If you haven’t ventured outside of the Forest Biome after completing some starter missions, the Desert is a great place to start.
The Desert Biome is somewhat of a middle ground between the plentiful Forest and the merciless Arctic. The missions you will undertake here can offer their own challenges, but an experienced prospector will likely notice that the hot sands of the Desert are significantly more welcoming than the onslaught of snowstorms and the vicious predators of the Arctic Biome.
However, don’t rush towards the sun-bathed sands expecting to walk out with only a small scratch and an attractive tan. Remember that any of the resource-challenged biomes require a unique set of survival equipment and some strategy: sure, overestimating the challenges of the desert might slow you down and leave you disappointed, but underestimating what’s to come might leave you with a very tricky self-rescue mission.
If you don’t pack some essential survival equipment, you will quickly succumb to thirst, storms, sneaky predators, or might find yourself dealing with all of the above at once. Did you know that the desert nights could give you Hypothermia without a protected source of heat? If you thought that forest Bears were big and scary, how do you plan to act when you see an Elephant?
Developing a strategy for exploration and settlement of the Desert, efficiently managing your water needs, preparing for resource scarcity, and quickly sheltering against weather will all be crucial to your success in this region.
That is, unless you define “success” as “slaughter an ungodly amount of hyenas,” because you will likely achieve that one before the first nightfall.
Ready to conquer the Blacksands? Let’s get started!
Preparing for the Desert Biome
The Desert environment is extreme in its own way, but is less hostile than that of the Arctic. A reliable supply of water, basic defense, heat protection, and shelter are all crucial to your survival in the Desert, but can be achieved with a basic assembly of tools.
Do keep in mind that difficult missions will require additional considerations: if you need to slay a gigantic Sandworm, for example, you might want something a bit better than a Longbow.
Minimum Character Level:13.
Shorter ventures into the Desert biome do not require any Steel tools or weapons. If you can upgrade your Stone kit up a tier, you should be good to go.
If you spend some time in the Desert you will also notice that you level up faster in the region than you would in the Forest.
Here are the central challenges you will need to plan for:
Ambient heat, heatwaves, and sandstorms: Scorching heat in the desert is as dangerous as the unforgiving cold in the Arctic. You need to increase your resistance and have ways of achieving Cooling effect, like drinking. Then, you will need to watch out for your water consumption and, when heatwaves or storms warnings come up, you will need to seek shelter immediately, be it a portable “tent” or a cave. If you plan on hopping caves, find a way to cure or deal with a reduced stamina pool from Pneumonia.
Heatwaves can cause you to Overheat, increasing your water consumption by 100% and causing damage that can turn fatal. Mismanaging heatwaves could also be very costly to your water reserve, which could become a problem of its own.
Running towards shelter as you take damage from weather will become an issue with Heavy Storm Exposure (you become really slow), especially with a smaller stamina pool.
Cold nights: Do not expect to take a cozy nap when the nighttime falls. The temperature will plummet, making it dangerous to stay outside without warm clothing and making you unable to sleep without a powerful source of heat.
Scarcity of resources and water:The desert will have significantly less vegetation than the Forest, and it’s a good idea to stock up on medicinal cures ahead of time. Still, this area will have a bit more Fiber and Wood to offer compared to the Arctic. Keep in mind that for most of your travel through the rocky dunes, water will be in demand and hard to find.
In the two sections below, we will discuss essential tools and equipment you should bring with you to account for these challenges and make your stay in the biome much more comfortable.
Water will be one of the most scarce resources for you in the desert. During heatwaves especially, the Overheating debuff will make you consume more water. Meanwhile, drinking will give you Cooling to help you stay at lower body temperature to avoid getting into the extremes. Combined with all of this is the issue of water sources being very scarce in the desert, so you will need to carry at least one basic reserve of it.
