When you first start Returnal, you don’t have access to many items. You’ll likely find yourself dying a lot and repeating the game’s cycle. However, one of the things the game doesn’t tell you right away is that you can unlock new items as you play. These new items will bolster your capabilities and should help you survive longer. One way to unlock new gear is with Datacubes and Datacube Processors.
In this Returnal guide, we’ll explain what Datacubes are. We’ll also detail what limitations the items have and how to find Datacube Processors so you can retrieve new items in future runs.
What are Datacubes?
The Datacube tutorial screen says:
Datacubes contain the blueprints for Weapons, Artifacts or Consumables.
You can unlock the item contain within by finding and inserting it into a Datacube Processor. After this you get a copy of the item and you can now find it elsewhere in the world.
You can carry only one Datacube at a time. Carried Datacubes are lost upon death.
You can often find Datacubes hidden in the optional side path rooms or other special areas.
Once you have a Datacube in your possession, you must stay alive or else you’ll lose it. Since Datacubes are not permanent items, you’ll have to survive long enough until you find a Datacube Processor.
These terminals are often found in difficult to reach areas. For instance, the first Datacube Processor you’ll find is located in the room you can enter after you defeat Phrike. Another common place to find a Datacube Processor is in a room right before entering the arena for the third boss, Nemesis. To find this room, you have to climb through a gauntlet of lasers and dangerous enemies.
If you live long enough to bring a Datacube to a Datacube Processor, insert the cube into the terminal. This will add a brand new weapon, artifact, or item to your inventory. In future runs, the new item you unlocked will join the cache of gear you randomly find throughout Returnal.
Datacube Processors are one of the few ways you can unlock and add new items to Returnal. A less dangerous method of receiving new items is through the Cthonos. You’ll find this terminal at the crash site you start each run from. To use the Cthonos all you need is a handful of ether.