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No Man’s Sky beginners guide

Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Welcome to No Man’s Sky. You’re all alone on a strange planet. You probably have no idea what’s going on, and all of your toys are broken. Let’s fix that.

Explore the Crash Site

As you wake up on this strange new world and your Exosuit’s systems come online, a Not-GLaDOS voice will inform you of just how badly all of your equipment is damaged. Your suit is fully functional, but your Multi-Tool is going to need some work. Your Starship is nearby, but it’s not going anywhere soon.

As you walk around the crash site, open any containers nearby for the resources inside. If there’s anything that requires an AtlasPass, you’re out of luck until later in the game when you find the recipe to craft one.

There is probably at least one Damaged Machinery nearby. Interact with it to discover blueprints for Companion Units for your Exosuit, Multi-Tool or Starship. You very likely won’t have the resources or excess inventory slots to do anything with this right away, but once you pick it up, it’ll always be available to you.

You can also interact with the Distress Beacon that is lying near your crash site. This will be your first choice to determine how you play the game. Choosing Atlas will start you down the guided storyline path. Choosing to explore will let you head off on your own and focus on a sandbox experience.

Repairing Your Multi-Tool

Let’s start our repairs with the Multi-Tool.

Your Multi-Tool’s Scanner will let you find resources nearby, so you’re not wandering blindly. Your Analysis Visor will let you observe plants, animals and minerals and upload the data to the Library for money. Let’s get both of these fixed first.

The Scanner requires 25 units of Carbon and the Visor needs 25 Iron. These are the two most common elements in the game, so there should be some nearby. Look for plants (or animals, you monster) to find Carbon and rocks for Iron. A helpful hint will pop up on your HUD when you’re near a resource you can collect. Shoot them with your Multi-Tool, and you’ll extract their component parts.

focus on collecting only what you need

This early in the game, your inventory slots are severely limited, so focus on collecting only what you need. There’s an entire universe out there to explore, so, while there’s no penalty to wandering aimlessly and picking up everything you come across, it’s better to focus on getting your Multi-Tool and Starship repaired rather than exploring just yet.

Depending on how long you take to gather these resources, your suit’s Life Support might start to run low. You’ll need an Isotope element to refuel it, and you can identify those by their red-and-white lightning bolt icons. You can use Carbon as a cheap fuel source, or you can look for Thamium9 in red plants or Plutonium in red crystals.


Try not to get too overzealous in your resource collecting right away, or you’ll catch the attention of the Sentinels. These are small robots that serve as galactic game wardens, ensuring that you don’t take too much from any one place.

They’ll scan you with a blue light as a warning. If you continue your Captain Planet-villain ways, they will start attacking you. It is not worth fighting them (though you will get Titanium if you choose to do so). They will call in reinforcements, and you will get overwhelmed and probably killed. Instead, run away. Head out of sight or hide inside your Starship. Once you’re far enough away, the Sentinels will stand down.

Now that you’ve collected Carbon and Iron, repair your Multi-Tool.

Give your Scanner a few test fires to get a sense of what’s around you and get in the habit of using your Analysis Visor on everything — the money from uploads adds up quickly.

Repairing Your Starship

Now, turn your attention to your ship. The Launch Thruster and Pulse Engine are both critically damaged. Take note of the resources required for each repair to help guide your exploration.

The Launch Thruster

The Launch Thruster is what makes your ship a ship instead of a very expensive shed. To get that back online, you’ll need Carite Sheets. You should have one of these in your ship’s inventory already. You can craft the rest from any extra Iron you have left over from fixing your Multi-Tool. If you run out of Iron, just find a nearby rock and mine it. We’ll worry about refueling it in a minute. Let’s fix the Pulse Engine first.

The Pulse Engine

Your Pulse Engine lets you travel between planets and to space stations. It’s not strictly required, but it’ll cut your travel times exponentially.

Repairs on your Pulse Engine are a little more complicated. You’ll need to find Heridium, Zinc and build two more Carite Sheets. You already know how to craft the shields, so go ahead and get those made. Heridium is a rust red-colored element that you can find on the surface of planets in large, angular formations. It doesn’t show up as an icon on your HUD, but it is outlined with holographic cubes.

