Cane's Hard Mode

Imelin Cane

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Hello All,

As part of some exploration I've been doing into possible Progression paths through Astroneer, gating items & research and creating a challenging sort of "Hard Mode" has turned out to be incredibly fun for me. I thought I'd share my experience and see what people think, and maybe try this challenge mode for themselves.

Here's a link to my progression chart. I've been holding to these guidelines as best as I can:
(Note: The amounts of resources were based on what I think *should* be on those planets, not what I'm actually seeing.)

The rules I've been going by are as such:

  • Starting Items: Beacons, Research Station, and Filters. Unfortunately, given the current state of the game, Filters must be researched first. This was one of the hardest things to overcome right at the beginning. However, it turned out to be really fun. Finding the Resin and Compound to build the Research Bay, then researching Unknown Objects until I got Filters was CRAZY with only Beacons at my disposal. But I was able to finally pull it off in my first game, and then got really lucky (big Resin deposit close to base) in a new game I started after 119 dropped.
  • Unlocking: When I "Research", I'm researching only the item on my list. I give about two researches per item. By the time I got off Tundra, I had almost everything researched, but still limited myself to only 9 items.
  • Try to stick to planetary features in the guide (Trace Sunlight, Abundant Wind, etc) if at all possible.
  • No exploiting. The only time I may have violated this rule was when bugged out cracks in the terrain revealed some deposit nearby.
  • Once I've unlocked an item, it's available to me on all planets.
  • Scavenged items don't count toward research unlocks. If I find a Seat, or an Oxygen Tank or Battery on a dead Astroneer, I use it. Scavenging should be a bigger part of this game! Also, this was really important to craft things early in the game - Like scavenging Titanium to build an O2 Tank. Finding a downed satellite or ship would sometimes be an absolute miracle that would allow me to build a new O2 tank or battery.

Things Learned in 'Hard Mode':

  • Covet finite resources like Compound and Resin! There was never a bigger shock than needing Compound and having none left, and no good way to drive around looking for it.
  • Bring all the materials you need to build a Research Module (plus another module) to a new planet. I learned quickly that without all 7 Resin needed to build 3 extensions and 2 platforms on a new planet is BRUTAL. Without tethers and all the extra stuff, roaming all over the countryside in search of more Compound and Resin is not possible. The best solution always seemed to be "Pick a spot near base and start digging"
  • Use your two "keeper slots" wisely, and don't carry too much important stuff with you. Crater down a deep hole, or suffocate way out in the middle of nowhere, with your very important Resin in your pack? Be prepared to spend a few hours recovering. Should have left that at the base.
  • Bugs are absolutely soul-crushing. I came back to a game where I logged out while sitting in a rover way down in a cave ... Rover was clipped into the terrain, so I jumped out to try to flip it up/out. Instantly killed by a plant and rover fell through the world. Lost everything. Recovering from that disaster was a massive undertaking.
  • Knowing where you need to go, what you might find there, and how much oxygen it will take to get back to base, or to a vehicle, was a skill I had to acquire very acutely. It's incredibly gratifying when you plan it out and get what you need and return to base as you're suffocating.
  • Scout your area extensively before deciding what order to build your Modules.

Making it back to base many times while suffocating was exhilarating. Making very precise paths, and jealously coveting Scavenged objects & power usage was really informative about how the game can be streamlined and made efficient. Here's a tip: ALWAYS RUN. You get about 5-10% more distance from your oxygen if you always run. Another Tip: "Grab-hop" always. That's when you grab an object, flip it out in front of you, and then grab it again as you're running by. Saved my ass many times, and also made me wonder where there are even two speeds in the game.

How has it gone? I'm currently on Radiated in my second game starting my base there. I'm trying to make it to Exotic and unlock the last few things, and do some serious exploring. Certain planets, Tundra and Radiated especially, have been crazy hard to find Resin or Compound, and often it's a 'fountain' that I find to get the few I need. Otherwise, I'll make the journey back to Terran to try to find more.

Whenever a friend joined, I reminded them I was playing Hard Mode, and they helped me out. But sometimes it turned into a liability - they would die in the middle of nowhere with valuable items or resources, or use up all the Compound making 8x Filters when it was needed to build a Module, etc. They were additional challenges, really, that made the game even more interesting. 

A very crucial mistake I made on Barren when I landed a shuttle to start a base and accidentally created a Research Module out of my first platform - Destroying any chance at building a base there. I had to blast off and settle down at a new base ... but the Shuttle was already burnt and couldn't create another base. I had to then blast back to Terran to build another shuttle and harvest more Hydrazine. Big setback, which I think was somewhat of a bug with the way platforms are being created out of shuttles and ships?

