No Man’s Sky studio Hello Games unveil Light No Fire, a fantasy survival game set on a single, huge planet

Hello Games have announced Light No Fire, the Guildford, UK-based developer’s most ambitious new game since 2016’s space sim No Man’s Sky. In development for roughly five years so far, it’s an exploration-driven fantasy experience with building mechanics, a range of curious mythological creatures, and a procedurally generated open world that is apparently Earth-like in both geography and scale. Hello have just screened a trailer at this year’s Game Awards. Earlier this week, they invited me down to their Guildford offices for a quick, informal chat about the game, which I am going to characterise as Fable meets Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Another way of describing Light No Fire is that it’s No Man’s Sky held up to an enchanted mirror. It’s immediately recognisable as a sibling production, from its gemlike logo art to the acoustics of the title, but all the familiar elements have been inverted. No Man’s Sky’s art direction is designed to evoke a classic Frank Herbert sci-fi book cover; Light No Fire takes that vivid palette and applies it to a fairytale world that recalls Narnia and Pan’s Labyrinth. Where No Man’s Sky gives you billions of planets, Light No Fire devotes all its attention to one. And where No Man’s Sky aims for the feeling of being alone in the universe, despite its latter-day multiplayer elements, Light No Fire is about community. You can play it alone, chopping down trees and lugging them up a mountain to construct a cabin retreat, but the developers are trying to encourage players to explore, build and survive together.

The game’s procedurally generated map is designed to feel more plausible and crafted than No Man Sky’s planets, with more realistic continents, oceans, valleys and rivers. In particular, Hello Games want to create some genuinely mountain-sized mountains – taller than Everest, in fact – rather than the glorified foothills you find in many games. You’ll be able to explore these landscapes on foot, which sounds like it’ll take forever, or avail yourself of vehicles such as sailing rafts, and mounts that include giant birds. The birds are very much my highlight so far. They include what appears to be a supersized Eurasian kingfisher, a beautiful blue-and-orange riverside bird I loved as a kid.

My visit to Hello Games was last minute and unscripted – more of a cheeky opportunity to glean some feedback from a journalist before flying out to LA, than share any concrete details on play mechanics and systems. But you can get a sense of the possibilities from the trailer. We see four players swim through a coral reef and emerge on a sandy shoreline, a callback to the very first No Man’s Sky footage that left so many confused about what you do in the game. We see the scruffy beginnings of a settlement, with players dragging logs to construction sites, and cottage chimneys coalescing from pebbles, like explosions in reverse.

We see players swooping about on draconic creatures, and others plying the waves beneath in their rafts. We see beacons of the kind that summoned the Rohan to Gondor. And we see faerie touches that aren’t worlds away from Zelda: people with rabbit heads or antlers; moons floating down valleys, low enough to scrape the foliage; metal colossi slumbering in the swamps; dreamy temple interiors where ogres lounge among drapes; and a giant orb on a hilltop with a mazy, fissured surface.

Captured entirely in-game, it communicates much more about how Light No Fire plays than the first No Man’s Sky trailer, but plenty remains mysterious – and as a fan of the more occult kind of videogame fantasy, I’m enjoying the mystery. What do you think? One last thing: Hello Games are adamant that this isn’t the end for No Man’s Sky. The space sim will receive more updates next year.

Can’t get enough of Geoff’s annual advert hype machine? Find all the announcements and more on our Game Awards 2023 hub page, and why not pop into our liveblog while you’re here?

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