Returnal Datacube Processor Explained: How to Use Data Cubes
Besides the never-ending loop and lack of a true save feature, there are plenty of mysteries to keep you eternally returning to Housemarque's latest title, Returnal. Artifacts are one such mystery. You can readily collect and use many of them throughout each run. However, there are others, called Returnal data cubes, that can only be used with a specific device, the Returnal datacube processor.
All artifacts are positive buffs that give you some type of edge. They're items you should pick up regardless of what they do, since none of them have negative debuff effects. Returnal data cubes can't be used immediately, though. They must instead first be synthesized by way of the Returnal datacube processor.
Unlocking these mods is key to your Returnal build, whether you're just starting out with your early-game build or you've mastered several biomes and are working toward a powerful late-game loadout.
If you've happened upon a Returnal data cube and are unaware of what to do with it, then worry not! This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Returnal Data Cube & Processor Guide
What are Returnal Data Cubes?
Returnal data cubes are artifacts you can find throughout your trek across Atropos, and they can potentially unlock a new item if you can get the cube to a processor.
Data cubes are unlike other artifacts since they don't provide any kind of buff upon collection, but when used correctly, they provide you with a new item that will be permanently available for future runs.
Finding and using data cubes is a key element in grinding for better gear moving forward. You'll find essential cubes on Returnal's main path, though it is wise to venture through the blue, triangular side doors in each biome to potentially uncover more. It's also worth looking for hidden paths along the way, such as the broken stone walls covered in red pockets in the Overgrown Ruins, for example.
Data cubes must be processed to provide any actual value. If you die while holding a cube, you lose that data cube and have to find it again in a future run. It is not a permanent item that carries over. Also, since they are a means of unlocking potentially powerful items, you can only carry one at a time.
Once you've used a data cube by putting it into a processor, you'll never have to process that specific cube again. You'll just be able to find the item you unlocked in any of the Returnal biomes.
What are Datacube Processors?
Unfortunately, datacube processors aren't as easy to find as other devices and stations, such as fabricators and, to an extent, reconstructors. The catch with datacube processors is that you won't find them in many places across Atropos, save for few choice rooms that can be conveniently found after a boss fight.
Getting to a processor involves a very difficult fight in your earliest hours, whether that is with the first or second biome's final boss, Prhike and Ixion respectively. After completing the second biome, you unlock an ability that makes the datacube processor for the second biome accessible without having to go through the boss fight.
This is when you should scrounge and process as many data cubes as you can find. This is also where data cubes start to become extremely resourceful because until after the second biome, it's more worth your time grinding for better weapon alt-fires and abilities.
So that's at least one of Returnal's mysteries solved! Many others still remain, though for more solved mysteries, you can check out our guides on how to respawn in the same run after death, and what weapons you should focus on at the start of the game.