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So I recently discovered via this reddit post that upgrades should be adjacent to the thing they're upgrading (or other upgrades to it). You can see in the image below that the UI will color the border of adjacent upgrades but not ones sitting by themselves:

Picture of multi-tool with adjacency bonuses, from that reddit post linked above

The post itself is a little unclear how much that helps, and suggests it gives them some sort of bonus, but has no details and is not 100% reliable. Are we sure it gives a bonus, or does the upgrade maybe just not work in the first place if it's not adjacent?

Recently I'd upgraded my jetpack, and while I didn't have a stopwatch out to time it, I wasn't noticing much difference. Then I looked at the text more carefully:

original image source - http://nomanssky.gamepedia.com/File:NmsSuitTech_Jetpack_Booster_Sigma_Craft.jpg

Is this implying that the upgrade won't work unless it's actually adjacent to the jetpack? If so, this seems problematic since when the game starts your jetpack already has things surrounding it and can't be dismantled or moved.

Overall I'm left very unclear on if upgrades must be adjacent to work, and if not, what kind of bonus they get when adjacent.

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    Very few of the upgrades result in changes that can be seen on screen numerically. One that does is the clip size in one's boltcaster. An interesting experiment would be to look at the difference in ammo count when adding that upgrade adjancent to the boltcaster and when adding it non-adjacent. – dg99 Aug 13 '16 at 14:18
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    "alongside" in this context probably means "with" rather than "adjacent" – HorusKol Aug 15 '16 at 4:23
  • I assumed the displayed [+1] style icon was the adjacency bonus. – David Yell Aug 15 '16 at 9:25
  • As a side note you can build jet pack upgrades next to each other and they become highlighted even if not built adjacent to the jetpack itself. – VanBuzzKill Aug 15 '16 at 18:41
  • @VanBuzzKill Indeed. That seems to be the case with all of the upgrades. – dg99 Aug 18 '16 at 12:25
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After reading through the comments in the reddit post you included it seems that the upgrades do not need to be adjacent to the base function to work. Try to group upgrades together and group with main feature for added bonuses. I'm trying to figure this all out just like everyone else but this has seemed to work for me.

  • I played around with it some last night and found that at least in some cases, the upgrades got a colored border around them if they were adjacent to each other even if they weren't adjacent to the thing they were upgrading. – Sterno Aug 11 '16 at 12:49
  • @Sterno Yes, I noticed that too, but only rarely. On the other hand, adjacency always gives me the colored border. – dg99 Aug 13 '16 at 14:14
  • But does the colored border actually mean anything? If you have multiple upgrades and none of them are touching, are they any less effective? – Dan Henderson Aug 22 '16 at 22:52
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As Marshall said, upgrades don't actually need to be next to their base upgrade to function. However, there is a substantial bonus for adjacent similar upgrades. I was able to find a guide that has screenshots of the absolute optimal upgrade patterns for full-sized inventories, as well as general strategies for organizing, here.

It's also worth noting this:

Even without the upgrades touching the function they're meant to be upgrading, you still get some synergy, so long as there are two or more upgrades touching.

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