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No Man’s Sky: 20 essential tips for starting out

No Man’s Sky gives players a chance to explore worlds that are beyond explanation. Some of the worlds defy physics and natural order, providing plants and animals that can survive the most extreme and wild environments. And with 18 quintillion plants, plants, creatures, and atmospheres to explore, there is little that will leave you bored.

Getting your feet planted in a game with so much can be a little disorienting. With all the galaxies, planets, and places to explore, it’s easy to get lost or distracted. Players who are just starting out may need an extra hand to navigate these galaxies and worlds. The game provides little to no explanations, so it’s up to players to navigate everything themselves.

If you’re just starting out but need a little help, you’re in luck! We have some tips that every beginner should know before delving into the world of No Man’s Sky.

Further reading

Get over your crafting confusion, fast

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No Man’s Sky is much more Minecraft than it is Destiny. As you explore planets and make your way toward the center of the galaxy to meet the endgame, most of your time will be spent gathering resources on planets to build items, upgrade your equipment, and keep your ship fueled. You can craft two kinds of objects: “Technologies,” which you install on your ship, exosuit, or “multi-tool” (your gun, basically), and “Products,” which you use to build new stuff. You install techs using the X button and craft with the Square button.

Much of No Man’s Sky is about managing the inventory, which you can trade things between much of the time. All of your inventories are made up of a series of slots, which can either hold objects — materials, items for trade, or various kinds of fuel — or can hold installed tech that improves your gear. You want to increase your inventory size whenever possible, and you also need at least one free inventory slot to craft anything. Long story, short; pick up a lot of stuff, but always be sure you have free space available. You’ll be doing a ton of crafting.

Scan everything

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Two of the first things you’ll need to repair will be your multi-tool’s scanning abilities. One is a visor you can use to identify plants and animals — get used to scanning everything you encounter, as it pays off later. The second pings the environment to reveal resources near you. That one’s invaluable. Get used to pinging the landscape with L3 (press down on the left control stick) pretty much constantly, as it’ll reveal everything from ship fuel to alien artifacts in your general vicinity. And especially in the first hour, you’ll need to know where the resources that will keep you alive are as you run around trying to repair your ship. If you don’t know how the scanner works — which isn’t immediately obvious — you might find yourself dead before you even get off the ground.

Always carry necessary materials

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The thing about Technologies is that they often have to be charged up with consumable materials, just like your ship has to be continually refueled to keep flying. Your spacesuit has two major systems you need to watch: Life Support and Hazard Protection. Life Support power depletes anytime you’re outside of your ship, and Hazard Protection depletes when the surface of a planet is volatile. They make up the basic survival portion of No Man’s Sky.

Keeping your Life Support and Hazard Protection charged is essential if you want to explore beyond the immediate vicinity around your ship. Life Support is easy to top off. You can charge it with either carbon, condensed carbon, or oxygen. Your Hazard Protection, on the other hand, recharges when you’re safe in your ship or in a shelter, but it can only be recharged with special items or certain minerals. However, which minerals your Hazard Protection needs really depends on the planet you’re on. Radiation planets, for example, require that the Hazard Protection be refilled with Uranium, while a Toxic planet will require that Hazard Protection be refilled with Ammonia.

While away from your ship, though, you might not be able to find what you need for a recharge, and this can be deadly, especially early in the game. So, when you do find what you need, it’s always a good idea to grab it and keep some on hand for an emergency. Same goes with carbon or oxygen: Any time you see some, grab some. You’ll use it constantly, and it never hurts to have extra on hand.

Upgrade your exosuit

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Inventory slots are important in No Man’s Sky, but it’s not immediately apparent how to upgrade your items when you first start out. You can buy new ships and multi-tools, but your exosuit has to be upgraded piece by piece. To do that, you need to seek out shelters and outposts and visit space stations.

There are a variety of ways to find these. You can use your scanner and search around. If you’re near a shelter or outpost, your scanner will pick it up. However, if you’re struggling to find shelters and outposts, you can head up to the cartographer on any space station. Here, you can either use Nanites to purchase Planetary Charts or trade any Navigation Data you’ve found. To upgrade your exosuit, you’ll want the Inhabited Outpost Planetary Chart. When using the chart, be sure to land on the planet you want to search. If you use the chart in space, it can take you to any planet in that galaxy.

Additionally, be sure to save up your Units and visit every exosuit seller in Space Stations. Every space station will give you a chance to purchase an exosuit upgrade, but the price increases every time you purchase one. It’s a small price to pay for all that extra space.

