Returnal is all about slowly making progress over multiple lives. Death comes often and sometimes quickly, but you should be able to make a small amount of permanent progress on each run.
When you first start playing the game, much of the world will be closed off to you, locked away behind various barriers and obstacles. One of these obstacles is the Red Vines that grow like a cage, trapping beneficial items behind them, out of your reach.
To break through these vines, players will need to find the Atropian Blade, a permanent upgrade that can be unlocked if they make it to the correct section of the map. While the world that players explore is ever-changing, their goals are not. Upon starting to play the game, players will quickly be tasked with finding a way to destroy red energy walls located around the world.
By following the orange chevron on the minimap, players will come to a crimson teleporter room. The teleporter will not be working, but there will be a dead automaton on the ground.
Interacting with this will earn players the Atropian Blade, a useful device that can destroy energy walls, red vines, and even enemies. It has a brief cooldown between uses and can easily one-shot lesser threats. It can also be used to cut through the red vines, getting at the important items hidden behind them.