No Man's Sky has almost zero tutorial; you learn by playing, and by experimenting. Some things aren't self evident and you're going to get lost and mess up quite often--it's the only way to progress. Since most of the game is trial and error, here's as handy startup guide to help you on your journey.
I've been playing No Man's Sky for five days now, and there are so many things I know now that I wish I knew when I started. In that same spirit, I thought I'd share my discoveries with you to help save you time. Not to say you won't be spending countless hours in the game even still, but this should give you a better idea of how to manage your inventory and plan out your next move.
In this helpful guide we guide you through buying a ship, where to find upgrades for your multi-tool, exosuit and starships, how to manage your inventory, tips on how to make tons of cash, a primer on all the different elements and how important they are, and much more.
Resources are color-coded
All the resources in No Man's Sky are color-coded so gamers can easily identify them regardless of what planet they're on. I've broken down each material type and what they're used for, and how to identify them on a planet.
Red - Isotopes (Carbon, Thamium-9, Plutonium)
Plutonium are red crystals that charges starship Lift Thrusters so you'll want to have at least a full stack in your exosuit inventory and a 500 stack in your starship at all times.
Thamium-9 come in the form of weird red plants, and is extremely important as it charges your ship's Pulse Engine, which is used to jump between planets. Have a full stack if you can, but Thamium-9 is kind of rare.
Life Support can be charged with any Isotope (Carbon, Plutonium or Thamium-9), and is also extremely important. Thus you'll need several full stacks of Plutonium, maybe a single stack of Carbon and a full stack of Thamium-9.
Carbon can be harnessed by any organic lifeform, especially plants. Both Carbon and Plutonium can be used to charge your Multi-Tool, so keep a stack of each if you can. Have a separate stack of Plutonium for your Launch Thrusters.
Isotopes are also used in technology upgrades, ie Exosuit/Multi-Tool/Starship upgrades.
Carbon is also used to feed to some creatures.
Yellow - Oxides (Iron, Zinc, Titanium)
Oxides charges your ship's Deflector Shields and your Exosuit's Hazard Protection, so I recommend at least a full stack of these on your person at all times.
Zinc or Titanium come in yellow crystalline form, but can also be acquired from plants, and they charge your Hazard Protection, ie cold, heat and radioactivity protection
Iron is found in rocky deposits, and is used to feed to some creatures, and to build specific products like Carite Sheets and Microdense Fabric.
Oxides like Zinc are also used in technology upgrades, ie Exosuit/Multi-Tool/Starship upgrades.
Blue - Silicates (Chryosite, Heridium, Platinum)
Heridium comes in big pillar-like deposits. They'll show up on your scanner as multiple blue squares. The same with Heridium, but Platinum and Chryosite can take the form of plants. You'll be able to notice these as they'll be blue.
Some silicates like Platinum are used in technology upgrades as well as product formulas.
Silicates are also used in technology upgrades, ie Exosuit/Multi-Tool/Starship upgrades.
Teal - Neutral (Copper, Gold, Emeril, Aluminum)
Aluminum, Gold and Copper are needed for some technical items but you mostly want to sell Gold and Emeril.
Gold and Emeril come in the form of large golden deposits, although Emeril can sometimes take the shape of teal crystals.
Aluminum is usually found in teal crystalline form, and I've found Copper in large pillar-like deposits that look kind of like Heridium, but are tinged with teal.
All upgrades can stack
All upgrades are separated in different tiers denoted by the Greek alphabet: Theta, Sigma, Tau, etc. You can have more than one passive upgrade attached to your Multi-Tool, Exosuit or Starship, and the effects stack.
So if you're scouting for materials, slap on two or three Range Booster upgrades to your Multi-Tool's Scanner, and you'll see all the materials halfway across the planet!
Be sure to slap on some Multi-Tool Mining Beam upgrades to speed up your Emeril gathering rates and you'll be swimming in Units in no time. The only downer is that you can only have one of each upgrade tier on any given tool; you can't slap on two Beam Intensifier Theta upgrades to your Multi-Tool, regardless if you've found two or more blueprints for the same upgrade. Only one of each--Theta, Sigma, Tau, etc.
Where to find exosuit, multi-tool and starship upgrades
No Man's Sky is pretty generous with its upgrades. Since inventory space is at a premium in this game, you'll need to check these locations for Exosuit, Multi-Tool and Starship upgrades to boost your performance and fun.