Upgrading: For quick ventures into the Desert, a basic Waterskin will do the job. However, if you plan on doing some exploration or if keeping track of your thirst has been a bit of a problem, you might want to bring a less leaky Canteen with you to get the convenience of a much larger storing capacity.
If you tried hunting deer in the Forest Biome, you know how important it is to land a critical hit before the animal begins to flee. Whether you are fighting predators or prey in the Desert, you need to be efficient if you want to avoid taking damage while getting a stable supply of materials and meat. Without advancements in the Bows Talent Tree, you will find Longbow to be the a great weapon for a reliable damage output. However, the absolute lowest combination you will need to perform critical shots is a Wood Bow and Bone Arrows.
Bring both Weapons and Skills: Whether you use a Longbow, a Recurve Bow, a Crossbow, or even a Shotgun, it never hurts to have someone in your party specialize into Hunting and Combat Talents. The more efficient you get with your damage, the better is your defense and the more resources you can have at your disposal.
Unfortunately, there is no Yeast in the Desert. But, there are a lot of caves. You will find caves to be an effective shelter against the desert’s elements, predators, and as an emergency source of water, but you will also quickly encounter their downside: the randomly-triggered Pneumonia debuff. It’s a nasty status effect and it will take a while to wear off after you leave. Bring a stack of Antibiotic Tonics to cure the effect or, if you plan on doing a lot of mining, bring the Pills to prevent it occurring in the first place.
Herbalism Supplies: You will find it difficult to craft just about any Tonic or Paste in the desert, due to the severe lack of the essential ingredients. Even in crafting the Herbalism Bench itself you might find yourself hard-pressed for Fiber. Pack these supplies ahead of time before you venture into the region.
This should go without saying, but don’t forget your basic Pickaxe! At minimum, uncovering some hidden caves will be essential to your survival, especially if you don’t carry a portable shelter. If you plan to make use of the precious ore, you should absolutely bring a higher-tier Pickaxe and a Stone Furnace at minimum.
Okay, to be honest, you don’t absolutely have to craft a Bone Sickle to venture into the Desert Biome. For many of the missions featuring the Desert, you will do just fine without it, even if you constantly need to replace your Torch. However, the Sickle is such an underestimated tool and it makes such a tremendous difference when gathering plants in the Desert, that we absolutely had to include it. It will help with many of your crafting needs, from Bandages and Cloth Armor pieces, to the Crafting Bench.
Upgrading: Why Bone? Well, the Bone Sickle is the most powerful Sickle available to you that can also be repaired in the field, which is important with heavy use. However, you can certainly bring a higher-tier Sickle, coupled with a higher-tier Axe and see a huge difference in yields — especially useful when building a Desert base!
What to Bring with You
We discussed the essential tools for basic survival in the Desert in the previous section, but if you want to increase your chances of survival, are on a extended mission, or even setting up a base, there are a couple more items you should consider.
• Berries (or Berry Jam) and Flatbread (or Bread) are a good supplementary food to bring with you into the Desert. Having your stomach spaces filled means massive boosts to health and stamina, especially with higher-level food. You will have access to a lot of Meat you can cook, and you can spend some time collecting Fish if you find a populated lake.
Alcohol consumables like Beer are a good idea for a Stamina-focused buff. After all, there is no ice for your Ice Box in the Desert aside from the transition zones with the Arctic. Nonperishable Berry Jam is a good companion to alcohol, but keep in mind that it’s a heavy item.
• Cloth Armor is an excellent choice for the Desert Biome, providing much-needed Heat and Exposure resistance bonuses, along with a +5% move speed when a full set is worn. If you have very limited Fiber due to starting your mission in the Desert, start with the Cloth Leg Armor and its +3% Heat Resistance.
• If you are level 15 or above and have some spare iron, craft yourself aLantern for the Desert. Replacing the torch is no longer a matter of making a quick run outside and back: gathering 40 Fiber to craft either a Rag Torch or a Wood Torch might take you a while and even require you to spend some time locating an oasis. Having a sickle helps, but carrying a Lantern is definitely a major convenience.
