary but didn’t reveal details on the update until today. Updates for this game tend to come with long patch note pages on its official website, and this one is no different.

Like the planets and solar systems that make up the universe in No Man’s Sky, towns are procedurally generated. Each one is unique, and their buildings are made of the same parts players use in base building. Players can discover these settlements on the surfaces of inhabited planets by buying maps from cartographers or through some missions they might accept. According to the patch notes, these towns include things like houses, cafes, factories, and farms.

Players can apply to become overseer of a town by placing their credentials at a monument in the center of town. This opens up what the patch notes make sound like a whole new management game within No Man’s Sky.

Overseeing a settlement involves managing five key stats: productivity, population, happiness, upkeep costs, and Sentinel alert level. They can do this through things like attracting new people to the town, building new structures, commissioning festivals, setting policies, and researching technologies. When productivity reaches a point of surplus, a settlement will generate resources for players to keep. That surplus will also automatically go into paying off any debt the town might incur from investing in projects.

Overseers will have to manage the inhabitants of towns in Frontiers too. They’ll have to settle disputes between them, welcome new people into town, and solve crimes. Inhabitants wander throughout towns according to their routines, and players can check on their inner thoughts. They even have moods that depend on how the settlement is doing.

No Man’s Sky’s sentinel robots which patrol planets already don’t like it when players alter the environment too much. If a settlement grows enough they’ll eventually attack it, and the overseer will have to help defend it. The patch notes mention defense-related buildings for settlements as well as defense drones.

Frontiers seems to rework base building by completely replacing the menu for this feature. Now all the parts are displayed on a grid from which players should be able to more quickly select, place, and edit parts. The update also adds a “free placement” mode to building that disables snapping. This lets players place building parts inside each other and even in mid-air. There are over 250 new building parts in the Frontiers update.

Along with Frontiers, Hello Games announced a third expedition season with new rewards. Expeditions are community events that Hello Games added earlier this year. In them, participating players all start from the same planet (as opposed to a random one in the normal mode) and complete objectives while exploring. Season three tasks players with escaping the toxic planet Gisto Major by exploring it to find resources, which they then use to prepare a unique starship.

Hello Games has tried to improve No Man’s Sky’s graphics with this update, too. It has new effects for nebulas which should change how the sky looks. The developer also tweaked the visual effects for things like environments, destruction, and combat.

The save system in No Man’s Sky is also seeing some changes. The number of save slots has been tripled from five to 15, and the game supports bigger save files from longer playtimes. Because this update changes how the game formats save files, Hello Games has already backed up all old save files.

PC players can find these in a new “stackup” folder in App Data > Roaming > HelloGames > NMS. Non-consumable items bought with Quicksilver, an in-game currency, can now be used across all save slots tied to an account.

No Man’s Sky is also getting Steam trading cards and Twitch rewards.