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Starfield is a massive game with lots of skills for players to unlock, similar to past Bethesda titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With so many skills in the game, you could spend hundreds of hours just trying to unlock each of them and their various ranks. Thankfully, you can make this easier by picking the right background for you. You can find this through the best backgrounds in Starfield guide.
The best backgrounds in Starfield guide was made from my almost 50 hours of playing the game at this point. I am pretty familiar by now with every skill in the game and how useful (or not) they are. As such, it is essential you pick the right background to not waste your time on skills you don’t need. These are the ten that I think you should stick to.
Bottom Line Up Front
Backgrounds in Starfield are what I like to call your starting class in a way. While you don’t have basic classes in this game, your background does determine your initial three skills. There are a lot of skills in this title, so it is hard to unlock all of them. As such, you want to pick the right ones for you.
This is why it is imperative you pick the right background at the start of the game with skills you like. In addition to determining your skills, some of the backgrounds give you specific conversation choices and options you wouldn’t usually have access to depending on the situation.
All Backgrounds in Starfield Explained
There is a grand total of around 18 different backgrounds you can pick in Starfield. Each of them has a different storyline about who you are in the universe and what three initial skills you start with. Some are inherently better than others by a long shot. But here are all of the backgrounds you can find and choose during the character creation process in Starfield:
- Bounty Hunter
- Combat Medic
- Cyber Runner
- Long Hauler
- Space Scoundrel
- File Not Found
With 18 different starting backgrounds to pick in Starfield, you might not be surprised to know that some of them aren’t the best. Thankfully, though, the top half of the list features some surprisingly great options that anyone would be great off with. As such, it made ranking them quite tough.
Here are the selection criteria I used to rank these top ten backgrounds in Starfield:
- Skills: This is the most important part of deciding which background to go with. If all three skills or at least most of them aren’t worth getting or considering, they aren’t on this list.
- Background Story: While this is a bit less important, the actual storyline of your character with that background is nice, too. Some stories could help determine what background you want.
- Versatility: Some of the skills for certain backgrounds are too similar to one another. Some of the best backgrounds vary up their skills, giving options for different gameplay features like combat, ships, and exploration.
Tips for Picking Your Background in Starfield
Before you ever begin Starfield and pick your background in this game, here are some quick tips I have for you so that you don’t make any mistakes in choosing your background:
- Go with your gut. If there are skills that make the most sense to you, go with them.
- In the same vein, don’t let the actual background storyline affect you too much. For instance, I picked Diplomat, which might not be my number one actual character history, but the skills aligned best with what I wanted for my character.
- In the end, don’t worry too much about your background. While the three initial skills are crucial, especially for any time before you level up for the first time, they are tiny in the overall pool of skills. You can always make up for that down the road.
- Security, security, security. If there is a skill you should have no matter who you are, it’s Security. While you can return to initial locations and pick their locks, this is valuable in the earlier parts of the game. Persuasion would be a close second.
- Roleplay matters. If you are more about the identity of your character and their history, you can still base your background on that alone.
- Finally, if you don’t know what to pick and don’t like any of the background histories, go with File Not Found. It is so unique compared to all of the others.
Best Backgrounds in Starfield Ranked
Without further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at the top ten backgrounds in Starfield you should know about. These are the backgrounds that are most worth your time. I should also note that this is one of the closest rankings I’ve ever done. Pretty much any background from number seven or eight is millimeters away from the entries after them.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the backgrounds on this list, but don’t feel bad if the one you want isn’t here; you can still pick it for the best roleplay possibilities. Let’s get started.
- Initial Skills: Medicine, Geology, and Persuasion
- Backstory Description: You make excellent use of your hands for sculpting art pieces, but your talent could even work as a surgeon.
This is one of the oddest backgrounds you can pick in Starfield, especially when you dig into the strange mix of skills and the backstory. You are a sculptor and an artist, which is a fun idea, meaning you are great with your hands. But you are so talented; you could have been a surgeon.
This is why you have this mix where you are terrific with geology since you can meld rocks into whatever art piece you want, but you are also able to use medicine at the same time. The Persuasion part is the most surprising addition since it feels random and out of place in this group.
However, I’m not complaining, as Persuasion and Medicine are two of the better skills for you to pick in this game. If you like an artistic flair and want to be a charming person at the same time, this is a solid background.
9. Combat Medic
- Initial Skills: Pistol Certification, Medicine, and Wellness
- Backstory Description: You have experience fighting across the galaxy, but your proficiency is in helping your friends, not directly engaging in combat.
