14 essential No Man's Sky tips for successful galactic exploration

With last year’s Beyond update being the great equalizer between long-time players and those lured in by everything shiny and new, we reckon now’s a good time to revisit some No Man’s Sky tips and tricks that you might find handy if you’ve been away for a while or just reckon that you need a refresher course. Even if some of the really basic No Man’s Sky stuff here won’t feel like it applies, we’re sure that there’s something here for everyone who’s even got one question about portals and learning alien languages kicking around in their noggin.

1. How do you pick up missions?

(Image credit: Hello Games)

If you're looking for a little more guidance beyond just milling about in space, then a Mission Agent is your new best friend. These guys have a list of galaxy-related quests to give you, allowing you to earn more money, rare items or a way to get in better with other alien races. 

They range from simple tasks like scanning the flora and fauna, to collecting specific items for traders. But whatever kind of mission you pick up, it suddenly gives you a lot more to do in each galaxy. If you want to get yourself a slice of the action, Mission Agents are lurking in every space station. Just head to the upper platforms and visit the counters until you find an alien ready to stock you up with tasks.

2. How do you build a base?

(Image credit: Hello Games)

Base building has received a significant change with the Next update, and you can now construct your base almost anywhere you like on a planet rather than preset locations. To get started once you've picked your location, you'll need to press up on the D-pad to access the building menu then construct a Base Computer.

However, the material you'll need to make the Base Computer is Chromatic Metal, which you may need to produce yourself if you don't already have some. To make your own, construct a Portable Refiner from the same building menu then feed it one of the following stellar metals: Copper, Cadmium, Emeril, or Indium.

With your Base Computer built, you can then start constructing your base - there are now thousands of items to choose from so you really can create something unique. I'd advise building a Construction Terminal and hiring a Overseer, who will give you a series of tasks that let you earn serious cash quickly. You can then build an Agricultural Terminal to grow plants and hire an Farmer who will improve them and cultivate 10 new species exclusive to your base.

3. How do you find other players?

Thanks to the Next update, Hello Games has finally made it possible to find other players and team up. To get started from initial game menu, choose Join Game then either select a friend who's already playing or Join Random Game to jump in with random player(s). If you're already in-game, you can go to the Network & Voice settings section of the Options in the pause menu, then choose Invite Friends to send out your invitations to explore. For more details on how everything works, be sure to visit our essential No Man’s Sky multiplayer tips.

4. How do you use portals to warp to other planets?

(Image credit: Hello Games)

Ancient portals are scattered across planets and are a bit of a pain to discover, but Signal Boosters can help if you search for monoliths. However, as there are a few different types of monoliths, it's a bit of a gamble. If and when you do find a portal monolith, you'll be able to choose the 'locate a portal' option and you'll get a map marker for that portal. You will then have to activate it in order to use it and you'll need to charge it using isotopes, oxides and silicates. Then it's just a case of entering the glyph sequence of the specific planet you want to travel to, which you can obtain from your friends if they've done this on their own planets, or extract them from fallen travellers you find in caves. 

Yes, it's that simple... in that it really, really isn't.

5. How do you max out your Journey Milestones?

Journey Milestones track your ongoing progress against various exploration tasks and are found in the pause menu, with each having a rank from 0 to the maximum of 10 and showing the requirements to reach the next milestone. These are the targets you need to hit for the top rank:

On-foot Exploration: Travelled 100ks - equivalent to roughly that many steps

Alien Encounters: Met ? aliens - this was previously 40/45 aliens but the milestone cap has now been increased

Words Collected: Learned 150 words

Units Accrued: Earned 2,000,000 Units - must be held at once, not a cumulative total

Ships Destroyed: Destroyed 80 Starships

Sentinels Destroyed: Destroyed 80 Sentinels - not required for any Trophies/Achievements

Extreme Survival: Survived 32 SOLS on extreme worlds - must be done on a single planet flagged as Extreme without dying, roughly 8 hours real time

Space Exploration: Warped 60 times

Planetary Zoology: Discovered all species on 10 planets - make sure you upload the 100% record when completed

6. How do you scan 100% of species on a planet?

When trying to tag 100% of species on a planet, look out for red dots through your scanner view to identify fauna you haven't collected yet. If you're struggling to fill in all the blanks in your records then move to different parts of the planet, and don't forget to look up as some creatures will be flying - these are really hard to tag normally, though you can shoot them down then scan their body on the ground. If you find a planet with zero fauna then scanning it no longer counts towards this Journey Milestone, so move on to a different location.

