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Returnal guide: Ether

How to use this time traveling resource

A creepy orb in Returnal Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Just about everything resets when you die in Returnal, but one resource follows you through each and every death: ether. This time-traveling resources stays in your inventory when you respawn back at your ship. So how do you use it?

In this Returnal ether guide, we’ll show you how it works, explain all the multiple uses this rare resources has, and tell you what not to spend it on.

Spending ether

Ether is a rare resource you’ll find scattered throughout each of the biome’s in the game. They look like small, misshapen orbs. When you find one, the item description reads:

A permanent resource that interacts with other timelines and cleanses Malignancy.

Unlike other Returnal items like obolites, artifacts, or consumables, ether remains in your inventory after you die. Since it’s a special resource, it has several uses.

Cleansing malignant objects

You’ll come across items in the game that have become maligned. Everything from keys, to resin that increases suit integrity, item boxes, and even obolite chunks can become malignant.

If you interact with a malignant object, there’s a chance you can gain a malfunction. Malfunctions are temporary negative effects or debuffs. You won’t be able to remove a malfunction until you reach a condition to eliminate it.

A malignant key in Returnal
You can pick up this key, but you may get a malfunction
Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Ether can cleanse the malignancy from an item. Each object will have different costs. When you cleanse an object, it becomes normal, and you won’t suffer any effects for picking it up.

While this is a good way to stock up on resources, the trade-off isn’t always worthwhile. Ether has other, more beneficial uses.

Unlock new items at the Cthonos

When you first start Returnal, you won’t have access to many artifacts, items, or consumables. You can unlock new pieces of gear if you’re lucky enough to find a datacube and a datacube processor, but it’s not easy. A much easier way to unlock items is with the Cthonos.

The Cthonos is an obelisk that unlocks new items. You’ll find it at the beginning of each new run. Deposit various amounts of ether into it, and you’ll unlock new items for your current and future runs.

Respawn at the Reconstructor

If you’re having a good run and don’t want to start from the beginning when you die, find a Reconstructor.

The main character of Returnal stands in front of the Reconstructor
Enter and respawn later!
Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

The Reconstructor is a terminal that respawns you. These devices have a random chance of appearing in any of the biomes you travel to. By paying an ever-changing fee in ether, you will continue your journey at the last Reconstructor you used, instead of the crash site the next time you die.

Exchange ether for obolites

In each biome, you’ll find a shop-like area with a few terminals. In addition to the fabricator station that lets you craft items for obolites, you can also find an Obolite Repository.

The Obolite Repository allows you to exchange ether for obolites or vice versa, for a fee. This exchange makes the most sense if you are having a great run, have some spare ether, but are low on health. You can also use the repository to exchange ether for obolites so you can craft healing items at the fabricator.