There's a very brief cutscene of the process that opens up your timeline potential. No explanation for anything whatsoever is given, though there might be some kind of dialogue.
You can then pick a seed -- you'll see some of the colors / maybe a kind of preview of the seed.
If you die before you unlock the atomizer bypass, you'll reappear here without the option to pick the seed you lost in.
IDK how any of this correlates to logging in -- this should save your save files, the seeds you're in, and whether you have the soul's pivot or not. Idk how I'm doing that aspect of the game yet and it'll be a long while before I know.
In the early game, you start out somewhere completely random in a seed with a bunch of broken machines, broken biologics, one terrible weapon, your memories temporarily erased, and a detachment from the newflesh network. The early game introduces players to the new game and is somewhat difficult, plus it has a roguelike thing where until you make your first base you only have one life and respawn in a new seed, starting from scratch again. You don't get a whole lot of story here, definitely no cutscenes or anything because you'd have to play through them multiple times in new seeds.
In any case, your goal in the early game is to learn how the basic systems of the game work and survive for long enough to make your first base. If you manage that, you can then play the rest of the game without worrying about death erasing all your progress.
The very first part of the game tells you how to move around and use your leaping latch. Should be straightforward stuff.
You start out with a single menu that lets you see your machines and biologics:
You'll see that the Atomizer is necessary to get past this phase of the game and it has an issue that needs to be bypassed with scales/hide -- clicking on those will reveal additional details about fishing and combat and how to acquire what you need there.
Your Fishing Rod is damaged and needs to be repaired in order to Fish. This requires basic materials like feathers/branches/etc, however these have to be extracted.
Your extraction contraption is damaged and needs to be repaired with raw materials. You need to do this before you do anything else. Whatever your raw materials loadout here will make sense in context (like digging things out, sharpening its extraction teeth, etc -- should fit in with whatever the lore is here).
Your gastric biologics are broken and you need way more food and water. You can fix this in three parts -- one with raw materials, one with extracted materials, and one with fishing/hunting materials. There might be other upgrades down the line as well. Eating/drinking requires food/drink, which has to be extracted, so you need to fix that first.
Your Medical Biologic is damaged so you don't have as much health and can't regenerate health. This isn't a big deal until you encounter combat or if you start starving.
Your first step is fixing these mechanical issues, which will increase your ability to survive -- the recipes are procgen but are based on available resources with homogeneous materials required rather than specific ones -- like feathers and tubers rather than a specific type of feather or tuber.
Note that you can't enter a town until you make your first base -- you can maybe enter other extracurricular structures, but not towns for very solid lore reasons (and also game progression reasons). You should also be locked out of other game progression stuff you might stumble into by accident like strange loops - however they should indicate that there's something there, you just can't access it yet.
Whenever you get the Fishing Rod fixed (requires basic materials), you can fish with Bait. This introduces the fishing system a bit, but not its upgrades -- there's a note however that you can research upgrades at a Fishing Lab (and all upgrade functionality gets moved there), which via the wiki system will very vaguely explain Labs, and Bases, and this traces back to the Atomizer which needs to be Bypassed. There shouldn't be too much detail here because you're still early-game. It might expand as you get past this phase however.
You might need some fishing extracts here to fix machines/biologics, but you definitely need Scales to fix the Atomizer.
As you move out of your starting area (and this is explained to you and ties into the Lore somehow -- maybe your arrival erased all of them; if so they'd be visible as blackened chunks) you'll eventually encounter Nests. The system will explain Combat a bit, as well as Health, and tell you about being able to craft weapons at a Base's Weapons Lab. You start out with some kind of weapon, probably a sword or a spear (or randomly picks between the two) and maybe a weak dagger. This isn't great but it's enough to be able to fight enemies and hopefully get enough hide to bypass the atomizer before you die. A lot of new players are definitely going to die here however -- things like flow and combos might help, though idk how much I want new players to get a sense of that because it's complex. It may also be locked behind entries in the Weapons Lab, which would make more sense. Using stealth might make more sense, or throwing your spear or something (if that's possible).
Whenever you get the hide you need, you can unlock the Atomizer.
The Atomizer allows you to Atomize unwanted items, and if you accrue enough Aether, to make a Premade base structure. This needs to make sure that when placed it will always have a door -- just create a floor if one doesn't exist in the right spot. This is your only option with the Base Builder, and you get an explanation for how it works, as well as a mention about the Base Building Lab to be able to do additional things.
You need whatever amount of Aether it takes to power this action, and get an explanation of that and how to atomize stuff as well.
Placing your first Base should automatically create a base inside of it -- the "Check for base" tool should only exist when you have something other than premade options. Also when you do this, it'll create the Portal spot and reintegrate you with the newflesh node. This may unlock a cutscene and/or some memories and/or maybe alter the rendering code in some fundamental and easy-to-notice way.
The first thing you have to do is unlock the Explorer Lab -- you can't unlock anything else whatsoever until this is unlocked. It exclusively uses surface materials, however it uses specific materials that you have to find, so you get a kind of tutorial on that.
When you unlock it, you also have to place it, so you get a little tutorial on placing and picking back up fixtures.
The Explorer Lab has everything you need for the next game progression step, and has strong indications to unlock the Portals tab and this ties into the story a good bit (like you need to get to civilization in order to find Asher, and here is the best way to get there -- granted it's an open-world so you can get there yourself potentially too, though the world size will be a lot bigger in the final game.).
The explorer tab should also include the Weapons Lab which will be increasingly important over time.
The Portals lab uses handcrafted materials -- still surface materials, but now you have to do things like make Silk or w/e so you get a kind of tutorial on that.
At this point you can get through the rest of the explorer tab (which is more random -- things like Industry require metal ore in some capacity) or open up additional labs and you'll know how to unlock and place them. Or you can go to the next game progression step.
Your Journal / The story / other strong hints mention that you have to find someone named Asher. He will not be in whichever town you start closest to, he'll probably be on the opposite side of the map. Finding him requires three things:
Using the NPC information system to find out which town he is then either using it to find his exact house, using town services, or doing it manually.
Having enough money to travel to the town he's in.
Figuring out some way of actually getting there from your starting town via some kind of basic knowledge of travel systems.
The game doesn't really hold your hand here -- you should be able to figure things like theft and shop selling/buying out on your own. Doors may be non-intuitive, but the names of houses appearing next to them should help a bit. Town Travel platforms should explicitly indicate what they are and what they're doing to help you out a bit, but more than likely players are going to be walking around interacting with things anyway. NPCs should mention them, also they may not be where they are currently -- they may be somewhere just outside the town gates or something to fit in better with the Lore.
Things like Quests, Guild Quests and Blueprints can get unlocked at this stage -- there's no hand-holding leading you to them, it's purely an explorative thing since they're not actually required. But new players will probably find them nonetheless. If they're not already familiar with town travel mechanisms or extracurricular structures, they're going to have a hell of a time learning those. Thankfully you shouldn't get cross-province quests early on like this; it's something you have to build up to.
Also at this stage, probably a lot of players are going to deviate from the main quest and start doing open-world stuff -- some will already be doing that when all the other Labs get unlocked, but this stage will definitely be like that. It might make sense to funnel all open-world users into here by having the Bases only unlock Portals until you get some kind of blueprint from Asher, but that would fuck with the story a bit. Something to think about though.
In any case, you'll find some way of earning money, figure out the travel systems in some capacity, and make your way to Asher.