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

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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.

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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6. Make the most of Anomaly Stations

Along your travels, you will come across a marker on your screen that points out a “Space Anomaly.” That anomaly is, in fact, a space station with those two weird characters, Nada and Polo. The anomaly stations seem to point out an alternate path from the Atlas, but they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Anomaly Stations can act like a concurrent path and provide useful benefits along the way, no matter where you’re headed.

First off, if you happen to stray from the Atlas path for whatever reason, Nada can put you back on that track. Second, there’s an alternate set of milestones that will earn you new stuff from the engineer Polo as you play, so your time spent blowing up sentinels and surviving hostile planets will earn you additional rewards. Third, there’s always a new multi-tool on the Anomaly Station that you can purchase — just walk near that big cylinder on the right side of the room as you enter, and inside you’ll find a new multi-tool. Fourth, if you don’t need to be taken back to the Atlas Path, you can always ask Nada for some useful tech to upgrade your gear.

If you’re ignoring the Atlas Path, Nada can also show you nearby black holes on your galaxy map. As mentioned in our general tips guide, however, don’t ask for “shortcuts” to the center of the galaxy unless you actually want them. When Nada adds information to your Galaxy Map, it’s there until you reach that destination — so if you ignore the path to a black hole and go in another direction, it’ll sit on your map, crowding your UI. If you’re screwing around exploring, you can actually grab too many black hole indicators for your map, which makes it more difficult to obtain Atlas Path waypoints. That, in turn, can make it impossible to complete the Atlas Path.

If you do want shortcuts, however, Nada can help.

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7. Black holes are the best way to make progress

I’ve tested this pretty thoroughly: If you want to make real, significant progress to the galactic core, you’ll want to use black holes. They’re the most consistent way to actually lower the huge number of light years you’ll have to travel to arrive at the center.

You can note where black holes are located on your galactic map by checking for grayish markers around star systems. When you arrive in those systems, you’ll see the black hole right in front of you. Just fly into it and you’ll get a random shortcut toward the center of the galaxy. The exact distance you’ll gain from going through a black hole isn’t constant, but you’ll always get a notification that you traveled some bonkers distance — hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of light years — when you reach the other side. Black holes don’t determine your direction, though, and most of that gigantic journey is a lateral movement, rather than a forward one. Your actual progress toward the center per black hole is more in the order of about 1,300 to 1,500 light years per trip.

These shortcuts take their toll, though. Each black hole jump will randomly break a ship system, which often forces you to stop and repair it. If you’re going to be doing a lot of black hole travel, you’ll want to carry the resources you need to repair them. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend a lot of time just keeping your ship in working order.

At first, it’s tough to tell if scouring for black holes is worth it. Because it will break your ship, it can seem like just taking straight warp jumps to the center of the galaxy would be a better idea, especially given you can travel about 1,550 light years per jump when you’re ship is fully upgraded — maybe more, if you connect your engine upgrades to maximize the the upgrade stacking bonus.

After comparing a day of regular jumps to a day of black hole travel toward the center, however, the difference was stark.Because of some trick of the math, the rotation of the galaxy, or just a good ol’ fashioned bug, you can plot a jump that’s pretty much in a straight line toward the center of the galaxy from your current location and never get the full 1,500 light years out of it. Your progress per jump is actually more in the order of hundreds of light years, if that. The best way to travel to the center of the galaxy is via black hole, even with repairs along the way.

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8. Hyperdrives help

If you’re going the Atlas Path, you won’t need to do much work on your engine. The first hyperdrive improvement, Warp Reactor Tau, will make it possible to jump enough light years in one shot to take you from Atlas station to station, which makes for efficient progress. But if you want to take a different path, hyperdrive engines should be your top priority. The trouble is, the tech takes time to find organically in the game. Once you find the blueprints, they require ample resources to build and take up valuable inventory space.

Despite the high cost, though, warp reactor improvements are worth it. The final improvement, Warp Reactor Theta, will let you push more than 1,000 light years per jump. Whether you’re just headed to the center of the galaxy or you’re looking for black holes, that kind of range is essential to getting where you’re going with any kind of speed. Spend the time to find the gold, emeril, nickel, and copper you need to afford better engines.

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9. Space piracy pays

Even if you’re doing the Atlas Path, the shortest version of the experience, No Man’s Sky is still a large and fairly daunting game. You’re going to want to invest in better ships and improved gear, and that’s going to mean gathering up the funds necessary to buy those things, which adds up quickly.

There are lots of different ways to earn cash in No Man’s Sky, but one reliable trick, especially if you don’t have any tough-to-replace ship systems, is to become a dastardly space pirate. Watch for the big capital ships that warp into every system, and look for the ones carrying big cargo containers. Blast them and they’ll shed their cargoes into the void, where you can snag them.

Yes, you will definitely attract attackers when you do this. If you can attack ships while still close to the system’s space station, you can zip back in and dock before you’re blown up. But even if you get in a deep space dogfight and lose, you’ll just need to fly back to your floating grave, marked on your display, and pick up your cargo. It’s a quick way to earn tons of sellables — the drawback is breaking your ship systems with every death.

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10. Upgrade your mining for long-term efficiency

If you’re like us, you probably acquired about 900 technology upgrades while playing No Man’s Sky and none of them seemed very interesting. The game is full of unclear, incremental add-ons that supposedly improve your stuff, but exactly how and to what degree isn’t always obvious. Plus, with so many add-ons, limited inventory space — your installed technologies share space with the things you pick up, meaning every time you improve your gear you lose some carrying capacity — and the extra resources required to craft them, it’s easy to stick with what you have.

If you’re serious about getting to the galactic core, though, you’re going to want the proper tools. After a while, you likely won’t spend a ton of time on any given planet. Sure, they’re pretty, but No Man’s Sky’s worlds thin out on interesting diversity once you’ve seen 15 or 20 of them. At that point, you’ll probably be stopping mostly to refuel your systems and repair your ship, and that means mining, mining, mining.

Focus on installing Beam Intensity upgrades for the mining laser on your multi-tool. No Man’s Sky is sometimes unclear about what exactly these do, though, it’ll sometimes say Beam Intensity upgrades allow for faster “terrain destruction.” But since your laser can’t destroy terrain — only your plasma grenades can actually blow up the ground — what it’s referring to is your laser’s ability to cut through copper, gold, elerium, aluminum, and other big mineral deposits. Mining large deposits of these resources is extremely important for building the top upgrades to your ship and making money fast. Beam Intensity upgrades should allow you to cut through dense resources relatively quickly, saving you a lot of time in the long run.

It’s also worth investing in upgrades to cut down on your laser’s overheating. It sounds like a minor addition, but a decked-out multi-tool will save you lots of time in your more-than-100,000 light-year trek.

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