If you are dedicated to exploring and even settling in the Desert — keep on reading! We will discuss some ways you can venture deep and even set up a base that can be supported with mining and hunting within the biome itself.
What to Do in the Desert
Respawn points and a permanent outpost are much easier to set up in the Desert compared to the Arctic. The former helps with risky exploration, while the latter is an excellent way to extract and use the region’s resources, as well as prepare you for more involved missions.
Let’s talk about a process of securing a safe travel path through this region, with three different stages to support increasing distances of travel further into the biome while protecting yourself from its deadly elements.
Compared to the Arctic, you are less likely to accidentally die in the Desert. Still, if your mission relies on you carving your path through the region, respawning back by your starting lake because of a Lioness ambush could set you back by a significant amount of time. Let’s leave the animal question for later and talk about how you can improve your overall chances of success — by setting up an early respawn point.
Now, this approach might not be for you: if the mission timer is short, you might choose to approach the risk of the unknown by venturing in with a nearly empty inventory instead (leaving your equipment ready back at the base), and respawning if you happen to die in a battle with a better idea of what to expect.
However, with a little extra time on your hands, you might keep your best equipment on hand and leave rescue missions for times when they are needed. In this case,some food, a spare Longbow with some ammo, a Bone Knife, and a full Canteen and Oxygen Bladder can be stored in a Crate next to a respawn Bed set inside a small stone shelterlocated closer to the entrance, where animal population is less aggressive.
Keep in mind that your emergency supplies for rescuing your own body should match the difficulty level of the mission: if you expect to fight something big and mean and are bringing a Hunting Rifle with some herbal pastes, make sure to leave yourself some spares at your Desert respawn point.
Even after you develop a way of dealing with the predators of the region you will need to deal with cold nights and the weather: the heatwaves and the sandstorms. We will discuss more ways of dealing with the Desert’s climate later in the guide, but let’s start with the essential basics — seeking shelter.
If you like deploying your own shelter, you can go with the option of bringing some basic stone buildables into the Desert to create temporary resting stopsthroughout your trip. 4 Stone Walls and 2 Stone Floors (important: bring a Door or prepare to trap yourself inside a stone box) are a classic set that will be sufficient for up to 2 players. Unless you are so pressed for time as to power through the night in warm clothes, a Campfire and a Bedroll will also be needed to sleep through the dark.
Alternatively, there is always an option to unload some of the stone from you inventory and rely on your navigation: you canlocate and document a network of caves that have enough of them for you to get to one from any point during your travels. The shortcut to doing this would be to use one of the community maps documenting such caves (like IcarusIntel or IcarusBuilds) and always check which one is the closest whenever a storm warning comes up.
This is already a little more risky than the portable shelter method above, but if you are looking for extra challenge and want to put your perceptiveness to the test, you can always try and travel along the canyon wall looking for the next cave entrance. If you see a weather warning, you can try to fall back to your last discovered cave location.
The threshold for setting up a base in the Desert is significantly lower than in the Arctic, but still comes with a few logistical challenges. First of all, if you don’t want to deal with the Pneumonia debuff, you will want to build your base. If you don’t want to bring a heavy load of materials to do so, you will need to source some or them or all of them locally.
Anything that’s not a Glass or a Concrete construction will require Fiber, Wood, or both — and either can be a challenge to accumulate in the Desert Biome. Durable Stone construction doesn’t require Fiber, it is lenient when it comes to Wood, and its Leather is easy to source in the Desert, while Iron Nails can be easily carried on you or crafted from plenty of available ore nodes in one of the caves. Thankfully, Stone buildings are an excellent choice for the biome and its weather, so it’s only suitable that they are the easiest to craft here.
Of course, if you don’t mind bringing in a stack of antibiotic treatments (Tonic is sufficient, but you can bring Pills for prevention), there is no reason why you can’t save time and effort by establishing your base inside a cave. If anything, you can direct the resources you have saved towards setting down some workbenches and storage.
