For all its alien beauty, No Man’s Sky is basically a survival game. That’s more true than ever, after a series of free updates to the game culminating in the grandiosely named No Man’s Sky NEXT expansion.
Like any good survival game, No Man’s Sky NEXT puts its players through harsh conditions. It’ll ask you to survive radioactive storms, keep your life support module from burning out, fight through waves of space pirates, and much more as you journey through its massive galaxy.
To help with that, we’re launching the first in our new Quick Start guides to help you take the most important first steps on your harrowing galactic journey.
The opening moments of No Man’s Sky NEXT are pretty chaotic—whether you’ve never touched the game before, or are starting over with a fresh save for the new update. The game will seed you on a vaguely hostile planet with two ticking time bombs that must be assuaged rather quickly, unless you want to see what death is like before you’ve even found your ship.
The first step is simple: get mining.
You’ll only have a few moments to refill your half-depleted hazard protection—the bar in the lower-left of the screen that keeps you from dying to radiation, heat, toxicity, cold, or whatever environmental danger a planet offers—before you start taking damage. Refueling it requires sodium-rich plants. Finding sodium (represented by the periodic symbol Na on your visor) requires repairing your exosuit scanner, while repairing the scanner requires you to mine Ferrite Dust from any nearby rocks. Just soak some up with your mining laser as quickly as possible and follow the instructions in the lower-left of the screen.
In other words:
- Mine some Ferrite Dust from the rocks
- Use the Ferrite Dust to repair your exosuit scanner
- Use the exosuit scanner to find sodium
- Use the sodium to replenish your hazard protection bar
Once your suit is insulated from the elements, you don’t have to constantly refill it; at least not with sodium. As soon as you’ve filled it for the first time, the game will direct you to your own personal spacecraft to proceed with the story. Hopping into said starship at any time will automatically refill your hazard protection meter. The same is true if you stand inside any standing structure. The downside is that it’s a slightly slow process. But depending on how close you are to the ship, or nearby shelter, it’s still a lot less of a hassle than hunting down orange plants all day.
Your avatar’s second timer, just below the hazard meter, depletes much more slowly. The downsides is that this white bar doesn’t refill automatically at all. It’s your life support gauge and it needs oxygen to function. The bright side is that finding oxygen is just as simple as sodium. Just use your exosuit scanner to locate pockets of the stuff in plants (these ones typically glow red instead of orange). Eventually, you’ll even learn to create condensed oxygen canisters. Which frees up a lot of extra inventory space.
The Holy Trinity of Early Elements
No Man’s Sky NEXT has heavily streamlined which of its basic elements are important fuel for the game’s most basic actions. There are still scores of minerals and materials to collect and craft throughout the universe, of course, but the early stages of the game heavily rely on just three.
First is carbon. You’ll most commonly find this element in trees and other plantlike lifeforms on planets throughout the galaxy. Its most obvious use is to power your mining laser. Anytime you fire the weapon/tool to collect materials, you deplete its remaining charge. Pumping it back up with carbon, or other energy sources later in the game, is basically a must. You can also collect elements by melee striking objects, but it’s slow and tedious. The only time you actually want to collect minerals that way is if you completely run out of mining laser fuel, and just need a quick hit to get you back on your feet.
The second important material is ferrite. This stuff doesn’t grow on trees. Instead, you’ll mostly find it in rock formations. It’s used to create a couple of early, important gadgets, but its most continuous use is as fuel for your Terrain Manipulator. The Terrain Manipulator is one of those aforementioned early gadgets—which you should craft as part of the tutorial. Besides letting you reshape the landscape of any planet you step on, this handy little laser upgrade is necessary to mine large resources deposits. Vital elements like copper will remain out of reach if you don’t keep the Manipulator fueled with ferrite.
