GQ Magazine: "The latest of these [updates], named Atlas Rises, comes out almost a year to the day that the game was first released. It marks the most substantial update yet, and it better plots a course for the game’s future. [...] The result is by far the most cohesive and intriguing tale that the game has delivered so far."
The Guardian: "The new Atlas Rises update is the closest the studio has come to really answering the big defining question about what its game does. An overhauled storyline offers up a tangible directive that allows players to better plot a course through the umpteen planets that litter the procedurally generated universe [...] all of this exposition is actually pretty intriguing (by far the best No Man’s Sky has delivered in terms of narrative pull-through)."
Vice: "I don't want to give away the surprise of what happens, but here is what I will say: This 30 minute section of No Man's Sky's new story update offers a glimpse into the future of games (or at least one future). It blends clever procgen, carefully handcrafted spaces, and a surprising variation of narrative pacing in a way that doesn't only impress me, but also helps to make sense of No Man's Sky's core design philosophies for me. Prior to this, it was not clear that procgen-driven games could leave me biting my nails in anxiety about the story. Plenty had been filled with intriguing lore, sure. But mostly they were games that delivered on feelings of exploration (as in Minecraft or Unexplored) or skillful mastery (like Spelunky, Invisible, Inc., or Downwell). But in Atlas Rises, No Man's Sky shows how procgen can aid storytelling."
Gamespot: "The very first words No Man's Sky's unseen, unheard protagonist reads when starting the new Atlas Rises missions are the words that have guided all the best humanistic science fiction: “You are not alone.” [...] The new story mode, in which you encounter Artemis, one of the first explorers of this universe, is strong enough to pull you along. For new players, the early missions in the storyline act as the game's ersatz tutorial, but the training wheels come off fairly quickly. It's a story that plays to the game's strengths, holding the never ending journey sacred, and giving players a consistent empathetic voice, while also taking them to far more personal, affecting places than the original Atlas Path ever did. It's still a quest to the center of the universe, but what you will find there is immensely more gratifying."
Kotaku: "The new narrative elements help draw the steadily-expanding pool of gameplay loops into something resembling a unified whole — there's now a core story quest (which further deepens the surprisingly nihilistic lore) alongside randomly-generated missions. The intergalactic meandering that remains at the centre has snapped back into focus, because there's greater incentive to go off and explore. I can still slip into my favourite spacecraft and let the psychedelic beauty and dreamy ambience wash over me, but it’s no longer all that the game has to offer. Now it's the striking backdrop for thrilling adventures with tangible rewards."
Wired: ""Atlas Rises" is the third update since the game's release, and it feels fundamentally different. [...] By adding 30 hours of story to the game, the update fleshes out a more complex narrative."
The Verge: "For me, the most important change has been the fleshed-out story campaign. One of the best parts of No Man’s Sky is its openness — you can go basically wherever you want, provided you have the resources — but this can also lead to a sense of aimlessness. [...] No Man’s Sky’s new story is much more direct. As soon as you start playing, you’ll be alerted to an incoming transmission from a fellow traveler lost somewhere in the vast reaches of the universe. Slowly, the two of you manage to beam messages back and forth, with the eventual goal of finding out just who and where they are."