Which brings us to the second consideration of establishing a developed base inside the Desert: constructing or carrying in the workbenches.
Most of the Tier 2 benches will require a lot of Wood and Rope. The rope requirement can be satisfied if you have a Textiles Bench handy — there you can access the alternative recipe for Rope that uses Leather. Wood and Fiber however, might require some transportation from your home base or a nearby transition zone: even putting together a basic setup might leave you looking for more palm trees and desperately hitting every bush you see with a sickle.
If you bring a deployable Crafting Bench, some stacks of Wood, and a Textiles Bench (or unlock a talent to craft Rope inside your inventory), you might not need to scout oases to gather Wood, Sticks, and Fiber for your basic workbenches. Still, if you are dedicated to building an outfitted Desert outpost, bring your best axe and sickle to prepare for the worst.
While the cool caves might provide some relief, don’t be lulled into the feeling of safety: there are many more dangers in the desert waiting around the corner. As you venture deeper into the barren lands, be prepared for the blacksands to bare their teeth.
Desert Biome will typically be heavily populated with Antelopes and Chamois, but also Hyenas and Lionesses, with some Elephants patrolling around rivers and lakes. Transitioning from the Forest Biome, this variety and density of animals will require some preparation, but you won’t be facing as much danger from these animals as you would in the Arctic Biome.
Hyenas aren’t too different from Conifer Wolves in the Forest: they are slow enough after noticing you for you to land a couple more shots before their first strike. They have a relatively small health pool, and don’t tend to form packs larger than two or three.
Hyenas don’t call upon their brethren to fight alongside them, but keep in mind that nearby hyenas will join in the fight nonetheless.
It’s rare to fight more that two Hyenas at once, but it’s still a good practice to be aware of what animals are around you before you strike. Practice headshots to dispatch your targets quickly.
You are likely to do a lot of hunting in the Desert, so keep in mind that hyenas are still attracted to corpses and meat. If you prefer to avoid fighting, be quick to skin and gather (or destroy) meat.
Unlike the Conifer Wolves, the population of Hyenas in the Desert is pretty high, so use the empty field of vision to your advantage as you travel.
Thankfully, Lionesses are not the Bears of the Desert: otherwise their high population number in the biome would be quite a force to reckon with. Instead, they are a more clustered and stealthy version of Hyenas — not always easy to get the first hit on, but not too hard to take down if you carry a knife.
Lionesses are quiet and their appearance allows them to easily blend in with the surroundings, especially when they travel in the brush. This gives them an advantage: a few times you might be caught unaware by one or even two Lionesses due to their stealthy behavior. This means that they will get the first hit and you will need to dispatch your attackers very quickly to protect your health.
If you want to be extra cautious, having a higher-level knife (an Iron Knife or a Steel Knife, for example) or some Talents under the Blades tree is a good idea. Bottom line, bring Bandages, a variety of Food, and some Health Regen Paste to restore your HP after surprise encounters.
Big, mighty, but calm and slow. Elephants will attack if you get too close, which might cost you a good amount of health points, so try not to accidentally engage them. Thankfully, Elephants do not have a very aggressive behavior, so staying out of their way shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Stay out of the Elephant’s way unless you are quick on your feet or until you have a barricade in mind. The best location to lead an angry elephant to is a resilient barricade or an impassible chokepoint. Elephants can cross shallow water, but will not enter lakes. They move slowly, so you will have a lot of time to lead them to your target location.
Otherwise, Elephants are unlikely to engage until you are about 20-30 meters away, about a length of 1-2 large fallen trees. Easy to notice (uh… they are a bit large) and easy to avoid.
If you do engage an Elephant and get it caught in a barricade or a cave opening, aim for the top of its head to get Critical Hits, not its face.