Upgrades: Get ’em

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In fact, there are a ton of technologies you can discover all over the place. They’re in buildings, in crashed ships, in drop pods, in smoking ruins of alien tech — and at some point, you might have so many you can’t use right away that you’re tempted to ignore them. Don’t.

You’re not going to want to use every upgrade, and you won’t have the room to, but some are worth the effort especially early on. Moving around on foot in No Man’s Sky is painfully slow, so look for upgrades that increase your sprint stamina. Same goes for your jetpack: you’re always going to want as much power in it as you can get (although it allows you to climb walls even when it needs to recharge). The point is, the faster you upgrade things like your mining laser’s power, your sprinting capabilities, and your life support systems, the more quickly you’ll be able to focus on exploring instead of simply gathering rocks to stay alive.

Upload your discoveries

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You should be spending plenty of time in No Man’s Sky scanning stuff with your visor. It gets repetitive looking at every rock, plant, and animal on each new planet and waiting for it to scan, but it’s worth doing most of the time. New discoveries are the quickest and easiest ways to earn money. With currency on hand, you can purchase new ships, multi-tools, and any junk you don’t feel like searching around a planet’s surface to find.

You can name everything you find by pulling up the Discoveries menu with the Options button. You don’t always have to name everything, but you should at least claim credit for what you discover and upload your findings to the No Man’s Sky servers. When you upload stuff, you get paid. You can also upload all your Discoveries at once, which is easier than trying to upload things one at a time or as you see them. Simply make your way to the Discoveries tab and hit Square to exit out of the single planet mode, which should take you into the overall discoveries. The Arrow Pointing Up in a Circle is how to upload all your Discoveries at once.

While No Man’s Sky isn’t a multiplayer game, you’ll see evidence of other players through their discoveries. Upload your own junk, and people will see evidence of you, which is pretty cool, especially when you come up with good pun names for planets.

Check building interiors for interactive stuff

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You’ll go in a lot of buildings in No Man’s Sky. Inside many of them, you’ll find interactive terminals that dispense blueprints, allow you to access the Galactic Market, and offer to sell you new multi-tools.

But while many buildings appear nondescript, there are more interactive elements that are sometimes easy to overlook. If you ever see a glowing cube, for instance, or a small disc with a blue light in the center, try to click it with the Square button. You’ll often get health or shield bonuses from these objects, at the very least. Some even dispense money or teach you a word from an alien language. They’re not well marked in the game, so it’s easy to pass right by these interactive objects: a good rule of thumb is just to try to interact with everything that looks technological.

Keep talking to aliens

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In your travels across galaxies, there’s a high chance you’ll run into some aliens to talk to. Although it can be a little annoying, especially in the beginning, just keep talking to every alien you see.

This helps in a few different ways. Each encounter gives you a chance to learn a new word from an alien language. With persistence, you can start learning enough to understand what aliens are saying. This can help you increase your chances of giving each alien whatever it is they ask for and increase your rank.

Additionally, when you start to recognize what each alien faction wants, you can start picking up cool stuff. Aliens are prone to handing out blueprints, upgrades, and items that may otherwise be difficult to find. By befriending each alien you see, you have more of a chance of getting awesome items and upgrades. Also, you can increase your rank with each alien faction this way. Keep chatting them up!

Check locations for save points and ship beacons

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There’s a little tower at each set of alien buildings you’ll come across that you may not know to use when you first arrive. It’s a marker you can interact with to save your game and mark the location as one of your discoveries. Every time you find a new location, look for the waypoint. It’s a freebie discovery that’s easy to overlook.

Similarly, if you ever get in a tight spot with your ship — you’re out of fuel and have to hike to find more, you start repairing a crashed ship and get in over your head, or you’re the victim of some bug or other issue — try hiking to an Outpost and start looking for a red ship beacon. You can find nearby outposts by looking through your visor. Beacons (and also the larger landing pads) can summon your ship even if it’s out of fuel, so long as you have a piece of navigation data to use. So, if you start walking and realize you’re too far to walk back, or you’re in a dangerous situation and need your ship but can’t make the return journey, find yourself a beacon.


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Eventually, No Man’s Sky will start to encourage you to head to the stars. You can listen, but you don’t necessarily have to. Every planet and every solar system has a ton of things to find and do. Spending time in on a planet’s surface isn’t time wasted, especially if you’re improving your gear along the way. No Man’s Sky is the ultimate “at your own pace” game, so don’t feel pressured to move along if you’re not ready.

Similarly, just because your display is full of stuff to go find on a planet doesn’t mean you can’t just bail at any moment. There’s stuff to find on every planet.

