Being a roguelike, not everything is permanent in Returnal. Thankfully, Ether is. But what is it, and how do you earn it?
Put simply, Ether is a form of currency in Returnal. It’s not the only one – there’s also Obolites, which you’ll find frequently by exploring the world and killing enemies. But any Obolites you collect will disappear when you die – they’re only good for that one run. That’s not the case for Ether: any Ether you collect is permanent, and will carry over from one run to the other.
Ether is perhaps one of the most useful resources in the game, since it has several uses. You can spend it before your run begins, unlocking a new consumable or artefact to help you out. There are also numerous opportunities to spend it during your run. If you come across malignant items, you can spend Ether to cleanse them, eliminating your risk of getting a malfunction. You can also spend Ether in the “Reconstructor” – a random room that basically acts as a checkpoint. It costs six Ether to activate, but if you die, you’ll go back to that room rather than lose your progress.
Ether can also be converted to Obolites by using a certain Fabricator machine that can be found throughout Atropos’ biomes. If there’s an item that’s a little too expensive, it’s nice to have the option to quickly cash in.
But how do you earn Ether? Well, for the most part you’ll naturally accumulate Ether as you play. Exploring off Returnal‘s beaten path will grant you more opportunities to find it – pieces of Ether are often just lying around the environment. You’ll see it on your map as a collectible. And just like you can convert Ether to Obolites, you sometimes have the option to convert Obolites to Ether, too. It’s worth considering if you know your run is coming to an end.
You can also earn five Ether a day by taking part in the daily challenge. You can access this once you’ve defeated the first boss, when a new computer terminal becomes available in Selene’s ship.