Discover how Starfield's impact No Man's Sky player numbers and which of the two space exploration games in supreme in this cosmic gaming analysis
Starfield, which officially launched after a week of early access, has swiftly become a sensation, attracting over 6 million players and marking a historic milestone for Bethesda. Curiously, the release of this high-profile game has had an unexpected impact on No Man's Sky. According to Steam Charts, a website tracking player counts on Steam, No Man's Sky experienced notable spikes in player numbers, particularly during Starfield's early access period. While we cannot definitively attribute this surge to Starfield's immense hype, it presents the most logical explanation.
Also, I can't believe how much Starfield wants to be No Man's Sky. Even the plot is the same.
It does the RPG part WAAAY better than NMS, but if you don't care about that and just want the laid back space adventures, definitely try No Man's Sky after this.
— notch (@notch) September 17, 2023
The disparity between expectations and reality initially damaged NMS reputation, but soon made a remarkable comeback through substantial updates, transforming itself into a redemption story within the gaming community. The game's player base fluctuated over the years, initially peaking at over 23,000 players in late March 2023. However, player numbers dwindled in subsequent months, dropping to less than 6,500 in early August.
Nevertheless, NMS underwent a remarkable turnaround in the latter half of August, with player numbers surging to almost 21,000 by August 27. This resurgence continued as Bethesda's Starfield entered early access on September 1, with No Man's Sky reaching a peak of just over 30,000 players on September 3. As per recent numbers, the game maintains a player count of over 25,000, potentially hinting at another surge on the horizon.
Exploration Mechanics: Starfield vs. No Man's Sky
When we delve into the exploration mechanics of Starfield and No Man's Sky, we find two games that share the vastness of space as their canvas but paint it with distinct strokes.
In No Man's Sky, space exploration feels seamless. Your starship gracefully ascends from a planet's surface, breaches through the atmosphere, and effortlessly glides into space. The transition between atmospheric flight and space flight is as smooth as a perfectly executed space maneuver. Within a single solar system, loading screens are virtually nonexistent. Cutscenes, albeit rare, come into play during black hole jumps and transitions between star systems. The player enjoys almost constant control over their spacecraft, enhancing the immersive journey. Even during the few loading screens present, NMS offers sleek traveling animations to maintain the sense of immersion.
The buildings on worlds are all a bit the same in NMS. Starfield has more variety imo,also in storytelling. I like both tbf.
— Maikel Samizdat 🔄 (@maikeltjeonline) September 17, 2023
Starfield, on the other hand, divides its universe into thousands of individual instances. Transitioning between planets and celestial bodies in Starfield resembles the approach seen in games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Choose a destination, trigger a cutscene—it's a process that applies whether you're traversing solar systems or departing from a moon's surface.
Atmospheric flight isn't part of the equation, and direct control over the spacecraft is primarily reserved for instances of space travel beyond moons and planets. While Starfield offers the joys of exploration, it also comes with frequent episodes of relinquishing control to cutscenes and loading screens. A smoother graphical transition between instances could alleviate this issue, but for now, players must navigate these moments.
The Battle of Discovery
Exploration isn't just about traveling; it's also about discovery. Both Starfield and No Man's Sky employ procedural generation to craft their respective worlds, offering players an array of fascinating discoveries. However, when it comes to discovery, Starfield seems to excel.
In both games, the rewards for exploration can vary from valuable resources to thrilling battles or awe-inspiring vistas. Here's where Starfield's larger budget and expansive development team shine. Points of Interest, mining resources, and scanning flora and fauna unfold in a similar fashion in both games. Distress calls and encounters with pirates follow similar patterns. While most discoveries in space remain a rare occurrence, they hold universal satisfaction.
Even ardent fans of No Man's Sky admit that its procedural generation sometimes results in planets that feel eerily familiar. After visiting a dozen or so planets in NMS, you might sense a repetition in their designs. Starfield, in contrast, offers a more diverse range of locations, and even when certain locales trigger déjà vu, the discoveries remain more captivating. The difference in budget and team size between Bethesda and Hello Games is evident in the final products, especially in terms of combat. Combat in Starfield is dynamic and engaging, with dogfights, surface skirmishes, and boarding actions all in play. In NMS, combat feels like an afterthought.
Graphics and Visual Design
No Man's Sky showcases a staggering number of planets, each with procedurally generated surfaces awaiting exploration. However, compared to Starfield, some players find its visuals somewhat repetitive. In contrast, Bethesda's title presents meticulously crafted environments teeming with life, offering diverse textures and breathtaking vistas. Character models and animations in Starfield exude realism, making for a visually captivating experience. These graphical elements make Starfield an enticing game to explore, clearly setting it apart in terms of visual design.
Storytelling and Quest Design
Starfield and No Man's Sky adopt distinct approaches when it comes to storytelling and quest design. Starfield is an RPG that places a strong emphasis on narrative, while No Man's Sky leans more into the realms of action, survival, and pure exploration. The former offers players the opportunity to create a highly detailed playable character, complete with a backstory, unique traits, and customizable appearance. As players progress, they develop skills and witness the consequences of their choices in interactions with NPCs. In No Man's Sky, the playable character remains relatively anonymous, with the focus primarily on exploration and the grandeur of the cosmic experience rather than deep narrative immersion.
These differences extend to the realm of combat and weaponry. In Starfield, players enjoy the freedom to customize their arsenal, enhance weapon appearances, and impact their stats by selecting specific skills. NMS, while offering combat encounters, does not provide the same level of customization for weapons. Consequently, combat in Starfield offers a more engaging and intricate experience, especially given the game's epic narrative backdrop, woven with tales of legendary conflicts from the past that continue to shape the uncertain future. In contrast, combat in No Man's Sky is more centered on survival and occasional encounters while exploring distant planets, with less impact on the overarching story.
The Choice of the Cosmos
As we compare Starfield and No Man's Sky, it's crucial to remember that these games cater to different player preferences and experiences. Starfield is the newcomer, boasting refined graphics, an immersive RPG experience, and meticulously crafted planets that beckon exploration. In contrast, No Man's Sky offers a distinct journey, focusing on the grandeur of intergalactic exploration on an unparalleled scale, where the intricate plot takes a backseat to the cosmic adventure.
I saw some Starfield on Twitch. Then saw NMS was €27 on GOG. I bought NMS and am now 13 hours in.
— Mark Twomey (@Storagezilla) September 17, 2023
Ultimately, the question of which game is better is subjective, and the choice belongs to the player. If you seek a narrative-driven space adventure, Starfield is the game for you, as Bethesda has consistently demonstrated their prowess in this domain. However, if you yearn for epic intergalactic exploration where the plot matters less than the vastness of the cosmos, No Man's Sky is your cosmic playground. With both these titles now at your disposal, the ultimate winner is you—the intrepid space explorer.