Master the Melee Boost Jump

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It’s not obvious, you have a melee attack in No Man’s Sky. It’s mapped to the R1 button, and lets you mine essential stuff like Plutonium even if your mining laser runs out of juice. You may never use it for that, but it’s good for something else: a sick jetpack boost jump that gets you around the surface of planets much faster than running.

First, get a running start, then tap R1 to do a melee and hit X to activate the jetpack right afterward. The melee attack will zap you forward slightly, so if you start jetting at the right moment, you’ll turn that boost into forward momentum. Since you’re off the ground, there’s basically zero friction to slow you down. The result is a big jetpack long-jump that’s super useful for escaping sentinels and reaching distant ledges. It’s also just a faster way to get around, which is very helpful since you walk and run very slowly in this game. Be careful using it, though, because you will take damage on your landing unless you’re very close to the ground when you stop boosting.

Be a friend to animals

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Many planets are full of random animal species that putter around, not doing a whole lot except generally existing, giving their planets a vibe that ranges from friendly to a Lovecraftian nightmare made (digital) flesh. Scan them, and you’ll learn some info about them — specifically, whether they’ll attack you or not. If you get close to the nice ones, you can feed them to befriend them. The not-so-nice ones will have a red paw over their heads. Animals that turn aggressive toward you will also have a red arrow on your screen that points to the direction they’re coming from. If you’ve upset an animal or found a predator, be prepared to either run or fight.

The biggest upshot to befriending animals is that they’ll sometimes do stuff for you, like fight off other animals or poop out rare materials. This is the major benefit, in fact, of being nice to animals, other than that it’ll be easier to take their picture with the PlaySation 4’s screen-capping capabilities.

Or not

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If you’ve spent any time in No Man’s Sky, you’re probably aware of its many “Journey Milestones,” which pop up to tell you how many robots you shot, how many miles you’ve walked, or how many aliens you’ve met. Those milestones are meaningful because they add together to give you an overall milestone “rank,” which can affect your progress along the path toward No Man’s Sky’s endgame.

For one set of milestones, in the category of Zoology, you have to scan animals you find on planets. But you don’t get credit for just scanning — you have to find every animal on a given planet and scan them all. That can be really, really irritating, specifically because some animals are tough to nab with a scan. Flying animals are basically impossible to scan in the air because they move so much, and smaller animals can confuse your scanner. A simple option to getting all the specimens you need? Shoot them. It’s kind of sad to murder a thing just so you can study it, but you usually need to blast one or two if you want to hit every animal on a planet’s roster.

Choose your path carefully

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Before you get too far into the galaxy, you’ll start to see story elements popping up that present you with a choice. First, you’ll hear about a strange alien race known as the Atlas who want you to seek them out. Then, you’ll be encouraged to bail on the Atlas to find two beings called Nada and Polo and find out what their deal is. These two paths seem at odds with each other, and there’s always the third option: Blow off both and find your own way to the galactic core, which is ostensibly your overarching goal in No Man’s Sky. Those seem to be the three options available to players, and each of those paths requires a little something different of players.

First up is the Atlas path, which becomes available pretty much from the instant players start the game. This path seems to be the quickest way to finishing No Man’s Sky. It’s also easy to screw up. Without spoiling much, the key to finishing the Atlas path are Atlas Stones players will collect along the way. You’ll need 10 Atlas Stones to finish the game, and each takes up an inventory slot. They’ll fetch a good price if you sell them, but if you do, you might permanently kneecap yourself in that quest. It’s possible to purchase Atlas Stones if you’re in a bind, but they’re expensive. So whatever you do, don’t sell your Atlas Stones if you mean to finish the Atlas path.

The second path seemingly involves a space station marked as an “anomaly” that shows up periodically on your travels, while the third, it would appear, is just the straight shot to the center of the galaxy. In both cases, invest in improving your hyperdrive as soon as you can to ease the journey. Good hyperdrive tech is expensive to build, but it’ll let you jump several systems at once, and it’s pretty much a necessity to get to the center of the galaxy in this lifetime.

Your ship and your suit have different inventories

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It’s not immediately clear, but sharing items between your suit and your ship has bigger benefits than just having double the space to dump junk. Your suit can carry 250 units of any mineral or material per inventory slot, but your ship can carry 500 units per slot. That means it’s better to dump minerals into your ship, where you can store more, and put single-slot items like antimatter in your suit. It’s also easier, on the whole, to upgrade your suit inventory early on. Each new upgrade you find in shelters or on space stations once will cost you 10,000 Units more than the last, but you’ll be able to purchase a few before the cost really starts to stack up. On the other hand, meaningful ship upgrades can run hundreds of thousands or even millions of units.