Drop Pods always have an Exosuit inventory upgrade in them, and you can spot them easily by looking for a faint blue glow. The Drop Pod Exosuit upgrades cost 10,000 more units than your last upgrade. So your first Exosuit upgrade will cost 10,000 U, and the next will be 20,000 U, etc etc. Always land when you see these drop pods.
Engine Pieces (Damaged Machinery) will always have Starship upgrades, and these too can be spotted by their sparking blue glow. There's no guarantee that you'll find a new upgrade each time you find these, so it's not always worth landing for these. Starship upgrades vary from boosted ship shields to Photon Cannon boosts, but you won't ever find anything that boosts your inventory space--you'll have to buy another ship to get more space.
Multi-Tool Passive Upgrades can be found in Outposts, Shelters, Space Stations and pretty much any indoor space. So any time you see a building, there's a chance it has a Multi-Tool upgrade station. Remember that there's two different kinds of upgrades: the passive boosts that augment things like your Mining Beams and your Pulse gun, and brand new Multi-Tools.
New Multi-Tools can also be found in these enclosed buildings, but like the Multi-Tool upgrade stations, these are completely random. New Multi-Tools will usually come with boosted inventory space as well as certain upgrades, so you always want to buy it when you can. You never know what each building will have, so if you're in the market for a new Multi-Tool, land at every outpost.
Buying a new ship
The only way to buy new ships in No Man's Sky is to purchase them right from an NPC. Where do you find these ships, you might ask? Planetside you'll need to find outposts with at least one landing pad, but you can often find starports with as many as six landing pads. In space, you'll need to find space stations to buy ships.
Keep in mind that every ship that lands will be a little bit different, and you'll only have a bit to decide if you want the ship or not. The NPC will stay as long as you're near the ship, but that doesn't matter if you don't have enough Units. Pretty much every outpost with a landing pad has a Galactic Trading terminal so you can sell your goods and rack up enough Units to buy a ship. But the ships always take off, so you might never find that perfect ship again.
You'll have many opportunities, though, as NPCs will continue landing over and over.
If you do buy a new ship, ALWAYS transfer your current ship inventory over to your new one. If you don't do this you'll literally lose your entire ship inventory! So be super careful and don't mess up, as this could set you back quite a ways.
Need Thamium-9? Blast off into space
Thamium-9 is extremely valuable to players and you'll be using it quite often to refuel your Pulse Drive. The only problem is that its kind of rare on planets. Once you blast off into space, though, it becomes much easier to acquire--all you have to do is blast tons of asteroids and you'll be full in no time.
Don't try to land at every outpost
Every time you take off in your ship, you drain your lift-off thrusters. Charging these thrusters take Isotopes like Plutonium or Thamium-9, and depending on your ship, you'll get about 4-5 lift offs before you need to charge it again. So that's about five or so landings you can make before your thrusters need refueled. These are the kinds of things you'll need to be aware of: being aware of your Plutonium/Thamium levels and checking to see if some areas are worth the resource drain.
There's usually tons of outposts on your starting planet, so you'll have to eventually pick and choose which places you wand to drop in on. Sure you could visit them all, but be prepared to grind Plutonium/Thamium-9 like crazy in order to maintain your thrusters. Check the quick list above to help you discern which areas are worth landing for, and which can be skipped over.
If you land at every outpost, you'll run out of fuel pretty fast and eventually be stranded, having to scour the planet for Plutonium or Thamium-9. Thamium is much more rare than Plutonium, but both can be particularly difficult to find when you're stranded out in the middle of nowhere.
Your ship holds stacks of 500 resources
Your ship will always hold resources in stacks of 500, so if you're building up your Gold or Emeril supply, remember to transfer them to your ship to save space. This way two stacks of 250 materials in your exosuit turns into one stack of 500 in your ship.
The trade off is that you'll need to be close to your ship in order to access its inventory; stray too far and you won't be able to grab its goods. Staying inside your ship typically takes a lot of Plutonium, so I like to put in a 500 stack of the stuff in my ship's inventory, and have at least 1x stack of 250 Plutonium in my exo inventory.