After I was able to find a new spot and stabilize my resources, I got myself to Tundra. I set up a decent little base, but this is where I lost all my stuff due to my Rover bugging through the terrain. This is when I start learning that it is imperative to plan out your base. I had built a Vehicle Base and a Research Station right at the beginning. There was a rich cave nearby, but zero Compound. I got lucky and found a Resin fountain not too far away, so I could pull 2 or 3 resin every few game hours. After a few days on Tundra just grab-hopping Unknowns to do the Research I needed to ... I got out of there. I had to go back to Terran to abandon my shuttle (base-connector burned), and build myself a shiny new Spaceship.

Arid was a new ball of wax. Without a Vehicle to travel around in, the wind-blown death balls would have their way with me. After a couple landings, I found a half-decent spot to build a base that was on the side of a hill and somewhat protected. As it turns out, I got a chance to find out how to build a base directly into the side of a mountain. I thought I needed a Vehicle Bay right away to protect me from the elements, so I set about building one (I brought a bunch of Aluminum from Tundra, too), but then realized that I had a great cave system just outside my  base. The Compound used to build the Vehicle Bay crippled me - there was none to be found anywhere near me. I had to decide whether to build a Smelter or Research next ... I went Research -- it was my only shot at getting Compound and Resin, apparently. I got lucky and pulled a few compound, and just enough Resin to build a Smelter and build up some Aluminum and Copper and get off Arid. *Oof* -- Hard Mode is Hard without a Trade Platform! But, my next stop is Radiated, where I can research Tethers, Large Batteries, and Large Generator -- which is good, since power has been a problem, and there has been an abundance of Coal and Lithium on the last couple planets.

Now I'm here, on Radiated, with practically no Resin or Compound. I may have to make a run to Terran to gather up some more. One good thing is the Spaceship doesn't seem to have the "one and done" mechanic for creating new bases that a Shuttle has. My best hope is that I'll find a few resources that can get me a Research bay and a Printer, so that I can start putting that Coal to good use. My Features bar in the progression chart also inform how I treat the resources of each planet. I consider Tundra to have little sunlight, in order to force my dependance on Wind and Organic power. Arid is the opposite. Radiated will be tough because I will be lowering my use of both Solar and Wind power, which will force me to use Coal and Organic power. This aught to be fun!

Cheers. I know this has been a lot of text. I hope someone gets something out of it!
Imelin Cane


tl;dr: Self-imposed limitations and progressions through research can be fun!

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Base on Radiated actually went well. Abundant hydrazine at/near the planet's surface allowed me to head back to Terran and pick up a whole bunch of Resin and Compound, which is nearly impossible to find. I was able to get a surface base and a deeper mining base going fairly quickly, fueled by a Coal Generator.

In my progression chart, researching on Radiated unlocks some important items -- Lg. Generator, Tethers and Lg. Batteries. The Generator and Lg. Batteries were clutch, as minimal sunlight, cave bases, and the relatively limited availability of Lithium makes harnessing Solar energy much slower and less lucrative in this mode. But, something else emerged. Tethers were not nearly as much of a revelation as I had expected. I had conditioned my playstyle to be so much more frugal, and I was already advanced into making vehicle easily, that Tethers were far less important as a source of Oxygen, and far more important as a source of power, and, unbelievably, LIGHT! Oh man. When I finally had the chance to light up the dark caves around my base, it was a huge relief. 

Either way, it makes me thing I should move up Tethers -- maybe just one planet -- in order to make them more valuable as an oxygen resource. But even still, it's become an interesting strategy to decide whether to use tethers connected to my Cave bases or now, simply because I know I'll be drawing power from my base batteries, versus the rechargeable backpack power. That becomes no small distinction. Fuel Condenser came late. Even after I had researched it, I didn't build one until after I had a base on Radiated. Without a Trade Platform, the abundance of Hydrazine on some planets makes the ability to product it with precious Power is far less desirable. I'd just as soon strap on a few extra O2 Tanks, and explore to grab 2-3 bottles out of a Hydrazine vein. It'm starting to feel even stronger about having Hydrazine be a smelting/processing product from a new Resource (crystal or liquid ammonia?) that is a little more rare than Hydrazine seems to be currently. 

I am still struggling with getting Power Cells to be valuable, and I know why. Compound. Power Cells have to compete for Compound against many other very useful, very necessary early-game items. Filters, Beacons, Research Station, Smelter -- right at the beginning of the game. And then as the game progresses, Compound is always needed ... Solar Panels, Rovers, Storage, Habitats & Seats. Without Tethers right at the beginning, your range is reduced. Without a larger range right out of the gate, Compound is far more valuable, and isn't worth using for a resource that recharges by itself. There are two good answers. One, make Power Cells with a different resource that is also available right at the beginning -- Organic, or maybe Resin. Or second, increase the early supply of Compound. Possibly by always having a renewable Compound Node within walking distance of the Starting Base.


That's all for now.

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