For the best Starfield experience, don't blow up enemy ships: board them

Combat on a spaceship
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Typically in Bethesda RPGs I'm a stealth guy. I'm the dweeb who spent 200 hours of Oblivion crabwalking through in the shadows, dispatching enemies with sneak attacks and poisoned arrows. Hell, I was so stealthy I once pickpocketed a scroll from an assassin's butthole through a jail cell door without him noticing. I didn't even have to take his pants off.

But in Starfield I'm not so much about stealth. I prefer a straight-up fight. And the best place to find those fights isn't in abandoned research labs or pirate-controlled mining facilities or even massive orbiting space stations. The best place for firefights is aboard enemy ships.

I know it's tempting when you're in a dogfight in outer space to keep on firing until your enemy explodes and leaves a bit of loot hovering amidst the wreckage. But restrain yourself. Be discriminating with your missiles and lasers. Disable that ship, don't destroy it. You'll thank me later.

Disabling ships isn't all that easy at first, but even without sinking a skill point into the Targeting Control System skill, it's achievable. Blast away at a ship with missiles and lasers until its shields are down, and then womp on it exclusively with EM weapons. You can usually disable it before it's completely destroyed, and then board it. 

Once you do have the Targeting Control Systems skill, it's even easier. Keep a target in sight while the meter fills up, tap R when it does, and then time slows down (almost VATS-like) and you can exclusively target your enemy's engines. As soon as they go red, you can stop blasting and start boarding.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

I'll admit that at first the ships you take on early in Starfield won't be all that much fun to board and raid because they'll be small. Climbing a single ladder, walking down a lone corridor, and quickly murdering a couple spacers hunkered down in the cockpit isn't particularly exciting.

But keep at it. As you level up you'll start facing off against much, much bigger ships, ships with multiple levels, with ladders and doors and hatches to navigate. Some ships are a huge, sprawling network of modules to stalk through, often with well over a dozen enemies just waiting for you to stick your head around the wrong corner. Starfield's spaceships feel like big videogame levels, with tight corridors that feel a bit claustrophobic but enough wider hab modules that you wind up with a bit of elbow room.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Best of all your radar is almost worthless, because on a ship four or five levels tall, those red enemy pips could be right in front of you or three levels above you. Climb up a ladder into a module and you have no idea if enemies will be waiting, or what direction they'll be attacking from. So, forget your HUD and embrace the chaos. Go from room to room like a commando, clearing the ship module by module, dropping spacers and Va'ruun cultists until you're the only one standing. Then climb a ladder to the next level and do it all over again. 

Boarding ships is the best part of Starfield, at least when it comes to combat. Some ships even have automated defenses like turrets that will blast away as you attempt to slink down a corridor, really making you feel like you're invading a flying enemy stronghold. 

(Image credit: Bethesda)

And while those frantic firefights are their own reward, you're also gonna walk away with a lot of extra loot. Help yourself to the cargo, all of it, instead of what gets parceled out when you blow a ship up. And don't forget that every ship in Starfield has a captain's locker in or near the cockpit: it's a special container separate from the main cargo hold that's usually got a nice stash of credits, ammo, and other goodies. Help yourself! You've earned it.

Since you've cleared the ship it's now yours, provided you've got the skill to fly it. While commandeering ships isn't really a moneymaker—you'll have to spend money to register it, and selling will only net you a few grand on top of the registration fee—it still feels badass. Or you can keep it and add it to your fleet, just like a real pirate would. Good hunting, and remember: don't blow 'em up. Board 'em.


Starfield guide: Our hub of advice
Starfield traits: The full list, with our top picks
Starfield companions: All your recruitable crew
Starfield romance options: Space dating
Starfield console commands: Every cheat you need
Starfield mods: Space is your sandbox

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.