Here's Something Returnal Absolutely Doesn't Tell You
You'll need a lot of different upgrades to access all the side paths in Returnal, but the lighter orange force fields might confuse you. Here's how to deal with them.
One of the first Metroid-like upgrades you get in Returnal is the Atropian Blade, a sword that gives you a melee attack. It also allows you to destroy red force fields that sometimes block your path, and more often, protect enemies from your guns. But not long after you encounter red force fields you can slice through with your sword, you'll start to find orange force fields blocking doors that your sword apparently can't handle.
The good news is, you don't need to fight deep into Returnal's biomes to earn another permanent upgrade to your sword to breach those force fields. Though Returnal never makes it clear, there is a way to knock out orange force fields that doesn't require you to beat any bosses or unlock new biomes.
How To Break Orange Door Barriers
To deal with this second brand of force fields, you need a specific artifact called "Balanced Blade." You can find the gear-shaped artifact in fabricators, in chests, or in random drops from enemies. When you get the upgrade, you'll increase the power of your melee attacks, while also being able to break orange force fields just like red ones by slashing them with your sword--and most of the time, when you clear an orange force field, you'll find a room full of health, weapon, or suit upgrades that will make any given run a little easier.
Balanced Blade is an artifact, which means that even when you find it, you'll lose it if you die or give up on a run and return to Helios. That means you should try to seek it out when you start new runs; it's most often available at the four-item fabricators found in hub areas in each of the biomes. Balanced Blade seems like an artifact you can skip, but because it allows you to open up those orange force fields, it's a pretty good upgrade to prioritize. It usually pays for itself with the upgrades you'll find in the rooms it walls off. Especially if you've already seen orange force fields on a run in early biomes, you should try to remember to snag it.
If orange force fields seem thin in your early biomes, feel free to skip this one. But it's always a good idea to keep track of where Balanced Blade is located, just in case you need it.