Starfield doesn’t have a whole lot of in-game options to mess with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak the game to be a bit more immersive. After playing a number of hours, I’ve discovered a few ways to make that big ‘ol galaxy feel a bit more spacious and help you feel like the game’s simulated worlds are a little less on rails.
Note that these settings are for the more die-hard role-player. If you’re just looking to have a breezier, less confusing time, the game’s default settings are likely best for you. Also, there are some downsides to playing the game this way, so I’ll mention a few considerations to ponder alongside each rec.
Look, I’m sure that 300 years in the future will see remarkable advancements in augmented reality visualizations. Bethesda went above and beyond with packing in a ton of detail into this sci-fi epic. The game offers a wonderful visual tapestry of science fiction to take in, ranging from ultra-detailed airlock mechanisms to detailed computer screens, keyboards, even just switches and buttons. Like Alien: Isolation, a good chunk of the joy of Starfield is found simply soaking in its art direction. It’s world class.
And you know what makes that all harder to pay attention to? When a silly blue hexagon floats in your vision basically saying to the player “go here, then go here, then go here.” Ignore that thing. Stop and take in the vistas! Rely on city and ship signage to get where you’re going. Heading to the Freestar Collective Embassy by looking for the street signs and the actual building itself means that you’re navigating the world by actually looking at the world, instead of just following a dot. You can disable floating markers in Settings > Interface.
There’s a big catch here. Without that floating marker, certain quest objectives might be hard to find. Aside from relying on the environment itself to find your way, you can always open up your scanner to see a set of arrows pointing you in the right direction. However, those arrows aren’t always accurate (they’ve sent me to the wrong place before), and sometimes they just don’t show up for whatever reason.
The direction of the objective, also, will always appear on your HUD radar, so at least you’ll get a sense of which general direction you’re supposed to go.
I do this in every Bethesda game: I can’t stand having that little dot there right in the center of my vision 24/7/365. Again, maybe in the future we all have crosshairs in our ocular implants or whatever, but I find it woefully distracting. Removing it also makes needing to aim-down-sights on your weapons more essentia. You can kill the omnipresent crosshair in Settings > Interface.
But as with killing the floating markers, there are a few considerations here. To start, picking up small objects can sometimes be a little tricky without a dot to center on it. Also, if you like playing in third-person (it’s pretty cool in this game), you won’t have any crosshair. As someone who switches regularly between first and third-person, I happen to find the challenge of aiming my shots without a crosshair more intense, thus making firefights more heated. You can activate your scanner to serve as a temporary crosshair to pick up smaller items, however.
Even if you do find some charm in Starfield’s soundtrack, shutting the music removes a kind of narrative cushion that lets you know you’re playing a game with a set story. The result? What you hear is entirely in the here and now. You can zero the soundtrack Settings > Audio.
Hearing just the bustle of a city, the howl of a barren, windswept planet, the call of alien creatures as you approach, the violent echoes of gunshots and explosions…all of this is centered when you kill the music.
And don’t worry, the diegetic music your character hears when picking up an artifact will still play just fine.
You know what doesn’t exist in reality? Film grain. Look, as a lover of motion blur, film grain, and the joys of chromatic aberration, this one hurts me a little bit. But like killing the soundtrack, removing film grain (which you can do on PC and Xbox), makes for a clearer image and really makes the night sky pop. You can turn off film grain in Settings > Display.
However, with FSR 2 enabled, certain visual elements (building signs in particular) exhibit a kind of funkiness that I sometimes find film grain helps make less obvious. Good thing film grain is a slider here, not a toggle.
This one may be non-negotiable for you, which if so, that’s totally valid. But Starfield defaults to running subtitles during dialogue, which for someone like me, means I just end up reading it instead of looking at what’s going on on the screen. By removing this option, all you have to absorb the dialogue are your ears.
Again, for accessibility reasons (which Starfield is inexcusably lacking in), this might be an essential feature. But if you can go without it, I recommend considering it. You’ll find the subtitle options in Settings > Accessibility.
Starfield has a few other options to consider turning off, or leaving off. One such as the “Show Item Information in HUD” in the Interface options. By killing this, you won’t get the big item card that tells you every possible detail about a piece of gear. Instead, you’ll see a smaller prompt that just lists the item’s name, value, and weight.
Also, you should probably leave damage numbers off and maybe, if you’re feeling really brave, kill the entire HUD by way of setting the opacity to zero.
And if you’re playing in third person, know that you can hide your armor while in settlements by going to your currently equipped armor in your inventory and pressing RB (T on keyboard). You can also choose to hide your helmet in breathable environments by going to your equipped helmet in your inventory and hitting RB (T on keyboard). Note that if you’re wearing a suit with a fixed helmet, you can’t select this last option.
Though it’s still very early days—Starfield won’t be getting its official mod creation toolkit until next year—this is a Bethesda game, so the community is already popping off with hundreds upon hundreds of fan-made modifications that can alter your experience. (Currently, user mods are only supported on Windows. Sorry, Xbox peeps.)
A growing number of mods attempt to make the game more “immersive” or “realistic,” and can often go a lot further than the vanilla game alone lets you. A small selection of early such offerings includes…
- Silent Sounds - Immersive Gameplay removes lots of little sound effects and fanfares, such as when you level up.
- Immersive Damage rebalances combat so enemies on higher difficulties are no longer bullet sponges. There are a bunch of mods that attempt this, each with different pros and cons. (Without official modding tools, creators are somewhat limited in what values they can tweak.)
- Enhanced Dialogue Interface lets you style the conversation UI in various ways, some of which look more subdued than the default look.
- Immersive Shell Casings lets thousands of spent bullet casings spill all over the floor and stick around for quite a while. Protracted firefights can lead to quite a mess.
- Isn’t it weird how your character climbs up onto ledges at the speed of light? Immersive Mantle Animation Speed makes them slow their roll.
- There are a number of HUD-tweaking mods too. Immersive Combat HUD, for example, tries to remove everything that’s not strictly essential. Other mods tone down or completely remove those very prominent “hit markers” that flash up when you land shots.
That’s just a taste. If you’re playing on PC and want to enhance your Starfield experience further, modding comes highly recommended.
Starfield is an engrossing game that could benefit from offering the player a few additional options. Still, you can tweak the options it does include to dial down the “gamey” parts of the visual presentation for a more immersive experience.