The universe is too vast a place to explore without preparing yourself first. Here's what you need to know to make the most out of No Man's Sky.
Take your time
You may have heard that beating No Man's Sky means getting to the centre of the universe, where a secret awaits any player who travels there. Tempting, no? But you should fight the urge to beeline through No Man's Sky. The game is experienced best when you really dig into planets, mapping out the different flora, fauna and man-made structures scattered everywhere. Even your starting planet is a bounty for discoveries, as tempting as it may be to get your ship up and running ASAP.
Loot your crash site
There are lots of goodies lying around right at your starting point, if you take a closer look at the containers and such.
The mining tool is the biggest tool in your arsenal, and you'll use it for everything from maintaining your suit to fixing your ship. When mining resources for those tasks, pay close attention to the bar on the top right: Make sure it never fills up completely, so that you don't have too much downtime. I find that easing up when it reaches 80 per cent works best for me.
Use your jetpack
You can climb almost anything with your jetpack, which comes packed with a generous timer. I like to get into a rhythm of holding down the jetpack button for a few seconds, letting go and then holding it again to get the maximum distance/height.
Get around faster
Walking can be a drag in No Man's Sky, but players have already found ways to make it better. neoGAF user Moa discovered that if you run and then press the melee and jetpack buttons at once, you can belt around at a much quicker speed. I've tested it out, and the best part is that every time you lunge like this, the cooldown on each respective action goes down again, so you can do it as much as you want. It's tricky to nail the timing down at first, but if you practise, this is a great way to get around.
Beware falling damage
Falling hurts, yo. That said, you can survive any ridiculous fall as long as you use your jetpack a few seconds before impact.
Mind the Sentinels
You know those floating eye robots in No Man's Sky? They are basically the space police. If they see you attacking any animals, destroying property or mining too many resources, they will instantly turn aggressive towards you and call in reinforcements, so be careful while around them. Sometimes, Sentinels are hostile from the get-go, too.
You can save at outposts, space stations and whenever you enter your ship. Make use of this, and know that if everything goes to hell you can always revert back to an earlier save via the start menu. You can also save scum choices, but I wouldn't recommend it.
With the press of a button, No Man's Sky tells you about whatever resources or points of interests are nearby. Very helpful, especially if you're searching for a specific element/material. You can even do it in space! But in order to take full advantage of this feature, you'll need to....
Learn the periodic icons
With time, you will be able to pick out specific resources from a distance just by looking at them. The easiest way to do this is to familiarise yourself with the shorthand the game uses for these elements in the wild.
The lighting icon stands for Isotopes, which are often used for fuel for things like Life Support, Phase Beam, Pulse Engine and Hyper Drive.
Thamium9 can be found on red plants; Plutonium is formed in pointy red crystals; Carbon can manifest itself in anything from plants to rock structures.
The brick icon stands for Oxides, which are often used for charging tech such as the Exosuit and Deflector Shield.
Iron can be found in rocks, titanium is formed in pointy yellow crystals and Zinc can be gathered from yellow plants.
The beaker icon stand for Silicates, which are important for crafting items and installing tech.
Aside from growing in blue plants and blue crystals, Silicates are easy to find, since they are often within large, glowing structures that straight-up look out of place.
No Man's Sky has more resources than the ones described above, such as Neutral Elements and Precious Elements, but those aren't as important for basic survival and transportation.
Keep your bars filled
The first few hours of No Man's Sky are largely about surviving your first couple of planets, and the best way to do this is to always be scrounging. Make sure to keep a healthy supply of Isotopes and Oxides to charge your Life Support and Exosuit, respectively. Note that if you go into a cave, your ship or a building, the environment will be stabilised enough for you not to worry about any of this.
Be smart about inventory
You're going to come across all sorts of elements and resources while exploring, but it's important to reserve slots for the basic essentials for surviving. Yeah, you can and should pick up a rare resource or a good trading item, but don't get greedy. You'll thank yourself when you're running low on Life Support and need to figure out how to fit a bunch of Carbon into an inventory full of Gek Charms.
Transfer extra items to your ship
You'll need to be in range of your ship to teleport items, but it's a very handy mechanic when you're running out of space in your Exosuit.
You can learn more about a planet by scanning all the flora and fauna. More importantly, scanning lets you...
Every single animal and plant you discover is worth cold, hard cash. Press start, and you should be able to look at the different planets you've landed on, with the right side of the menu dedicated to the specific things you've found there. You can submit these discoveries to galaxy scholars, and they will reward you handsomely for good finds. Oh, and make sure to also upload waypoints on planets -- they're easy to forget about.
Don't be a jerk about naming stuff
Uploading discoveries gives you the option to rename stuff. Some words, like 'Dicks' and 'Hitler' are thankfully banned, but words like 'Ass' are not. Whatever you name something, every single other person who finds that animal will have to be stuck with it, so try not to be a jerk. Just have fun with naming stuff, rather than trying to be outright gross or rude.
Feed the animals
While some creatures you encounter may be hostile, most don't seem to be. Feel free to run up to a creature; you should get an interaction prompt. If you have the appropriate resource, you can feed the monster. If you do, the critter may either lead you to a treasure, or it may poop something for you to collect. It's hilarious.