Every Space Station has a Galactic Trading Terminal
There's two halves to No Man's Sky: filling up your inventory, and then offloading your inventory by selling items. The latter of which is essential to keep the never-ending grinding churn going, and the best way to ensure you get the most Unit value for your gear is to sell them via a Galactic Trading station.
These terminals are guaranteed to be found in Space Stations, but you may be locked out if you don't have an Atlas Pass V1 card. These stations are also available on some outposts, but they're random so there's no guarantee you'll get find one when you need it.
When all else fails, you can find an outpost with a landing pad and wait for an alien to land and sell your materials/unwanted items to them.
If you die, you have one chance to get your body back
Even if you play it safe like I have, you're going to die at some point in No Man's Sky. Whether you get gunned down by merciless space pirates, or zapped to bits by the fearsome robotic sentinel hounds, it's going to happen. When it does, you'll need to make sure you get your body back ASAP.
Here's how dying works:
If you die on a planet, you'll lose everything in your Exosuit's inventory. If you die in space, you'll lose everything in your Starship's inventory. Upon death you'll spawn at your last checkpoint on a planet, and in space, you'll spawn at the nearest space station. If pirates killed you, then you might want to go to a nearby planet and mine some resources to bolster your ship up.
Your gravemarker (which is actually the logo for No Man's Sky) holds your missing items and you have on chance to get them back. If you die while trying to grab your gear, you lose it.
Here's something else to remember: if you had a full starship inventory and died in space, and then fill your inventory with some extra upgrades/items and then grab your gravemarker, the extra inventory items aren't lost forever. You'll just have to clear some space and go back and grab it again.
For example, let's say I die in space and my Starship's inventory is wiped. Then instead of going to get my grave, I go to a planet and mine some materials and build two upgrades. Then I make my way back to the grave and pick up my body. There's no a discrepancy between your current inventory and your inventory upon death. You won't lose those items that are caught in the discrepancy, and you'll simply have to go back and grab them again.
Outposts with landing pads can recall your ship
If you come across an outpost with a landing pad, you can use it to call your ship. All you need is a single Bypass Chip. This is incredibly useful if you've strayed really far away from your ship and need to zap it to your location.
Some outposts also have these small pillars with lights on them that will recall your ship, but they're much more rare than the landing pad locations.
Keep a look out for golden deposits
If you spot some glittering golden deposits while you're flying over a planet, land immediately and start mining. The old adage is quite true in this case--all that glitters is gold--and you've just found some Gold or Emeril. Either way, these mats are worth quite a bit, especially if you have multiple 500 stacks to sell.
Use icons and HUD markers to orient yourself
No Man's Sky has no mini-map, no compass, and no way to plot out waypoints. As such, you're going to get lost quite a bit. This can be a big problem if you happen across a nice Multi-Tool upgrade but don't have enough Units for it, and go off to sell some items and try to find the location again.
I've learned to use specific icons on my HUD to help me orient my position on a planet. It's not perfect, and you'll still get lost, but it's helped me determine my specific position. Sometimes I leave specific areas undiscovered so the little ? will stay on my map.
Use Signal Scanners to scout out nearby lifeforms
At most outposts you'll find Signal Scanners that can be used to scout out nearby Monoliths, Colonial Outposts, Transmissions and Shelters. I particularly use these for Colonial Outposts as you can find new formulas and blueprints for new crafted items--if you're lucky you might get a Warp Cell blueprint--in a Manufacturing Facility.
Other times you could find a lifeform in an outpost, which widens the potential for Multi-Tool upgrades, alien interactions, and a Galactic Trading terminal that you can use to sell your goods.
Of course it's conditional, and you can use these scanners for whatever you need at the time.
There's a flashlight
If you get caught in a cave system and need to lighten things up, press up and the d-pad to turn on your flashlight. Sure the beautiful glow of the neon mushrooms and flora can be quite amazing, but sometimes you just need to actually see where you're going.
If you need to go AFK, get inside your ship
Your Life Support and Hazard Protection don't get drained while you're in your ship, so if you need to go afk, make sure you hop into your ship first. You can also hop into your ship to avoid taking damage from nearby animals.
Mining Beam out of juice? Melee instead
If your Mining Beam runs out of energy and you have no Isotopes to charge it, you can actually melee resources to get materials. Just press R1 to smack an iron deposit or shatter some crystals and you'll be in good shape. Note that this melee doesn't do very well against enemies.