Zinc comes from yellow flowers that will be marked with a yellow bar icon by your Scanner. Since you’re already walking around, watch for more red lightning bolt-marked Isotope elements. You’ll need this for your suit and to fuel your ship once you’ve repaired it.

On your expedition to collect these items, there are a few other things to keep an eye out for as well. Watch for more Damaged Machinery marked with a blue gear by your Scanner. The blueprints inside are necessary for upgrading your equipment.

You may also find Knowledge Stones that appear with a purple icon. These teach you a word in an alien language that you’ll be using later to interact with the alien races and to solve puzzles.

Once you’ve collected the resources you need, head back to your ship and complete your repairs. Fuel up your Launch Thrusters with any Plutonium you’ve found from supply crates or red crystal formations. Once you get the tank above 50 percent, you’re ready to take off. Don’t worry at all about fueling the Pulse Engine yet. That requires Thamium9, a precious and hard to find resource on planets, but so plentiful in space, you’ll quickly find more of it than you can use.

What To Do Next

Now that all of your toys are fixed and you know how to collect resources and craft them, you’re free to pursue your own path as you journey across the universe. If you don’t feel like heading off-world yet, there’s plenty to do.

Talk To The Animals

If your starting planet has any fauna, you can feed them to make them friendly. Often, this will involve chasing them down and interacting with them on the run. Keep some Heridium on you to start the interactions. Make sure you scan them with your Visor first so you can avoid any aggressive or volatile species that mean you harm.

Once befriended, these animals will happily dance around you and brighten your day with their smiley face icons. They will also point out nearby resources and occasionally give you presents of rare elements.

Talk to The Aliens

Collecting vocabulary words from any Knowledge Stones or Alien Ruins and Monoliths will always come in handy in your travels. The more words you can fill in at the Monolith puzzles, the more likely you are to answer correctly and receive a boon and a bump in your standing with that alien race.

Your interactions with aliens at outposts and space stations will also almost always be easier with better knowledge of their language.

Build Companion Units

As you explore the planet’s surface, you’ll come across blueprints for companion units in Damaged Machinery and in wall-mounted analysis units in outposts and space stations. If you’ve found any that you have or can find the resources for, upgrades are always useful.

A very helpful one you will likely find early on is the Rangeboost. This will increase the distance your scanner can see and making finding those tricky elements you need a little easier.

Add Slots to Your Exosuit Inventory

Storage space will forever be your primary enemy

Storage space will forever be your primary enemy in No Man’s Sky. A quick way to get ahead of this problem is by adding inventory slots to your exosuit.

You can do this pretty easily by seeking out Drop Pods. If you’re lucky, you can spot them from the air while traveling around in your Starship. Otherwise, look for a Signal Scanner near outposts and waypoints. These are easy to identify by the red light they emit from their top.

Craft some Bypass Chips out of Plutonium and Iron to access the Signal Scanner. Use it to search for Shelters. Your goal is to find Drop Pods, so if the search comes up with a Shelter, try again.

Inside the Drop Pod, you’ll find a station to upgrade your Exosuit’s storage. The first one is free and each additional one will cost you 10,000 units more than the last. If you’ve been scanning everything with your Analysis Visor, you should have a decent bankroll even early in the game.

Head to Space

When you’re ready, point your ship toward the sky and accelerate into orbit.

Once you’re out of the atmosphere, you should start seeing asteroids. Press X to shoot them with your ship’s Photon Cannon and collect their resources. Small, metallic ones are most likely made entirely of Thamium9. Use this to fill up your Pulse Engine’s tank, point yourself in any direction your heart desires and start your journey.

Would you like to know more?

No Man's Sky is a largely solitary experience, but that doesn't mean you have to travel the universe alone. This is but one small section of Polygon's No Man's Sky guide.

Be sure to check out the rest, where you can learn all about your ship, your Multi-Tool and Companion Units and even get answers to some of the biggest questions about No Man's Sky. We also have a guide to No Man's Sky's resources that'll teach you the difference between Oxides and Silicates and No Man's Sky's various elements.

If you're just looking for a quick reference guide to locations, like where you can save and trade — we've got you covered — too.

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