Starfield is finally here and it is big, complex, and often overwhelming. There are tons of menus to navigate, cities to get acquainted with, and skill trees to invest in, not to mention resource mining, base building, and ship customization. Before you get into any of that, however, let’s go over some basic tips and advice to get you started.
Starfield, out now on Xbox Series X/S and PC, is a sprawling sci-fi RPG where one minute you’re haggling with a barkeep for information and the next you’re shooting a bunch of space pirates and stealing all of their credits. But there’s a lot of minutiae to get lost in, from confusing menus to maps that don’t tell you where anything is. What follows is a quick guide with some tricks and shortcuts for surviving Starfield’s opening hours and beginning your journey into the outer reaches of the galaxy.
You can change it anytime by visiting an Enhance! shop and paying 500 credits. The nearest one at the start is in the commercial district in New Atlantis.
You never know when things might go wrong in Starfield. You might fail a persuasion roll or get jumped by giant aliens, or even accidentally crash your ship into the space station you’re trying to dock on. The game auto-saves but it’s not full-proof. It’s a Bethesda game, after all.
Starfield comes out of the gate with very loud and intense music. And that’s fine. But after about 20 minutes, I struggled to hear what people were saying. Looking at the default settings, voice volume isn’t as high as it probably should be, so knock that up a bit and turn music down a little, too. Trust me, you’ll still be able to hear it fine.
The first big fight in Starfield isn’t very hard and the game quickly pushes you to leave. But first, go grab at least one assault rifle (and some other goodies) off those pirates you just wasted.
Speaking of looting stuff, feel free to grab everything and just dump it on the robot who partners up with you in the early hours of Starfield. Like in previous Bethesda games, your companions are pack mules with dialogue trees. Use ‘em! To do so, just chat with the bot (or other companions) and ask to trade items.
Aiming near cover will have you pop out in a way that feels unlike any previous Bethesda RPG. Sure, dynamic cover like this has been around since 2012-ish, but hey, I’m not going to complain about Starfield having good combat compared to Fallout 4 and Skyrim.
The Cutter you get at the very beginning is deceptively great in battle. It works on a cooldown with unlimited ammo, and can stun-lock enemies at close range. Pull it out every now and again to save precious bullets early on.
Early on in the game, Starfield tells you to go into your menus to put on your helmet. You might be mistaken and think you have to do that every time you want to take it off or put it on. (And you need it out in space to live.) But nope! Just leave it and your suit on, then go into the inventory section for each. You’ll find an option at the bottom of the screen letting them disappear automatically when not needed, like in towns or stations. No more running around cities looking like a giant dork!
If you don’t want to waste all your resources fighting through every encounter, make sure to put some points into persuasion. It will increase the odds that you can talk people down from fights and generally make it much easier to manipulate people, which is why you’re playing this game, right?
The game won’t check you while you’re pawning off all your loot so spam that sell button with caution.
You don’t always have to navigate through your cumbersome star chart to get to a new planet. If you want to go to the next location for a mission and you’ve already been there before, simply use the “select course” option from the pause menu to automatically head to the destination.
Starfield basically gives you detective vision. In addition to scanning planets, your helmet sensor will also scan everything right in front of you, highlighting nearby enemies and valuable loot. This is also how you survey fauna for extra XP. Plus, you can use it to find your ship’s location on the horizon and instantly fast travel to it.
Sleeping will fully heal you and also give you a “well-rested” bonus that increases the rate at which you earn XP.
You can upgrade guns, suits, and helmets as well as cook food in this game. But you’ll need to do some research first. You’ll need some materials, like iron and fiber, but once you have some you can unlock new mods and things to craft, letting you improve guns and make good suits even better.
So be careful, they’re hard to come by!
You don’t just have to give all of your extra items to companions or throw them on the floor, you can also store them in the ship’s cargo hold by selecting it from the ship part of the menu (bottom left). It’s not unlimited but it has more than enough room in the beginning.
As far as I can tell, in the first few hours of the game at least, Starfield doesn’t say anything about favoriting weapons. But you should totally do that! Like in past Bethesda games, you can map guns, medkits, knives, and more to your d-pad and then quickly switch weapons during combat without needing to open the game’s (not great) menus. Simply replace an item with something else to change up your favorites.
Battles in Starfield can be tough, especially early on. And if you don’t have many medpacks to heal your wounds, you might end up in a bad situation. However, many outposts and enemy camps contain beds that you can sleep in to heal back up to full HP.
You can’t sleep in active combat so you’ll need to hide from the AI a bit if enemies are around, but that’s usually pretty easy. You can also sleep after big fights, before moving deeper into the location, so as not to waste medpacks.
In Starfield contraband items—marked with a yellow icon—are very valuable but also tricky to sell, as any time you warp into UC or Freestar space you’ll be scanned for these items. And if you have some on your ship, you’ll be in a lot of trouble.
However, you can install (or find a ship that includes) a shielded cargo hold that will let you smuggle these items around with less threat of being caught and sent to space jail.
There are moments in Starfield where you’ll need to persuade an NPC, perhaps to get what you want or to make them change their mind. While I recommend leveling up your Persuasion skill, you can also make these moments easier by consuming chems or booze that boost your Persuasion ability for a short time.
Speaking of chems, always carry some Amp on you. This chem lets you move faster for a short amount of time and is very useful for exploring planets, as Bethesda didn’t include any ground vehicles in Starfield.
Your first ship in Starfield isn’t great! But that’s okay because there’s an excellent spaceship just waiting to be grabbed via a short and fun questline involving a legendary slayer of pirates.
Being overencumbered sucks! And it can happen easily in the early hours of the game. To avoid this, make sure you check your entire inventory for heavy items. You can do this by selecting all items in your inventory screen and then sorting everything by weight.
Keep an eye out for ship parts, which are useful on your ship, but worthless and very heavy paperweights in your character’s inventory.
No story spoilers here, but trust us: Play the main questline. You don’t necessarily need to finish it right away—even if there is some cool stuff waiting for you in new game+—but definitely make progress in it. Not only are the story quests pretty good all around, but you’ll unlock some…extra things worth having.
Once you unlock the jetpack (or the boostpack as it’s called in-game) use it! This can help speed up traversal on planets with low gravity as you can fly long distances by timing your jets properly, letting your stamina recharge in the process.
If you’ve played a lot of Bethesda games, you know that being able to lockpick and hack anything can be extremely useful. And that’s the case here in Starfield. Even better, the digital lockpicking skill covers both doors and computers. Level it up ASAP so you can unlock better loot and find easier routes during some quests.
Another tip I’ve picked up from past Bethesda games: Always be buying lockpicks and health kits. Seriously, make it a habit to check for these items every time you arrive at a shop or meet up with a merchant.
Being able to drop off all your resources and heavy, valuable loot at your ship is handy! However, you’ll quickly run out of room in your cargo hold if you don’t upgrade it. While there is a perk you can upgrade to improve your ship’s cargo capacity, I recommend installing more storage units on your ship.
You can do this at any port with a ship tech NPC, and it’s not very expensive. Just open up the ship builder, grab some cargo storage containers, and attach them to your starship. Now you can carry even more random junk you find during your galactic adventures.
Update 9/7/2023 4:05 p.m. ET: After playing more Starfield, we’ve added 11 more tips to this list!