Either way, upgrade your inventory space early and often in whatever way you can. You’ll need the space, especially if you mean to do the Atlas path, which requires giving up 10 inventory slots over the course of the journey.

Also, keep in mind that when traveling in space and collecting things in the ship, items will automatically go into your ship’s inventory. You’ll need to empty your ship pockets from time to time just to ensure you have inventory space for items you find as you fly around.

Game the Galactic Marketplace

No Man's Sky Galactic trading terminal

It can be tough to earn money in No Man’s Sky if you’re not really working at it. So, what’s the best way to get cash fast? Mine the most expensive minerals whenever you see them, and sell them at a high profit.

First, Activated Indium is the best stuff you can find, followed closely by gold. Copper, aluminum, and nickel are also worth snagging when you come across them, as you can usually sell them quickly at a profit at your local space station or trading post. When you visit new systems and drop by their space stations, check out which items in the Galactic Market menu that are marked with stars. These are items in high demand, and if you can find some, you can sell them at a serious markup.

Likewise, if you’re carrying items you think you should be able to get more for, you can try selling to the ships that land in space stations or on landing pads on-planet. Each of those pilots has a different set of supplies and demands, so you might find a better buyer if you hang around the hangar.

Become a space miner

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You can get most everything you need on the surface of many planets. There’s always plutonium, so you can fly your ship, and there are usually things like carbon and oxygen. But while you can get most of what you need by landing on planets, it doesn’t mean you should. There are usually better ways.

For instance, you can get thamium — which powers some ship engines and is key to making warp cells, which are in turn required for making jumps to new star systems — from the surface of certain red plants. It’s quicker and more efficient, however, to fly into orbit and shoot the many, many thamium asteroids that are literally floating everywhere. In space, you can do in seconds what would take much longer on foot.

The same goes for rare minerals like iridium, aluminum, nickel, platinum, gold, and copper. Look for the big potato-like asteroids floating in orbit, as you’ll often come across bigger, easier-to-mine deposits more often than those on planetary surfaces. Learn how to maximize your mining efficiency by spending some time shooting space rocks, because it’ll help quite a bit in the long run.

Plan your upgrade path

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Inventory space in No Man’s Sky is also used to install technology, which we’ve covered. At first, it can seem like haphazardly slapping tech into your ship, suit, and multi-tool will work just fine — and to some degree, that’s true. But if you install things with a plan in mind, you’ll get even more benefit out of the tech you pay so dearly for.

In all cases, tech upgrades to specific systems can “stack,” which means that having more than one upgrade of a particular type can increase the benefits of all those upgrades. In order to get the bonus, though, you need to place your upgrade together in proximity in adjacent slots. So that means all your ship beam upgrades should touch each other; all your engine upgrades should touch each other; and all your shield upgrades should touch each other. Same goes with your suit and your multi-tool. You can clear space by clicking on items in your inventory with the X button and moving them around to other slots. You can move upgrades by hovering over the upgrade and pressing the Square button.

Keep in mind if you purchase a new ship or new multi-tool, however, your organization will likely go out the window. You can uninstall stuff and move it around, but keep in mind that when you pick up new equipment, it may have tech for which you haven’t found blueprints.

Keep an emergency titanium stash on your ship

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Most of the time in No Man’s Sky, you’ll cruise from planet to planet blissfully alone, going about your business of mining and crafting. Every once in a while, though, some pirates will show up and decide to try to take what’s yours.

To avoid getting caught in a tight spot, keep a supply of titanium in your ship for unexpected encounters. You can use titanium, which you can farm by killing Sentinels on most planet surfaces, to quickly recharge your deflector shields during ship battle. A little bit goes a long way, and if your shields go down, you’re pretty much dead. Plus, winning a space battle can net you quite a bit of cash if you fly around picking up the floating blue cargo cylinders from each foe you defeat.

Grenades let you dig into caves (and out of them)

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A lot of players don’t seem to realize that the grenade upgrade for your multi-tool isn’t just good for blasting big aliens or the occasional tank-like Sentinel drone — it can actually be used to deform the landscape. That is, biogrenades can actually cut through the ground, unlike your mining laser, which means they can let you dig down into subterranean caves, where you’ll often find useful minerals like plutonium that can be hard to find above ground.

More useful, though, is the ability to clear a path out of a cave system if you happen into one. If you venture underground, you might quickly find yourself lost. When that happens, blast a path upward with grenades and fly the hell out of there. However, when using this, be sure to stay out of the blast radius, as you can accidentally damage yourself. But it sure beats running around trying to find a natural exit.

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Phil Hornshaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Phil Hornshaw is an author, freelance writer and journalist living in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of The Space Hero's…
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