With one million, gazillion hours of content in Starfield, a couple hiccups at the beginning of a playthrough probably won't sink your character in the long run, but why waste any time? Here are a few tips, tricks, and under-explained systems in the game that we wish we had a better handle on before starting our playthroughs.
If something doesn't work, it's because you don't have the skill
Many of Starfield's gameplay features like stealth, boost packs, or even using your ship's thrusters for a boost require a skill investment to even access them, a big change from previous Bethesda games like Fallout 4 or Oblivion. For example, if you drop into that classic sneaky boy crouch walk without any points in stealth, you won't get any sort of [Hidden] indicator on screen or find yourself particularly concealed from your enemies until you drop some points on your stealth skill.
You can still use guns and pick novice locks without any skill points—helpful, since weapons like assault and sniper rifles are locked to higher tiers of the skill tree. As a note: you have to complete challenges to level skills up past the first rank, and these challenges are not retroactive. "Kill 20 guys with pistols" to reach rank two of pistol training doesn't start counting until you've bought rank one.
There's currently no way to "favorite" a planet, so keep track of ones you like
Some of Starfield's 1,000 planets are extremely cool, but there's no quick and easy way to save favorites to come back to later—this feels like prime territory for a QoL mod or an early patch from Bethesda.
Until such a time, you can found outposts on planets you want to return to—your bases get a little icon on the star map to help you find your way. You're limited to eight bases though (16 with rank four Planetary Habitation skill), so even this is kind of a stopgap. At the end of the day, old-fashioned pen and paper might be your best bet for keeping track of choice worlds.
Load up on traits
One of the coolest things we've found in Starfield is how impactful the starting traits are. A good number of them introduce new quests and characters to the game in a way not dissimilar to the legendary Wild Wasteland trait from Fallout: New Vegas.
In his Starfield review, Chris made special note of how charming he found his retiree parents provided by the "Kid Stuff" trait, while the one that ties you to the Cult of the Serpent seems like a fantastic entry point for one of Starfield's most enigmatic factions. With all that story content on the table, I say don't leave a single trait slot empty.
Some things feel way better on a gamepad
I'm still not firmly decided on whether I'll go all-in on playing Starfield with my Xbox controller, but certain aspects of the game feel much better on twin sticks. For one thing, your toggled walk speed on M&K is glacial compared to previous Bethesda games, while you can reach a much more comfortable clip by gently pushing on an analogue stick.
Even more tempting are the starship controls on gamepad. I've been getting more and more used to them on mouse and keyboard, but I found that even on a quick test dogfighting feels more natural and intuitive with a controller—the awkwardness of using the A and D keys to twist in the air while turning with the mouse was significantly reduced on a pad.
Your scanner knows the way, but don't always trust objective markers (at least for now)
When you pull up your handy dandy scanner, you'll also get a little lit-up arrow path on the ground leading to your currently selected quest objective—this can be especially helpful in Starfield's more urban settlements, which as of yet don't have more detailed in-game maps.
There's a catch, though. We've found those quest markers will sometimes behave like impish little tricksters, flitting back and forth between different parts of the map. My own personal Waterloo was having a number of quests in New Atlantis point me to the city's public transportation system, assuming I had unlocked the necessary fast travel points to reach my destination.
After some struggle, I eventually found the way to my parents' apartment by striking out into the city on my own, ignoring the quest marker until it updated, all-too-late, as I approached their New Atlantis pied-à-terre. Sometimes you've just gotta pull a Dark Knight Rises and climb without the rope, man.
Blow up asteroids for fun and profit
One of the first things you do in Starfield is learn how to use a mining laser, and you can pull it out on any of the hundreds of planets you land on to do a quick bit of resource gathering. But you don't have to quit your mining habits just because you're in outer space. While you're in your ship orbiting a planet, you'll occasionally wind up in an asteroid field. Fire away. Using missiles or laser you can quickly blow up large asteroids, and then target the resources (by tapping E) to collect them. It's cool way to fill up on iron, titanium, and lots of other useful resources.
In most RPG shooters, buying ammo is a scam because you find lots out in the field. Not so much the case in Starfield, at least for some of our editors who've been playing. There are tons of ammo types, and since most groups of enemies favor just a small handful of guns, you're likely to end up with a few favorite weapons that are constantly starved for ammo. Get ahead of it by visiting weapon stores in Starfield's major cities and outposts, filtering by ammo, and buying loads of it for your rarer guns, like high-caliber revolvers, sniper rifles, and particle beam weapons.
Cheaters do, in fact, prosper
Gamebryo/Creation Engine console commands, my dear old friend. As outlined in our guide to Starfield's cheats and console commands, all the stars are here: tgm (toggle god mode), tcl (toggle collision), player.additem, and more have awoken from their long slumber to shepherd us on our playthroughs. Just tap the tilde (~) key, slap away Bethesda's warning about achievements being disabled, and get to cheating.
A particular favorite of ours has been player.setav CarryWeight [new weight limit #], a command to ratchet up your carry weight limit. Why invest your precious skill points in Starfield's Weight Lifting skill when you can just go for the pure digital trenbolone of player.setav CarryWeight?
Outside the realm of pure cheater cheater pumpkin eater skulduggery, that noclip command, tcl can be a genuinely useful tool for getting out of sticky situations. If you find yourself clipping on terrain or infinitely falling into the skybox under the map, a cheeky tcl followed by flying back to a point of safety could save you a quickload.