No Man’s Sky: ‘Prisms’ update is a complete visual overhaul

Technology

No Man’s Sky continues to be one of the greatest comeback stories in gaming history. Not only has it delivered on all of its failed promises, but it also continues to improve the game with every major iteration. Version 3.5 is no exception.

On Wednesday, Hello Games released its seventeenth major update to No Man’s Sky called “Prisms.” Version 3.5 brings a few new gameplay features like ridable flying creatures, movable freighter bases, improved planetary charts, and a synthesis laboratory for buying crafting component recipes. However, as the name suggests, the update is primarily about light—aka visual overhaul.

Last month, Nvidia spilled the beans when it revealed that No Man’s Sky was one of several games that would be getting Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) support, and here we are.

“PC players with compatible NVIDIA RTX graphics cards can take advantage of DLSS, gaining vastly improved performance and visual quality,” the patch notes read.

Perhaps more importantly, DLSS support also works in VR mode. It will not alleviate the screen door effect, but any improvement of VR visuals is always a blessing.

While HG is not yet ready to delve into the complexities of real-time ray tracing, it has added the next best thing to the Prisms update—screen space reflections (SSR). Screen space reflections are a less taxing form of ray tracing since it only needs to compute reflections for objects already rendered on the screen. Regardless of the differences in process, SSR brings shiny surfaces to No Man’s Sky, and they look terrific.

Another lighting technique is used to add refractions when looking through curved surfaces. Starship cockpits, base windows, and alien bubbles on frothy planets can now refract light, making them appear more realistic.

Hello Games used “new styles” of volumetric lighting to bring more depth to the various light sources. Colored and directional volumetrics give the bright headlights of exocraft and starships that lightened haze you would expect. The effect is especially dramatic as you try to avoid the cone of a sentinel’s spotlight. Crepuscular rays (aka God rays) have been reworked as well.

On some textures, developers applied parallax occlusion mapping. This gives some surfaces that previously looked flat a great deal of depth. A stunning example is the floor of the Anomaly (below).

With the heavy focus on lighting in this update, it would be a shame not to improve the look of wet objects. The developers have that covered. New particle effects enhance the look of rain during storms as well as explosions. But not only does the rain look good falling, it actually makes things wet now. Whether it’s your exosuit or a creature, objects develop a progressively damp sheen.

It’s good that HG thought to make things look wet because going out in storms just became a thing. While outside the scope of the visual updates we’ve been highlighting, players now have a reason to wander about in extreme meteorological conditions like thunderstorms and meteor showers. These hazardous conditions now have a chance to spawn valuable objects. Treasure hunters who typically look for booty buried under alien ruins now have another option to find rare artifacts to sell.

As always, there are dozens of other quality of life improvements, UI enhancements, audio tuning, and bug fixes in the update that we never get a chance to talk about, so be sure to check out the patch notes for version 3.5 on the No Man’s Sky website.