Lastly, we have di-hydrogen. You won’t have to worry about this substance quite as often as the other two, but it’s still incredibly important. That’s because it’s a necessary component in starship launch fuel. And starship launch fuel is vital for actually lifting off whatever planet you happen to find yourself on. You’ll expend exactly 25 percent of your ship’s maximum launch fuel every time you take off from the surface, too, so it requires a bit of babysitting. Luckily, di-hydrogen is found on every world in the game. Just look for small fields of jagged, blue crystals waiting to be mined.
Speaking of fuel, most of your basic devices aren’t super picky about what form it comes in. Condensed carbon is just as good at recharging a mining laser and basic carbon, for instance. Actually, it’s better. Higher grades of carbon, ferrite, and sodium will provide more energy per unit to your mining laser, Terrain Manipulator, and hazard protection, respectively. So if you just want to stockpile some of these substances for future use as fuel, it’s better to upgrade them using an in-game refiner, first. It’ll save you some inventory space.
Warp, Warp, and Away (to a Free Freighter)!
The next few hours of No Man’s Sky take the form of an extended tutorial. You’ll learn how to craft and refine minerals, build the foundations of a base, and trade goods with aliens. But things really open up once you create a warp cell and jump out of your starting star system for the first time.
Your first faster-than-light jump will trigger all kinds of fun things. In particular, it’ll push forward No Man’s Sky‘s single-player campaign that was mostly added in 2017’s Atlas Rises update.
Don’t stop there. Obviously, you should explore the game at whatever pace you prefer, but if you make just a few extra jumps early on you’ll trigger side quest that nets you a free freighter. These capital ships let you house oodles of material, as well as extra spaceships, and allow you to send frigates on automatic expeditions worth a good deal of money and resources.
To find the mission, just keep warping. You’ll eventually come out of lightspeed smack in the middle of an ongoing space battle. A freighter will be under attack by pirates and the game will prompt you to destroy the offenders. It’ll be time for a good, old fashioned dog fight, as you try to destroy the smaller ships without hitting the big one. Don’t worry, though. They’re pretty easy to dispatch with just the standard starship. You’ll also have help in the form of NPC fighters.
Once you finish off the fiends, the freighter captain will ask you to come aboard their vessel. Follow their instructions (and the objectives written in the bottom-right of the screen). Speaking to the captain will net you their freighter. Note that the alien will stay aboard as your navigator.
You can theoretically buy yourself a freighter, without warping, by buying one off any freighter captain you happen across. But this will cost a fair few million units—the basic currency of No Man’s Sky—which can be put to better use elsewhere. For instance, you can approach frigates (the smaller ships that accompany NPC freighters) and purchase their loyalty. Adding frigates to your fleet will give you more and better options for the real-time expeditions that accrue rewards even when you’re not playing.
Asteroids Aren’t Just Lifeless Rocks
Okay. So there aren’t, like, aliens living on the asteroid belts that clutter the void between planets and space stations. But they are filled with rare minerals that, besides selling for a pretty penny on the open market, fulfil a lot of useful functions. They’re basically free to mine, too.
Just point your ship at the floating stones and fire your basic laser. Unlike your on-foot mining laser, this doesn’t need to be refueled with elements like carbon. You can simply go to town. Doing so will usually yield tritium, silver, gold, and occasionally platinum. That last one only comes from a rare kind of asteroid, but let’s focus on the other minerals first.
Tritium seems to be the most common element. That makes sense, because it’s an abundant fuel source for your ship’s hyperdrive. This is the high-speed mode—activated by holding in both of the top shoulder buttons when playing with a controller—that lets you zoom between points of interest in a single star system. You’ll burn through it very quickly, so keeping a stockpile isn’t a bad idea. And remember that starships hold more material per inventory slot than exosuits, while freighters hold even more than starships.
Gold and Silver
Meanwhile, gold and silver are used to craft special items and new rooms on your freighter, respectively. Silver is also sometimes used to repair frigates. Sending these NPC ships on expeditions sometimes damages them. So you’ll need to board the mid-sized vessels to restore them to full power. Having a surplus of silver saves you the trouble of making milk runs to keep your fleet in tip-top shape.
