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Pacific Drive - title

I really enjoyed Pacific Drive, but I admit that I struggled a bit in the early hours. The tutorial is decent, but it's a bit of an information overload, and the player doesn't really get much opportunity to practice certain mechanics so that they sink in.

So I wanted to share some of my tips based on the confusions and growing pains that I experienced, so that other new players can hopefully shorten the learning curve and get to enjoying the game more quickly.

Know how exits and gateways work!

This should be obvious, and should go without saying, but make sure you understand the game's rules about how exits, Gateways, and checkpoints work. Early in my playtime, I mistakenly thought that "exits" and "gateways" are different things. The game uses both terms interchangeably, and it can be confusing because the player can also leave a junction by traveling through a "Checkpoint". "Checkpoints" are not "Exits"! Checkpoints allow travel between different zones, but they do not allow travel back to the garage. When the game says "No Stable Exits", it means there are no "Gateways" back to the garage.

Because of this confusion, I made a couple of trips in which I got stuck in a cycle of going from one zone with "no stable exits" to another zone with "no stable exits", deeper and deeper, and the trip dragged out far longer than I planned. I ran out of inventory and trunk space, and started accumulating a lot of meaningless damage to the car. It seems stupid in hindsight, but it's easy to get confused here.

Gateways/Exits [LEFT] are distinct from Checkpoints [RIGHT].
Gateways/Exits can take you back to the garage. Checkpoints cannot.

More importantly, you cannot simply drive back to the garage. You cannot plan a circular loop of zones that will bring you back to the garage and allow you to avoid the Storm entirely. You have to activate a Gateway Portal (the giant towers of light) and have to race the storm to the Gateway in order to return to the garage.

If a location says it has "no stable exits", then that means you cannot create a Gateway in that location. In order to create a Gateway, the location must show a blue number and a "KliM cost for Gateway". If the location does not have this Gateway cost listed, then you cannot return to the garage from this location, and you will only be able to exit this location through a checkpoint and will have to travel to another location. Plan your trips accordingly.

Abandoning a trip is almost as bad as dying.

Don't start trips you aren't going to finish

As is the case with every survival game that I've ever played, there's a lot of "gotcha!" kind of mechanics that get introduced as the game goes on. Pacific Drive is not an "ironman" game, in which death means you have to restart the game from scratch. You don't even have to go back to the previous save. Instead, dying teleports the player back to the hub garage, but the penalty is still pretty harsh, as almost all of your collected resources will be lost, and the car will suffer extreme damage to its components.

However, the penalty for abandoning a trip is pretty much just as bad. As such, I do not recommend abandoning a trip unless you are absolutely desperate! Abandoning a trip is about as costly as dying. You will lose almost all of your collected materials, will probably also lose some of the materials and equipment that you brought into the trip with you, and the car will suffer some damage (though not nearly as much as if you had died). All of this loss will set you back considerably, as you'll have to grind not only to re-collect the materials you lost, but also grind for more materials to re-craft the equipment you lost and to possibly repair or replace any damaged or destroyed car parts.

In fact, if you think a particular trip may be a lost cause, then I recommend that you at least try to open a Gateway and make a run for it. Even if you die in the attempt, it's not much worse than outright abandoning the trip. At least if you die, you will have an opportunity to make a "corpse run" by returning to the same zone and finding your Remnant Ghost. The Remnant Ghost is a rusted-out hulk of your car, but it will still have most of the parts and materials that you had when you died. It's like your soul remains in Dark Souls after you die. There will be some loss of material, and all the old parts of the destroyed car will be heavily damaged, but they will at least be salvageable. Unlike outright abandoning a trip, dying will at least give you an opportunity to recover most of what you lost. Just be sure to have plenty of extra storage space in case you decide to salvage things like panels, doors, or tires off of your Remnant Ghost.

Dying on a failed Gateway run at least gives you an opportunity to recover material from your Remnant Ghost.

Collect easy Anchors early in any trip

Since the only way to end a trip and return to the garage is to open a Lim Gateway, you will need a supply of energy from anchors. Some of the story missions might automatically open a gateway, but for the majority of trips, you will need to have enough energy to open a Gateway. Another important fact is that activating a Gateway does not consume the energy! You only need to acquire a threshold of energy from anchors in order to activate a Gateway, but you keep all that energy if you successfully make it back to the garage. So you don't need to collect extra anchors in order to make sure you have spare energy left over for upgrades.

Even though you don't necessarily need spare energy from anchors, I still recommend that you collect anchors (and their energy) from the early junctions in any given trip. This ensures that you will have enough energy to actually activate a Gateway at the end of the trip when you need to, and that you will have this energy available early if you need to bail from a given trip before you had planned to. The reason I recommend this is that, as you go deeper and deeper into the Zone, the obstacles, challenges, and anomalies in any given junction become harder and more dangerous. If you wait until the last junction or 2 before you start collecting anchors, you may find that the few anchors that are available in those junctions are difficult to reach safely, or that you might not have enough time to get to all of them before the storm shows up.

