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How to pick the best route to the center of the universe in ‘No Man’s Sky’

The 'No Man's Sky' guide to finding the center of the universe

No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and discovery, but eventually, you might want to actually progress through what Hello Games has to offer. When that happens, you’ll want to turn your starship toward the center of the galaxy, where No Man’s Sky’s mysterious endgame awaits.

Related: How to survive your first star system in No Man’s Sky

Getting to the center of the galaxy, and whatever “end” No Man’s Sky offers when you arrive — full disclosure: we haven’t even seen it yet — isn’t easy, however. The game seems to offer multiple paths toward that center, but, like so many aspects the No Man’s Sky universe, they aren’t always clear. To that point, we’ve compiled some tips from our travels that will hopefully help you reach the end of No Man’s Sky, and avoid some pitfalls along the way.

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1. Pick your path

No Man’s Sky seems to direct players toward three paths that lead to the center of the galaxy. The first is the “Atlas Path,” which beckons players to track down a mysterious ancient race by following various coordinates through the galaxy. Before long, another path will appear when players are contacted by two other space explorers, Nada and Polo, who suggest you seek them out instead. Finally, your galaxy map provides what we assume is a direct path to the center. Which one you choose will change your experience, at least to some degree.

The primary difference between the routes to the center is that the Atlas Path is starkly different from the others. Rather than pointing straight to the middle, it diverts you to uncover the secret of “what’s going on” in the world of No Man’s Sky. If you want maximum exploration — and maximum travel time — follow the map’s path to the galactic core. You can switch to a different path at any time, but note that for the Atlas path at least, there are some key things you must do to complete it, and it’s easy to mess up along the way.

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2. The Atlas Path (seems to be) Easy Mode

Getting to the center of the galaxy is a huge proposition. Traveling directly there takes forever. So if you want an easier No Man’s Sky experience — to some degree, anyway — you should try the Atlas Path. You’ll only need to visit 10 total locations to clear the path and finish the game, although you’ll still have to stop many times along the way at other planets and star systems. While it’s a lot quicker, it’s certainly not quick. You’ll still get a lot out of your No Man’s Sky experience. But the Atlas Path gives you a number of additional legs-up along the way.

So if you’re wanting a somewhat shorter experience, you should try the Atlas Path. After you’ve completed it, you’ll enter a “new game plus” mode, of sorts, which will let you explore the galaxy with all your gear and upgrades intact. So if you’re looking for a more compact take on No Man’s Sky — and we’re talking roughly 30 hours versus roughly 100 hours here — this is the way to go.

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3. Don’t sell your Atlas stones

This is how you can screw up the Atlas Path and rob yourself of the ability to finish it, which, in turn, requires a second playthrough.

As you work your way through the Atlas path, you’ll be presented with several “Atlas Stones.” These special rocks are some of the most valuable items in the game, and fetch something like 70,000 units. They also take up an inventory slot, and it’s not initially clear what they’re for. Valuable and annoying to truck around the game as they are, it will be tempting to sell them — don’t. If you want to finish the Atlas Path, you absolutely need to hang on to your Atlas Stones.

In fact, you’ll need to gather 10 Atlas Stones by the end of the game, which means you’ll need to clear 10 spaces in your inventory to carry them all. You can expand your inventory at drop pods — often revealed when you search for “Shelters” at waypoint scanners on most planets — or by buying better ships. If you sell your Atlas Stones, it can be impossible to get enough to finish the path, because even though they’re sometimes available on the Galactic Market, they’re crazy expensive. It’s best to keep the ones you get.

Similarly, if you want to finish the Atlas Path, go to  system with the final Atlas location until you’re ready to turn in your stones. If you can’t end the path when you arrive at the last stop, it doesn’t seem like you can revisit it. We messed up and sold half our Atlas Stones before realizing we needed them, and once we left the 10th Atlas Path location, we never found another one.

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4. Atlas Stations will teach you tons of alien words

Each step along the Atlas Path ends with a special “Atlas Interface” space station, which delivers a snippet of story and directs you to the next section. Inside each station is a big, open area that surrounds the path toward your next story beat. Don’t ignore that open area.

On the ground surrounding your landing pad at each station are a bunch of glowing orbs. If you get close to them, they vanish. While it doesn’t always happen, activating these vanishing orbs can also teach you a word from an alien language. If you’re lucky, you can learn 10 or 15 new words in a single station — and you’ll hit at least 10 of them on your way to the center.

Running around and learning all those words is definitely worth your time. They make solving various puzzles throughout No Man’s Sky easier, netting you a bunch of rewards when you interact with aliens and their machinery. Second, it’ll allow you to earn Journey Milestones quicker, and you’ll need those to finish the game.

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5. Milestones matter

Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed the many, many times No Man’s Sky stops you to inform you that you’ve received a “Journey Milestone.” You rack these up for completing various tasks, like walking long distances, killing sentinels, and earning a large amount of money. At first, they seem somewhat meaningless, but all those milestones add up to make your “Overall Milestone” rank, which determines where you are on your end game path, at least some of the time.

You’ll need to reach the Galileo Milestone rank — the highest in the game — in order to finish the Atlas Path, for a start. That doesn’t mean you have to max out all the other Milestones, but you will need quite a few. That means it’s worthwhile to activate the alien monoliths you’ll encounter on your journey, as well as take out the sentinels that try to hassle you. You’ll earn many milestones just by playing the game, but toward the end, you may find that you need to pick up a few more in order to advance. So be sure to scan the animals on planets where you intend to spend a lot of time, for instance. Every milestone counts.

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