Astroneer makes use of a variety of common survival game mechanics with a focus on creating a base from which the player can branch out and explore.
Astroneer's adventure gamemode starts the player on procedurally-generated Sylva following character creation and a landing sequence in the Dropship. Upon exiting the Dropship, a Shelter and a Landing Pad are spawned on top of a circle of Hardness 3 Terrain which requires at least Drill Mod 2 to mine.
The Landing Pad provides a Mission Log, which can be used to help progress through the game, with the first quest rewarding the player with an Oxygenator and Small Printer which aids further exploration.
Main article: Oxygen
Oxygen is a primary resource in Astroneer, and the most critical. Players require oxygen to live, and if they run out, they will start suffocating, having the player to slowly take damage. The early game provides two options to mitigate the risk posed by oxygen deprivation: Tethers and Oxygen Filters. Vehicles provide oxygen to nearby players. Shuttles also provide oxygen, but will only send oxygen through Tethers if an Oxygenator is on the Shuttle.The same applies to Shelters and Field Shelters.
Tethers are an exploration tool used throughout the course of gameplay. When near a platform connected to an Oxygenator, they will provide Oxygen to any nearby players and create a connection with close Tethers. They are especially useful earlier on as they significantly extend the player's exploration range, enabling the collection of resources required to advance the game.
Tethers are crafted in packs of eleven with Compound and are, by default, placed using (PC: . Xbox: , PS4: , Switch: ). One pack takes up one Tier-1 slot.
Oxygen Filters are a consumable item that can be crafted with 1 Resin in the player's Backpack Printer. They provide a temporary supply of oxygen whenever the player is not actively tethered to an oxygen source. A single set of Oxygen Filters takes up one Tier-1 slot.
Main article: Power
Power is distributed across a network using a system of cables that extend from, and snap into, Cable Plugs on Platforms and Vehicles. Tethers will also distribute power when connected to oxygenated platforms, but only to nearby players.
Typically, a cable connection is bi-directional and will attempt to equally distribute power. However, by using Power Extenders or a Splitter, power can be forced to travel one way. Power Extenders and Splitters can also be set to equally distribute power.
Power can be generated with a variety of items and modules. Astroneer offers a challenge by having players adapt to different Planets' environments; for example, Desolo, the moon of Sylva, has a very limited atmosphere, making it less than ideal for a Wind Turbine. Ways to generate power include, but are not limited to, Small Generator, Medium Generator, Wind Turbines, and Solar Panels
Renewable power includes Wind and Solar energy, as well as RTGs and QT-RTGs. Wind Turbines and Solar Panels are temperamental as they are dependent on environmental conditions.
Lategame alternatives are the RTG, an infinite power source that produces a significant amount of energy, and the QT-RTG. The QT-RTG is a Tier-1 infinite power source that generates 1U/s. A low-power version of a RTG can be found mounted on any Shelter that cannot be removed.
Non-renewable power requires fuel to run and is limited to the Small Generator and Medium Generator. When activated, a generator will produce a continuous flow of power until its fuel source runs out. This makes them ideal in the early-game where power is limited, and in the mid- and late-game as an emergency power source.
Power storage in Astroneer is done using Batteries. The Medium Battery is ideal for providing a consistent flow of power in a base when there is a shortfall in power generation, while the Small Battery is better used in the player's Backpack where it can provide power for their Terrain Tool's Augments. The player can also craft Power Cells from the Backpack.
Main article: Spaceflight
Players may construct Shuttles to travel to other planets in the system. Once a shuttle has been constructed and either a Solid-Fuel Thruster or a Hydrazine Thruster is attached, they can initiate liftoff. When launching, the player may select either launching into orbit or to another planet in planet view.
Main article: Terrain Tool
The Terrain Tool allows deformation and construction of Terrain. By default, (PC: . Xbox: , PS4: , Switch: ) toggles the tool between held and stowed. Pressing (PC: . Xbox: , PS4: , Switch: ) will cause it to remove terrain. Pressing (PC: +, Xbox: +, PS4: +, Switch: +) will toggle modes, which switches from Deform, Flatten, and Add. If in creative, the player can also toggle between Sample mode and Paint mode. To access Flatten and Build mode, the player must have a Small Canister on the Backpack. The player can also access Sample and Paint modes with the Terrain Analyzer.