As the ground around you is lifted into the air, sticking around to finish chopping that palm tree will not be an option. You will need to learn to shelter quickly once the warning hit if you don’t want to be overcome by Heavy Exposure slowing you down and dealing you damage, along with being Overheated, struggling with Stamina and running out of water all at once.
If you aren’t sure how to deal with storms on Icarus, we highly suggest you check out our dedicated Weather guide for a general overview.
Of course, aside from the actual storms there are also heatwaves and cold nights, which present opposite problems. Having a full Cloth Armor suit will help you endure these a little better, but is alone not enough to save you from the elements.
In our Weather guide we touch upon a very crucial aspect of storms in the more extreme biomes (which includes the Desert): Storm Exposure also means more susceptibility to the temperature — in this case, the heat. So, aside from an unpleasant package presented by the Heavy Desert Exposure, you might also have Overheating taking a hit at your Stamina and adding to the damage you are getting while crawling towards the shelter.
Never let yourself accumulate peak exposure in the Desert without a cave, a portable shelter, a transition zone, or a base nearby. You will quickly learn to not overestimate your capability to travel during a bad sandstorm. Hopefully that lesson will not involve dying, followed by a very inconvenient rescue mission.
Heatwaves are a weather event that significantly raise your body temperature — to a severe extreme outside, and to a lesser extent when sheltered. Highest level of Overheating deals damage, but leading up to that is increased water and stamina consumption. A short Heatwave will not be a major issue if you have some food and especially some spare water, but it can become a costly inconvenience if you try to power through it outside.
The best way to deal with a heatwave is inside a shelter, constantly resetting your Cooling status effect by taking a sip of water. Because your thirst meter is full, you will only consume a little bit from your container. The Cooling effect, meanwhile, will help you stave off Overheating, keeping thirst accumulation at a lower rate, which means that resetting the Cooling timer will remain cheap on your water reserves.
Nights in the Desert will come with a significant drop in temperature, leading to debuffs like Cold and Frosty if left untreated. A simple Campfire will quickly solve the issue. You might want to strategically inflict the milder effect if you want to decrease your water consumption through the night, but since it’s quite dark outside you might find it more effective to sleep until morning to preserve your resources.
If you find yourself unable to set up a Bedroll with a heat source due to an unfortunate circumstance, you can keep yourself somewhat warm with a burning Torch. Repairing a torch is costly in the Desert, it’s easier to get ambushed by predators when traveling during the night, and you will consume more food while Cold (while still consuming other resources), so try to plan ahead before the next sunset for better efficiency.
The Desert is the second of the biomes scarce in many of the resources you would find in the Forest. Some trees can be chopped for Wood and the underbrush can be gathered for Fiber and a handful of Sticks.
You won’t find any convenient Berry Bushes in the Desert, or most of the herbal components essential for crafting medicine (Lily, Wheat, or Yeast). Reed Flowers will be available around some of the sources of water. You can find some Young Coconuts on the palm trees and gather some wild Squash.
One type of resource you are guaranteed to have in abundance is animal materials. Hunting in the Desert is very easy due to the dense animal population and clear lines of sight. It will be harder not to encounter the animals in the region than to do the opposite. This makes Desert a desirable location for leveling your character.
Important tip for gathering Fiber and Reeds in the Desert: use a Sickle! Sickles make a major difference for harvesting, especially when a resource is scarce. A Bone Sickle is a great addition to any long-distance trek, since it’s the highest level of this tool that can still be easily repaired in a field.
Especially notable is the scarcity of water, essential for your basic needs, further exacerbated by the scorching heat.
We hope this guide on the ICARUS’s Desert biome was helpful! Please leave your own observations, ideas, and suggestions in the comments below, if you want us to include them.
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Dedicated contributor at EIP Gaming and a part-time collector of books she will never have time to actually read. Jumps on the newest releases just as quickly as on the uncovered dusty collections from the basement. For her, shiny graphics can never be an excuse to not have a polished player experience or an immersive story.