Collecting anchors in the early junctions ensures you'll have enough energy to safely escape harder junctions.

Collecting anchors early, in the safer junctions, ensures that you have enough energy to escape the deeper, more dangerous junctions without having to put yourself in unnecessary danger.

Don't neglect scrapping computers, TVs, phones, and radios

It may not seem like it early in the game, but components like electronics and copper wire can become major bottlenecks for mid-game and late-game crafting. Early in the game, you're probably more focused on things like metals, plastics, rubber, and glass for crafting doors, panels, and tires for your Remnant. And you might also be looking for chemicals to keep your stockpiles of Repair Putty full. You're not wrong, as these are very important early-game resources to get your car and supply stockpiles up to snuff.

But don't neglect breaking down computers, televisions, phones, and radios for their copper wire and electronics. These components will become essential for crafting light bulbs, circuit boards, and other mid-level car upgrades. Things like improved headlights, spare car batteries, new tools, and defensive upgrades will all require electronic components.

Be sure to scrap computers, TVs, radios, and other electronics when you come across them.

In my early hours with the game, I avoiding scrapping the many computers and TVs that I came across because scrapping them would eat through the durability of my Scrapper tool very quickly. I was worried that I would be wasting too many materials crafting and re-crafting Scrappers. But then I got to the point where it was time to start exploring the Mid-Zone, and I suddenly ran into a huge bottleneck in my ability to craft the materials and equipment that I needed to keep my car in 1 piece against the more dangerous anomalies in the Mid-Zone. I had to make multiple extra trips re-exploring and looting places I'd already been to find wire and electronics before I felt comfortable progressing on with the main campaign.

So my advice: keep backup Scrapper tools in the trunk, and don't hesitate to scrap any computers, TVs, radios, or phones that you come across. And if you are stuck having to grind to find more of these components, then I recommend you focus on ARDA research outposts, as they almost always have computers and/or TVs inside.

Keep your headlights in good condition

Always prioritize repairing headlights.

One of the parts that will eat into your supply of electronic parts is your car's headlights. In order to avoid having to constantly consume wire and lightbulbs replacing your headlights, I recommend always prioritizing repairing your headlights with Repair Putty.

Night in Pacific Drive is very dark, and it can be borderline impossible to see where you are going or what you are doing if your headlights go out. You'll likely crash into more obstacles, or run into more anomalies, if you can't see where you're going, which will only lead to further unnecessary damage to the car, and more resources spent repairing or replacing that damage.

Also, using Repair Putty to repair headlights, instead of replacing them, will free up more wire and lightbulbs for crafting floodlights and flashlights that will let you explore in the dark when you're outside of the car.

Loot car trunks for flares

And you'll also need personal light sources to help you get through the long and frequent nights. If you're consistently stopping to loot the trunks of abandoned cars, you should have no problem keeping up a large stockpile of flares. And if you find yourself low on flares, then you should stop more often at abandoned cars on the side of the road. Abandoned car trunks almost always have multiple road flares.

Abandoned cars usually have multiple road flares.

Road flares are also used for crafting the crude re-usable torches (flashlights). These flashlights are much more practical light sources and make it a lot easier to explore dark forests, so I highly recommend that you keep some readily available in your backpack and the trunk of your car.

Lastly, flares are also great as defensive tools, as they can be thrown at tourists to force the tourists to explode. This can clear paths that otherwise would be tricky to pass without accidentally bumping a tourist and taking damage from the ensuing explosion(s). They can also be thrown to lure Abductor anomalies away from the player or the car. So even if you have flashlights readily available, it's still worthwhile to have a healthy supply of road flares in your backpack.

Always stop for box trucks!

If you see a box truck or ARDA Investigator, I recommend that you always stop and search its cargo. These trucks almost always contain a large amount of resources, and usually also contain some rare resources. They almost always also contain 1 or more car parts, such as a door, a panel, or a wheel, and can also contain tools. Sometimes it might even be a car part or tool that you don't yet have access to at the crafting station.

Box trucks [LEFT] and ARDA Investigators [RIGHT] always contain a large cache of items.

Even if you don't need to use those car parts currently, you should still take them and stash these parts in your trunk. You can use them as a spare part if your car takes excessive damage during a trip. If you keep it through the end of the trip, then you can toss them into the Matter Deconstructor in the garage to reclaim most of the parts that they are made out of. If you absolutely do not have room in your trunk for these large parts, you can also just drop them on the ground outside the box truck, and then use your Scrapper to disassemble it, and collect the constituent parts. You won't get as many parts as if you put it into the Deconstructor, but you'll get something, and it will likely stack with the resources you already have.

Trucks often contain rare cosmetics and lore docs.

Box trucks and Investigators also often have documents that will reveal more lore and backstory. They will also almost always have some kind of cosmetic items as well. This might simply be a paint or decal, but can also be one of the rare customization parts that can be equipped at the detailing station in the garage. These might include hood ornaments, bobbleheads, shifters, and so forth. These items are highly randomized and difficult to find, so pick them up whenever you see them.