Look for language stones
Scattered throughout No Man's Sky are language stones that mysteriously teach you random words. If you see one in the distance, absolutely seek it out. When you start the game, you have no idea how to parse any of the languages, so these structures will help you communicate with other NPCs who you find throughout your travels.
Look for monoliths
I don't want to spoil what happens if you find one, but just know that if your map marks a Monolith near you, make sure to track it down. You'll be happy you did.
Look for drop pods
Drop pods will supply you with things like more inventory slots and other goodies.
Whenever you find a colony or outpost, there will usually be containers that you can peruse for free stuff, like the ones above. Many buildings also have interfaces on the walls that you can interact with, and often these will gift you new items, tech or more money. They look like this, among other things:
Mine in space
Those asteroids you see while navigating space? You can break them down with your Phase Beam. Space mining is faster than mining on planets, so it comes highly recommended.
Watch out for space pirates
If you dally too much while in space, you may get attacked by bandits who are after your precious cargo. You have two options. You can either fight back, or you can find a station or planet to land on to get rid of them. If you choose to fight, each destroyed ship will give you resources. Honestly, most pirates I've encountered are easy to shoot down, even when they outnumber me, so don't be afraid to be courageous here.
Don't shoot bigger freighters
They will wreck you at early levels.
If you die, find your grave
You'll drop some items upon death, so you want to make sure you regain everything before resuming your adventures.
Talk to aliens
It may be intimidating at first, especially when you don't know any words, but that's part of the fun. The worst thing that can happen, as far as I can tell, is that you'll lose rep with a faction for picking a poor choice. At best, though, you may gain new items such as Multitools. Plus, if you've been diligently seeking Language Stones, you may find that you understand enough words to get a sense of what an alien is saying.
Be careful when attacking facilities
Sometimes, you'll come across locked buildings which you can tear down with your Bolt Caster. The second you start grinding a lock down, though, sentinels will come after you -- so be ready for it. Most buildings have stuff worth taking, so it's worth the risk.
Before attacking, I make sure that my Bolt Caster is fully charged up, and that I have at least one resource to reload it with, just in case I run out of ammo mid-heist. I also make sure to save beforehand. I find it's best to keep attacking reinforced doors until they're open, because Sentinels often won't be able to kill you before you head inside -- where they won't attack you. Do note that sometimes Sentinels will call bigger Sentinels to your location, and these might actually be capable of killing you. You have to decide if it's worth the gamble.
The deeper you go, the stranger things you might find. No Man's Sky also populates bodies of water with points of interest, so you may find yourself diving at some point. It helps if you build tech upgrades that let you survive underwater for longer, though.
The deeper you go, the stranger things you will find. Here, you can either try spelunking natural caves, or you can use Multi-Tool grenades to create your own holes.
Stay close to your ship
Your ship is your ticket out of any sticky situations, so make sure to keep track of it. There are occasions when you can stray a little farther, but you'll have to make sure to....
Use Bypass Chips
You'll need some Iron and Plutonium, but Bypass Chips are worth it. You can use them to hack terminals, which can then tell you where to find points of interest on your respective planet. More importantly, you can use Bypass Chips to call your ship to your location.
Invest in more inventory slots
Whether it's for your Exosuit or for your ship, you're going to want more inventory slots. Typically, the game sells you extra slots for thousands of units, but this is the best investment you can make. Once I had some extra slots, No Man's Sky became so much more fun, because I was spending less time with inventory management. You can find extra inventory slots by talking to aliens, using terminals or finding drop pods.
Approach ships at stations
Every ship has an NPC attached to it, who you can talk to for trades or even to purchase their ship. Most people will have ships that are way cooler than yours, with more slots and upgrades to boot. But ships are also expensive, often ranging in the hundreds of thousands of units, if not millions. You'll want to save up some money, because an upgrade is worth it in the long run. In the meantime, it doesn't cost anything to window shop, so to speak.
Get carbon from plants in buildings
Plants aren't just there for decoration: You can mine them, too. While they never give you a ton of Carbon, mining plants at stations is useful if a terminal has a Carbon requirement, or if an alien happens to want Carbon for an interaction.
Upgrade your mining beam
There are a variety of techs you can install for quality of life improvements, like better jetpacks or running speed. But I've found that the most useful upgrades are for your Multi-Tool, specifically your Mining Beam, since you spend so much of No Man's Sky digging for resources. Personally, I've got two different upgrades that let me mine quicker, and they're a godsend. Another good thing to upgrade is your Scanner. I've got a Rangeboost Sigma, which increases my Scanner's range. The best part about Multi-Tool upgrades is that they don't take up inventory slots, so feel free to go wild here.
Trade when beneficial
Depending on where you are, certain commodities or resources may be worth a small percentage more -- you can tell if there's a green percentage by the asking price. When it comes to artefacts or curiosities, it's best to save them until you can sell them at a profit... unless of course they're taking up too many slots in your inventory. Finally, any item with gold stars should be sold ASAP.
Go through black holes
One of the most memorable things you can do in No Man's Sky. If you want to spoil yourself, here's what it looks like:
Check your 'Journey' tab
If you're looking for stuff to do but don't want to tackle the 'story' in No Man's Sky, I've found that the Journey tab of the start menu is great for prompts. For example, if you're just a couple of words away from a new language milestone, maybe you go hunting for more Language Stones, and so on.