7. How do you find rare items while exploring on foot?

When exploring a planet on foot, regularly use your scanner to highlight element deposits and points of interest, with the icons that appear identifying what type of element they are. These local scan icons are 4 sided, to differentiate them from the 6 sided icons indicating tagged locations further away. Pay particular attention to exclamation mark icons, as these can denote valuable items such as Gravitino Balls and Sac Venom, though you'll almost always be pursued by Sentinels if you pick them up so be prepared to run or fight.

8. How do you upgrade your Exosuit and Starship capacities?

There's a huge amount of stuff out there to collect, so you'll want to increase your inventory capacity as soon as you can. Your Exosuit can be upgraded using the terminals inside Drop Pods on planets or at upgrade points in certain Space Stations, though each successive upgrade costs 10,000 units more than the last.

To increase your Starship capacity you'll need to purchase a new ship, which can be done at Trading Posts or Space Stations - approach the other ship and interact then make an offer to see the value and capacity of your potential purchase. If you decide to buy then make sure you transfer your existing inventory to the new ship first, and also dismantle any upgrades from your old vessel to recover the materials.

If you're still finding yourself short of space, then remember that you can store twice the amount of elements in a single slot on your Starship compared to your Exosuit, so use your ship for stockpiling materials.

9. How do you earn lots of units quickly?

Previously, you could answer the question of how to make money fast in No Man's Sky by trading items within a space station. This is still an option to a point, but there no longer seems to be 'in demand' items marked with a gold star which lead to massive profits, meaning there's no quick and easy way to do this any more.

However, there are still ways to rack up the units. You can mine rare materials from planets, as well as search the surface for rare items to trade, then head to a trade terminal (you can find these in some buildings to save going back to the space station) and sell your wares. If you've built a base with an Agricultural Terminal, you can also farm crops to sell.

If you have a decent ship, you can also engage in Bounty Hunting. Fly around near space stations and you may get notification of a pirate ship in the area with a sizeable bounty for destroying them. Follow the marker to their ship and open fire when combat starts - remember to keep moving, and have materials on standby to top up your shields when required. Take them out, and the bounty is yours.

10. How do you understand what the Alien Colonists are saying?

You can improve your standing with the various alien races by completing interactions with them, and learning their words by examining Knowledge Stones and Monoliths. The better your standing, the more options you'll have available when requesting assistance from Alien Colonists in Outposts and Space Stations, and as you get better acquainted with them you'll unlock the option to request dialect help to learn even more words. If you have a relic specific to that race then place it in your Exosuit before speaking to them, as you may be given the option to exchange it for a gift such as a useful blueprint.

11. Can you crash into planets or Space Stations?

When you engage your Pulse Engine in space you fly at frankly terrifying speeds and can't really steer, but don't worry about crashing as you'll automatically be pulled out of it when you come into close proximity with a planet or Space Station. Better still, if you already have a location marker on your target planet, simply point your ship at it and fire up the Pulse Engine - you'll automatically follow a course into the planet's atmosphere near your destination.

12. How do you interact with the different types of buildings?

There are various types of buildings that can be found on planets, and each of them offer different rewards for visiting them. Abandoned Buildings contain a terminal you can simply interact with, whereas Operations Centres and Manufacturing Plants challenge you to select the correct response to an alien prompt - if you know enough words then you might be able to work out the right answer, otherwise you can just guess, and as a save point will be nearby you always have the option to reload if you make a mistake.

Observatories are similar but task you with picking the next number in the sequence displayed in the bottom left of the screen, which is normally a digit shifted from one end of the number to the other. Providing the correct response in these situations can earn you upgrade blueprints, new technology, crafting formulae, and further location markers to explore.

13. What do you do when your Hazard Protection is running out?

When your Hazard Protection is running low, get into your Starship or head inside a building, Drop Pod etc and wait for it to automatically recharge itself before venturing out again. If you get stuck outside then you can manually recharge it, but this uses up sodium-based substances or Ion Batteries unless you have Shielding Shards/Plates, so if possible you should try to get under an overhang or inside a cave for shelter instead. If you have a Plasma Launcher upgrade on your Multi-tool, you can even blast yourself a hole to hide in while your protection recovers.

14. How do you get Atlas Seeds and the Atlas Pass?

Whether you're following the Atlas Path or decided to take the alternative route, look out for Atlas Interfaces along your travels. Once inside, you'll receive several rewards including warp drive fuel and a blueprint for a mysterious Atlas Seed - I don't want to spoil their purpose but you'll need to craft 10 seeds in total before they can be used, so be prepared for a long haul. Also watch for Space Anomalies, as these are the best locations to secure a No Man's Sky Atlas Pass that opens previously locked containers and doors.

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Leon Hurley
Managing editor for guides

I'm GamesRadar's Managing Editor for guides, which means I run GamesRadar's guides and tips content. I also write reviews, previews and features, largely about horror, action adventure, FPS and open world games. I previously worked on Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.