"Borrow" armored parts from Squires

Armored car parts can be expensive to craft, and the recipes for all of them can be difficult to obtain, since they require scanning anomalies that are very dangerous to approach. In the meantime, you can still armor up your car. Once you get past the first few story missions, you'll likely start to see abandoned armored cars, called "Squires", along the side of the road. These cars will usually have 1 or 2 in-tact armored panels or doors, and may also have offroad tires.

If you have a Liberator tool, you can use it to detach these parts from abandoned cars without destroying them. You can then equip them to your car to replace crude or steel parts. This is a highly cost-effective way to armor your car for trips into the slightly more dangerous Mid Zone.

Parts can be efficiently taken from abandoned Squires.

If you're lucky, the Squire in question might even have a panel, door, and offroad tire all next to each other on the same side of the car (e.g., all on the front, passenger side). In this case, a single well-placed Liberator shot can probably remove all three parts. This is probably the single most efficient way to obtain multiple armored parts and offroad tires.

And if you don't have a Liberator, you can still scrap these parts and take the resources. When you obtain the recipes for armored parts, you'll then have the resources you need to craft at least a few parts.

Rotate parts in the Matter Regenerator

You can extend the life of your car parts by using the Matter Regenerator. Have a spare panel, door, and wheel (or 2) handy. When you return to the garage, instead of wasting Repair Putty on heavily damaged car parts, just yank them off and throw them in the Matter Regenerator (it looks like a large speaker system next to the juke box). Then stick the spare part on the car. When you come back from your next trip, all the parts in the Matter Regenerator should be fully repaired, and you can swap them for other damaged parts on the car.

Some defects cannot be fixed..

Deconstruct broken parts for their resources

Over the course of the game, car parts will eventually acquire defects, or they will completely break. At this point, these parts cannot be fully repaired, not even with the Matter Regenerator. This will eventually happen to parts that you repair with the Matter Reconstructor.

When this happens, do not simply replace the part and drop the old part on the side of the road, and don't scrap it either. Keep the part and toss it into the Matter Deconstructor in the garage. This will return most of the resources that were used to construct it, which may provide you with enough resources to craft a shiny new replacement (or maybe an upgrade!).

Top off your fuel on the road

Given that there is a seemingly-infinite source of petrol in Oppy's Garage, it might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is no reason to ever stop and fill up your gas tank when you're out on the road. This cannot be further from the truth! I recommend that you definitely stop for gas whenever it is convenient.

The game doesn't tell you this at the start, but the fuel pump inside Oppy's Garage actually has a limited amount of fuel that will be depleted as you play through the game. This fuel pump contains a lot of gasoline, and so it is highly unlikely that any player will exhaust all of the gasoline unless you are grinding for hundreds of hours.

You won't run out of petrol in Oppy's garage [RIGHT], but it's still a good idea to top off on the road.

However, the fact that fuel is a finite resource means that I highly recommend that you top off your fuel tank while out on the road. This reduces your dependence on the fuel pump in the garage, and will extend the lifetime of the garage's fuel pump indefinitely.

Also, it's just a good idea to make sure you don't run out of gas while on the road. The last thing you want is to meticulously explore multiple zones, collect tons of valuable loot, and then run out of gas on your way to the Gateway back to the garage. Trust me, it can happen!

There's also multiple ways to fill your tank up while on the road, besides just stopping at a gas station. There are also ARDA refueling stations, abandoned gasoline tanker trucks, and you can siphon small amounts of fuel from abandoned cars and the occasional fuel barrel (but those last 2 generally aren't worth stopping for unless you are desperate). Fuel is readily available out in the zone, and so there really isn't any excuse for ever running out.

Gas stations frequently have a Friendly Dumpster out front.

Friendly Dumpsters really are your friend!

Another reason to regularly stop at gas stations is that they are likely to have a Friendly Dumpster outside. Just like the dumpster outside of Oppy's garage, the Friendly Dumpsters outside of gas stations will provide a treasure trove of resources, and might also provide whole tools, such as Repair Putty, or crafted components such as steel sheets or light bulbs. They might also occasionally spit out rare cosmetic items.

These dumpsters are also the primary source of Dumpster Pearls in the game, which are incredibly valuable resources that can be broken down at the Matter Deconstructor in the garage for a treasure trove or materials and resources. These pearls take up a relatively small amount of space in your inventory, especially considering how many resources they typically provide. The pearls also come in different sizes and rarities, with the larger and more rare pearls also providing rarer, crafted components such as steel sheets, light bulbs, or circuit boards. Always take Dumpster Pearls with you!

Lastly, Friendly Dumpsters can often be activated more than once, which will provide additional materials. Most dumpsters can be activated twice, but I think I've come across some that allowed 3 or maybe even 4 activations. Keep activating it until it stops giving you more stuff.

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