You Awaken Alone and Lost
Awakenings - In the beginning... You will wake up alone on a moderately inhospitable planet; if you don't do something fairly soon, you will die!
Before doing anything else, use your Multi-Tool to get at least 75 units of Ferrite Dust from the nearest rocks and use it to fix your Multi-Tool scanner. When this is done, you can search (C) for other necessary elements. First, look for Sodium, yellow-glowing 'flowers' which are marked 'Na' in the scanner; this is used to recharge your Exosuit's hazard-protection apparatus (which keeps you from dying in an adverse environment). Don't go too far afield, but gather all that you can. You will soon get a message that a ship's signal has been located, and the ship icon will show up somewhere. Move toward it at all deliberate speed, but gather any nearby sodium you come across. When the ship is finally in sight and if you have your Exosuit under control, you can stop and gather some resources you will need. NOTE that you should mine any yellow-crystal or red-crystal structures you come across, as these are concentrated forms of Sodium and Carbon and are much more effective at recharging items; also harvest any red 'Oxygen' flowers in your path, because this recharges your Exosuit.
Start by 'mining' some trees or plants for carbon and use it to recharge your mining beam on the Multi-Tool before doing anything else. If it runs out of fuel (Carbon), you are stuck until you find some more. [Hint - if you screw up and deplete it completely, you can jump-start it by 'punching' some plants (melee attack) for a few units of carbon, but it is better not to run out...]. Then, you can collect some more Ferrite and the blue crystals of Di-Hydrogen which are fairly common everywhere. Make your way to the shipwreck site and energize (E) the beacon. When it goes through the dialog and 'asks me' what to do next, I choose 'Broadcast', but I'm not sure if this really makes any difference. Next, go to the and enter the ship.
When you are in the ship (or any protected structure or cave) you are safe from the elements and your environmental protection and shields will be restored. When you look at the ship's contents, you will see that the Launch Thruster and the Pulse Drive are both 'broken', and both must be repaired before you can do anything else.
To repair the Launch Thruster, you will need to mine 40 units of Di-Hydrogen and convert it to the jelly - this can be done directly by clicking on an empty slot in the ship or Exosuit and then on the Di-Hydrogen Jelly icon; one unit of jelly will be created if you have the requisite 40 units of Di-Hydrogen. The next item needed is Pure Ferrite; since you can't as yet directly mine it, you will need to collect Ferrite Dust and convert that to Pure Ferrite using the Portable Refiner, and that will complete the repair. Note that you should always 'pick up' the refiner and carry it with you when you are finished using it.
However, even with the Thruster repaired, you can't take off until the Pulse Drive is also fixed, and you don't have the parts for this. The ship dialog will prompt you to extract navigation data from the beacon, make a Signal Booster and get the coordinates of the missing part - you will have to walk to get there, and you can easily die on the way or get lost.
Before leaving, craft one Carbon Nanotube and install the Analysis Visor in the Multi-Tool; this will let you locate more resources, and most importantly, find your way back to your ship. Make sure you have a good supply of Sodium (or better, Sodium Nitrate) before leaving, because you are guaranteed to run into lethal weather on the way. When you retrieve the part (Hermetic Seal), install it and you will be good to launch.
However, before leaving, collect any easily obtainable resources. If there is a cave nearby, look for Cobalt and collect at least 250 units before leaving; it will be needed in setting up later, and you should always collect some when you run across it. Also, your Scanner (F) will show the presence of valuable resources such as the Albumin Pearls shown here. Valuable resources are shown with a yellow icon containing one to three exclamation points.
OK - now get in the ship and head for space! When you get there, you will receive a signal directing you to another planet and a beacon. Before going there, shoot up some of the asteroids you will run into and collect Tritium for your Pulse Engine. You will also get some Gold and Silver, but those are not really all that valuable at this point.
The Sentinels: From now on you will see Sentinels on planets. They are annoying, flying environmental guardians who are quite deadly, so don't annoy them at this time if you can avoid it. For unknown reasons, they don't mind you strip-mining everything with the Terrain Manipulator, but if they see you use your Mining Beam on anything - even a stupid rock - they will come over and investigate. They are even more picky if you kill an animal, even in self-defense. At the first annoyance, their indicators turn blue, and if you do it again while they are around, they will attack you. They can be defeated with the Mining Beam, but when you kill one, others will quickly appear - and so on until some really tough monster-size equipment wants to beat on you. If you cause them to attack you, the best defense is to jump in your ship and lift off a short distance. They will search for you, but they give up after less than a minute, and when all clear, you can go back down - just DON'T go into space until all is clear. You can read more about fighting Sentinels here.
After you land at the beacon, take a little time to look around and scan any new animals that you see (they have red dots in the scanner); doing so and uploading the info gets you Nanites, one of the forms of currency in NMS. This is ALWAYS a good idea every time you land the ship. The beacon will disgorge plans for a Base Computer and a Terrain Manipulator mod for the Multi-Tool, which in turn allows you to mine Copper, which can be turned into 'Chromatic Metal' - which is used in making most everything. The Terrain Manipulator is fueled with Ferrite Dust, Pure Ferrite or Magnetized Ferrite. The latter is by far the most efficient, so if you are in a good area, blow up some rocks to collect ferrites. You can also build a Portable Refiner (same 'Z' menu as you used for the Signal Booster) and convert the ferrites into the magnetized form, which is 5X as efficient and avoids you having to carry so much material - or you can just mine ferrite as you need it...
