How to build the best ships in Starfield

The ship builder interface in Starfield.
(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

One of the easiest ways to find yourself falling behind in Starfield is to not customise your ship properly. If you're struggling with ship battles and frustrated by grav-jumping, chances are it's because your hardware isn't keeping up with your character level.

Starfield ship building can be a real pain, and it's not always clearly explained—but once you get to grips with its idiosyncrasies, you'll have a much better time in the game. So let me explain what you need to know.

Where to customize your ship

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

To start customizing your ship in Starfield, just head to your nearest space dock. New Atlantis is the one you'll get access to first, and is a nice, reliable place to go (fast travel to the point simply called "New Atlantis" and you'll be there). You can also customise your ship at Akila City and Neon, as well as commercial shipyards—more on those later.

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Once you arrive at the dock, find an NPC called a Ship Services Technician and speak to them. Ask to "view and modify my ships", and you'll be taken to the relevant screen, where you can buy parts and attach them. 

From here, you've got two options: you can either use the Upgrade Ship feature, or head into the Ship Builder. Upgrade Ship provides a simpler interface that lets you just directly replace parts with others—for example swapping out a weapon for a different one. But it makes it confusing to see exactly what's going to make your ship better, and it's lacking in versatility. 

Ship Builder is where you want to be, because here you can customize your ship down to the fine details—moving modules around, bolting on new ones, and even changing the entire shape of your ship. It can be time-consuming (and burn a lot of credits) but it's the best way to build a killer ship. Get to grips with it, and you won't really ever have to worry about buying the game's prebuilt ships—you can simply recreate their functions (and even their looks, if you like) yourself, module by module. 

Getting started with ship building

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

The first thing to know is that customizing your ship is expensive. It helps that you can just make a few changes at a time, but if you want to do some serious tweaking, you'll want to have at least 30,000 credits in your pocket, to give you good options. 

Assuming you've got the cash, the galaxy is your oyster—pick out the best parts you can use and start bashing them together. Ships are basically like Lego, they're just made of different kinds of blocks stuck together. Parts are separated into categories, from habs (areas crew can move through) to engines to reactors, so you can easily navigate to the bit you need.

The key puzzle of ship customization in Starfield comes down to mass. Basically, this is your ship's weight, and it creates a bit of a balancing act. Every part you add increases mass, which reduces your mobility (how fast you can fly and maneuver). To get your mobility back up, you need to add more engines, which further increase your ship's mass, which then affects your grav jump range. Get too heavy, and you can't jump at all. So you then need a more powerful grav drive, which increases your mass, which reduces your mobility…

In other words, it can be a bit of a vicious circle, so the key is finding the right balance—and you'll find that's easier to do with better, more expensive ship parts. 

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

What really helps is to try and build as efficiently as possible. Sad as it is, if you want the best performance, I recommend throwing all concern for your ship's looks out the window, and concentrating completely on the best use of space. Use as few structure parts as possible (parts that exist purely to help you connect other parts together), only keep habs that you really need, don't tack on more cargo modules than you need, and prioritize replacing parts with better ones over having too many multiples of the same part. 

The one advantage of big, slow ships is a higher hull. This is basically the health bar of your ship, and it's increased by having more parts. I've found, however, that it's almost always better to be lighter and faster with a good shield rather than go all-in on the hull. You'll get hit less, and you won't have to spend as many credits on ship repairs and weapon parts.  

Ship errors

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Starfield won't let you leave the dock with a ship that won't work properly, so you need to get to know its rules. If your ship breaks them, they'll come up as errors—go to "Flight Check" to see a full explanation of what's wrong.

Some of the most common errors you'll run into relate to your docking module. This is the part that allows you to dock with ships and space stations, and it's a little… fussy. Basically, it always needs to be both the highest point on your ship, and connected to your cockpit by hab modules. 

This means that the easiest way to build a ship is often to just make it long and flat, so that you can just keep everything below the height of your docking module without having to stack a load of habs underneath it.

Other common sources of errors include:

  • You can't have more than three weapons. 
  • Any weapons you add have to be assigned to a group (go to Flight Check, then the Weapons tab).
  • Some modules you can only have one of—such as reactors, grav drives, and cockpits.
  • Heavier ships need more landing gear parts. Note that you don't have to have an even number, only enough to support your ship's mass—my ship currently has five.
  • The number of individual guns and engines you can use is dependent on how much power is available to them from your reactor.
  • Landing bays need to be connected to your cockpit by habs—otherwise, you can't get off the ship.

Ship parts availability

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Different docks have different ship parts available, so it makes sense to shop around to get the best ones. The Stroud-Ecklund Staryard in the Narion System, for example, has a bunch of modules that are simply better than the ones available in New Atlantis. So don't always just go back to the same place for your customising. 

Which parts you can actually use is governed by two skills: Piloting (Tech), which restricts what classes of ship you can fly, and Starship Design (Tech), which unlocks the ability to install better components. 

Robin Valentine
Senior Editor

Formerly the editor of PC Gamer magazine (and the dearly departed GamesMaster), Robin combines years of experience in games journalism with a lifelong love of PC gaming. First hypnotised by the light of the monitor as he muddled through Simon the Sorcerer on his uncle’s machine, he’s been a devotee ever since, devouring any RPG or strategy game to stumble into his path. Now he's channelling that devotion into filling this lovely website with features, news, reviews, and all of his hottest takes.