Then there’s platinum. This precious stuff is used for high-end upgrades. It’s not, however, found in just any old asteroid. You’ll need to look for special, crystalline formations in the belts. They’re rare, but tend to stick out among the otherwise colorless debris. Cracking them takes just a few more basic weapon shots than usual, too, so don’t be tricked into thinking you can’t mine them right away. You can, and you should, even if it’s just to sell the material for a nice chunk of change.
Don’t Make the Space Cops Angry
Sentinels are real jerks. These robotic lifeforms are all over the place and do not like you messing with their precious planets. So try not to do it in front of them.
If you don’t know what a sentinel is, they look like floating, one-eyed drones scanning planets in the distance—in their most basic configuration, anyway. They won’t be hard to spot. That’s especially true as you get deeper into the game. The cutesy little robots are eventually replaced by mechanical attack dogs and towering mechs. And the more you attack or agitate them, the more the violent machines appear.
There’s an easy way to tell if you’re within viewing distance of a sentinel. Your HUD will warn you with a white wedge pointing in the direction of the spying robot. When it gets close, it’ll start scanning you directly with a visible, but harmless, beam of light.
Try not to shoot any wildlife or destroy the landscape with your mining laser when the sentinel scans you. This will provoke it into attacking you. And you won’t have very effective methods of fighting back early on. It’s usually better to just stop what you’re doing and move to a new area than incur their laser fire.
Of course, angering these planetary guard dogs doesn’t trigger an instant game over. Some side quests will even encourage you to attack them directly. And you can always just run away—either far enough to lose them, or back to your ship. The former method will eventually trigger a countdown. If you stay out of the sentinels’ line of sight for long enough, they’ll lose interest and let you go. The latter, meanwhile, is a surefire way to make a convenient escape off-planet.
Quick and Useful Tips
No Man’s Sky NEXT‘s new third-person view isn’t really third-person. It still functions more-or-less like the game’s first-person view did at launch. In practice, this means that you still need to focus on objects with your targeting reticule—as if you were still playing in first-person—to interact with them. You can also just switch to the game’s original perspective from the utility menu.
Mine copper, cadmium, emeril and/or indium whenever you can. The stuff isn’t terribly important on its own, at first, but you can refine it into a new material called Chromatic Metal. This stuff is extremely valuable. You’ll use it in everything from base building to all-important warp fuel.
No Man’s Sky has autopilot. Kind of. It only works when you use hyperdrive while pointed at a specific point of interest. You can’t actually set waypoints for your starship to follow, or anything extremely specific like that. But it will let you zero in on, say, trading outposts and crashed drop pods on faraway planets with minimal hassle.
The Jetpack Trick
Your jetpack isn’t just for flying vertically. There’s a way to make it launch forward short distances, as well. Just hit the jetpack melee buttons at roughly the same time, while moving forward, to get a free burst of speed. It’s a great way to recover your stamina while continuing to move at speed.
Always upload your discoveries—that is to say the systems, planets, regions, and structures you discover before anyone else. You can do so in the Discoveries tab of the main menu. Doing so will reward you with free Nanite Clusters. This is an otherwise fairly rare, but very useful form of currency that can be traded in for technology blueprints at every space station.
Picking Up the Portable Refiner
You don’t have to completely unload your portable refiner before picking it up. Strangely, No Man’s Sky won’t let you pick up your portable refiner until you remove both its input and output elements. So if you were making Ferrite Dust into Pure Ferrite, for instance, both need to go back into your inventory before scooping up the refiner. You can, however, pick up the device without unloading its fuel source. The item will simply return to your inventory automatically.
As you get deeper into the game, more strategies will surface and you’ll gradually discover your own personal play style. For now, just sit back and enjoy your first few hours in No Man’s Sky‘s sprawling galaxy!