As an RPG, Starfield is all about statistics and chance. Combat, persuasion, crafting, lock-picking, virtually every activity has some matrix of math behind it. But unlike previous Bethesda games in which you often earned progress in a Skill for simply performing its associated action, Starfield only lets you get better at a specific Skill once you’ve purchased a specific Skill with a Skill Point. Only then will you be able to undertake a new “Challenge” and resume working toward the Skill’s next Rank.
How Starfield Skills work isn’t totally obvious at first. For example, some Challenges require you to perform a task a certain number of times—but if you haven’t unlocked that Challenge, you could be doing the activities and gaining zero progress toward that Challenge. As a result it’s easy to spin your wheels without actually making progress in a given area of expertise. This guide will break down how the Skill system works, offer best practices for making the most of your time, and tell you which Skills we think are the most essential, or are at least worth considering.
When starting a new character, your chosen biographical background will give you access to three different Skills right off the bat. There are over a dozen backgrounds to choose from. Some good general ones include Combat Medic, Explorer, Long Hauler, Soldier, Space Scoundrel, and [FILE NOT FOUND], but it’s best to pick a background that offers a set of Skills that’ll work best with your intended playstyle. You can unlock the first Rank of any Skill with a Skill Point, which you’ll earn every time you level up. Then investing further Skill Points unlocks the Skill’s additional Ranks, each of which comes with a Challenge you must complete before progressing it further.
Every Skill can be progressed through four Ranks, and each Rank requires a specific Challenge that typically requires you to do a specific task enough times. Once you’ve completed the Challenge, you can spend another Skill Point to unlock a new Rank, which will improve that Skill and offer a new Challenge.
When pulling up the Skills menu, you can see which Skills are ready to Rank up by observing which ones shimmer.
While it’s best to choose skills that match your desired playstyle, there are quite a few that are beneficial no matter what build you’re going for. Some Skills earn progress from more common activities, like shooting enemies with a certain kind of weapon, while others require more intentional actions, like picking a lock.
Whether you earn them from your background or from unlocking them with Skill Points, these are some of the most essential Skills to consider grabbing early on:
- Weight Lifting: Lets you carry more objects; Challenges ask you to carry 75 percent of your total mass while running
- Wellness: Grants you more health; Challenges ask you to use healing items
- Commerce: Lets you buy for less and sell for more; Challenges ask you to sell a certain number of items
- Persuasion: Increases your chances of Persuading NPCs; Challenges ask you to succeed at Persuasion tasks
- Scavenging: Increases the likelihood of finding various items around the galaxy; Challenges ask you to loot containers
- Ballistics or Lasers: Increases your damage with either projectile or laser-based weapons; Challenges ask you kill enemies with this specific ammo type
- Any weapon certification of your choice: Choices include Pistol Certification, Rifle Certification, Shotgun Certification, Heavy Weapons Certification, and Sniper Certification, which increase damage with a select weapon type; Challenges ask you to kill a certain number of enemies with them
- Medicine: Increases the effectiveness of healing items like Med Packs, Trauma Packs, and Emergency Kits; Challenges ask you to use healing items while wounded)
- Surveying: Increases the zoom level on your scanner and lets you scan objects at greater distances; Challenges task you with scanning unique resources, flora, and fauna
- Boost pack training: Increases the fuel efficiency of your jetpack with each Rank; Challenges ask you to use your boost pack a certain number of times while in combat
- Security: Lets you hack Advanced locks and increase the amount of Auto attempts available; Challenges ask you to pick a certain number of locks
These are far from the only Skills available to you, but as you can see, they cover a variety of activities you’re already likely to engage in simply from playing the game, such as killing enemies and looting containers. Certain synergistic Skills can earn Challenge progress at the same time. Combat skills, for example, often require you to kill enemies, which means you’re likely to be taking damage. Combined with Wellness or Medicine, which grow when you heal, you will be earning progress in multiple Skills simply by getting into fights.
Likewise, Scavenging, Weight Lifting, and Commerce also work together, as you’ll earn Challenge progress for looting, carrying excess materials, and then selling them to a vendor. And if you’re into stealing stuff, Stealth and Lockpicking can also progress while you’re out grabbing everything throughout the galaxy that isn’t nailed down.
Finally, there is no level cap in Starfield, though progress kinda slows down once you reach higher levels. While there’s no way to respec, the fact that you can max out every single Skill means you can feel safe trying one out to see if it fits your style. No big deal if it doesn’t pan out, as plenty more Skill Points are on the way.