Use your scanner to find a Copper deposit, and if it is more that a short run away, fly to it - you never know if you will have to duck into your ship to escape a predatory animal or get out of bad weather. At this stage, the most efficient thing to do is to mine some Copper and then set down a Portable Refiner and convert the Copper into Chromatic Metal as soon as you can. While it is being converted, either mine more Copper or some ferrite (pure or otherwise) and switch back and forth between converting copper to Chromatic Metal or ferrites into Magnetic Ferrite to make best use of your time. If the circumstances permit, fill one Exosuit 'slot' each full of Magnetized Ferrite, Chromatic Metal and Sodium Nitrate (converted from Sodium). When you use the Terrain Manipulator to mine materials, always use it at its lowest aperture; you can dig the deposit more quickly if it is opened up, but you will lose most of the mineral.
Now - you will need to set up a base - at least a preliminary one. A good 'permanent' base is one on a planet without really serious weather/sentinel or other problems, and where there is a good supply of Carbon and Ferrites close at hand. If the planet with the first beacon isn't ideal you can either launch into space to find better place or just put up a temporary base where you are. For more information on base building, see here.
In any case, create the base computer and it will then allow you to download plans for a Blueprint Reader, which holds plans for base construction. To get blueprints, you will have to locate buried Salvaged Technology modules to unlock the blueprints, which in turn opens up new plans. Two very useful ones which come up after the simple wooden base plans are the Teleporter and the Save Point. The Teleporter is incredibly important as it allows you to instantly travel to any other Teleporter on other bases you create or to any space station you visit [you need to generate 50 Ionized Cobalt from 100 Cobalt and create one Ion Battery, using plain Cobalt]. The Save point allows you to do a manual save, separate from any automated saves, giving you two save options.
Before you begin base construction, make sure you have at least 200 carbon to create a simple wooden structure, because once you start, a storm will arrive, forcing you to take shelter, and it is easier to get materials in good weather...
You will then be prompted to fly to the space station and ask the aliens there to decode the mysterious message '16..16..16...'. After you ask around and notice that the aliens are very upset with you for asking, one of them will go into a 'trance' and tell you the coordinates of another beacon. After this, no one on the station will speak to you for some reason. Before you leave, go to the Exosuit vendor (last booth on the right terrace as you face out), approach the Exosuit display and purchase an expansion slot for it. NOTE that you can only purchase one slot per space station, so it behooves you to do so every time you visit one. The prices start out low and quickly climb, but this is a good way to get more space [See ExoSuit Upgrades]. Also note that each container category (General, Technology, Cargo) has a separate price structure, so find the lowest cost choice unless you really need more space in a specific category. At all space stations, look around on desks and counters for colorful geometric forms, which when activated, give either Nanites or Navigation Data - for free. Most game threads require you to gain experience in talking to Aliens, so make a quick tour of the denizens as well. Some of them can give you helpful ‘directions’ to important places of interest or trade with you.
Leave the station and fly to the distress beacon, which is a crashed freighter. Here, you get the blueprints for a Hyperdrive from the distress beacon. I should note here that scavenging freighter crashes is rarely worthwhile and often consumes more resources than you get back, so I no longer bother [this may have changed with the 1.75 patch]. You will need about 80-100,000u for the five Microprocessors needed to build the Hyperdrive, and the best way to get it is to dig out a few more Savlaged Technology Modules; they sell for about 55,000u each. Fly back to the Space Station, and even though no one will talk to you, you can use the Galactic Trade Terminal to sell modules and buy the Microprocessors. Next, we need fuel, so once again we head into space.
Scanning (C) will light up yet another beacon, so head there and land. This station is a mess, with a scummy terminal; clean the junk off and it will give you blueprints for an Antimatter Containment module. After you make one, you can then create a Warp Drive cell, and you are good for one trip between the stars. Around the station you will see quite a few 'eggs' with a danger sign on them. Pay attention to that and don't mess with them. If you insist on doing so anyway, boost to the top of the station and shoot one from there - you will soon see what you missed. The uglies go away by themselves after a short time, so you don't have to shoot them. Note that once you have a fully functioning base, the junk on the terminal can be converted into Nanites at a ration of 5:1, so you can either collect it, discard it or sell it at a Trade Terminal
Go into space and warp to a new system, and you will get another transmission directing you to an alien at a trading center, where he will give you the blueprint for making Antimatter. Now that you can make Antimatter, you are good to go anywhere and are able to repair Drop Pods to get (free) Exosuit slots added. Anywhere you land, it is always a good idea to look for them.
Fuel up and again head into space, where after warping, you will be directed to an alien monolith which will give you a Warp Cell and some (sort of) story information.
In space, after visiting the Monolith, the 'Awakenings' prologue will end with a transmission asking if you want to follow a story line or freely explore. I have always chosen the story line, since it opens up a number of quests/options, and of course you can choose free exploration any time you want. The Anomaly will also appear, where you get to meet the Gek Polo, who wants you to help him explore and who will provide some good tech if you cooperate, which means no more than reporting to him what you would do anyway. Note that there is a kiosk next to him where you can buy (or sometimes be given) a new Multi-tool.
Now may be a good time (at least it was for me) to build a permanent base and harvest the resources you will need for further exploration.
After a few warps into other systems, you will come out of the warp into the middle of a fight between Pirates and Freighters. If you choose to aid the Freighters by attacking the Pirates (and succeed), you will be invited to enter the Freighter and talk to its captain. The first time you do this you will be offered the command of the Freighter for free - it's a good deal, even if you don't want to be a freighter jockey. You will periodically find these fights happening after dropping out of warp, but you don't have to join in. If you do (after already taking the free Freighter), you will be given the chance of purchasing that Freighter as well - for probably in excess of 100,000,000u! I personally found freighter missions to be a bit tedious, as my Frigates always came back shot up and needed a lot of repairs, but it can be profitable once you have accumulated a fleet of Frigates - which also takes a lot of Units...