The Combat Medic background is one of the ones I considered when I was on the character creator screen. Wellness is a powerful initial skill since it means you’ll have more health than players without it, which is necessary when first exploring this vast and dangerous galaxy.
But you are also a master of helping others, which is where your Medicine comes into play so you can do better with healing items. You are also quite well-rounded, having some pistol experience and better damage from using that weapon type.
Pistols aren’t that great, though, so this background isn’t higher. This will do you well in the earlier parts of the game especially if you get a specific gun from the Kid Stuff trait, but this is an otherwise throwaway skill for me. That said, the other two and the history make Combat Medic worth a look.
- Initial Skills: Medicine, Security, and Lasers
- Backstory Description: You are a person who sees the future in which man and machine are one, leading to your intense knowledge of both.
This is a fascinating mix of technology, survival, and combat. You get Security, which is the skill I highly recommend everyone to start within the game if they can. But you also get Medicine for healing yourself better and laser weapon experience, which is better than the pistol version. Laser weapons are among my favorites in this game.
That said, you honestly don’t need the skills to increase your damage with certain weapon types. Though they lead to better skills in the long run, I have found (at least on the normal difficulty) that you don’t need to increase your overall damage output as long as you have a weapon you like and are good with.
Cyberneticist is a fine choice for a background, but I also find that the two versions of it are slightly different and much better in the overall grand scheme of things. You should honestly take a look at the later entries on this list, like Cyber Runner, if you want a background class that is similar to this one.
- Initial Skills: Persuasion, Security, and Research Methods
- Backstory Description: There was a time in your life in which you thought you would be the next top executive or industry leader, but that isn’t the case any longer.
If there are two skills, as mentioned before, that you should always consider for your character no matter what type of player you are, they are Persuasion and Security. Being able to talk your way out of bad situations or even combat and the ability to pick locks are almost required, in my opinion.
There will be tons of quests and moments in which you will want to have these skills on your side, and the sooner you have them, the better off you’ll be. That is why this makes the Industrialist an instant favorite and one you should consider for your playthrough.
The whole titan of industry idea isn’t the worst, either, as it can appeal to those who might want to be an executive-style player or someone who will master the markets in this game. But where it somewhat falls short of the other backgrounds below is in its third skill, Research Methods. While not a bad skill by any means, it is one some players won’t likely be able to take full advantage of until mid-game, so it isn’t necessary at this point.
- Initial Skills: Lasers, Astrodynamics, and Surveying
- Backstory Description: You are a person who heard that exploration was lost and didn’t listen. While everyone fights over who controls what in the Settled Systems, you set out to find what’s out there.
If you want the most standard background in this game, Explorer is the one. After all, the point of this game is to explore the cosmos, venture across various planets throughout the game, and uncover secrets. From a roleplay perspective, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better background than this one.
However, it isn’t the most impressive when it comes to the skills you get. Laser weapons are fantastic, but this is a skill you can wait until later to get, so it isn’t the most important this early on. In addition, Astrodynamics allows you to jump across systems at longer distances, but it is not always the most necessary right now.
I would argue that Surveying is a great skill to have early on since it makes scanning flora and fauna a bit easier, but even it isn’t as impressive as others. I like this background so much because of the roleplaying potential. It’s hard to beat the conversation options you’ll occasionally get with this dream-filled background.
5. Space Scoundrel
- Initial Skills: Pistol Certification, Piloting, Persuasion
- Backstory Description: Good or bad isn’t for you to judge. While space may be this dark and black stretch of infinity, you see it for what it is: nothing but shades of gray.
Space and sci-fi have a knack for excellent shades of gray-style characters. Take Han Solo from Star Wars, for example. If you want the idea of traversing the galaxy with your mantra of doing whatever you want, good, bad, or somewhere in between, this is the background for you.
I would argue that not only is the idea of this class based on Han Solo, but even the three skills you get from it are, too. You have his expertise with pistols, which aren’t the best weapons but can be useful in the earlier parts of the game, piloting for an instant leg up when it comes to space combat, and Persuasion for talking your way out of bad situations.
There is a lot to love about the Space Scoundrel background, which can appeal to a lot of players who like that gray area. Maybe sometimes you want to be the hero and save the person from the monster who is tormenting them in a cave. But other times, perhaps you want to sneak into someone’s apartment and steal some valuable items to sell for credits. This is honestly how I play the game and recommend it to most players, so this fits that.
4. Bounty Hunter
- Initial Skills: Piloting, Targeting Control Systems, and Boost Pack Training
- Backstory Description: Wherever there are wanted individuals in the galaxy, there are those who hunt them down for credits. You are one of those people, and your targets know they can try to run, but they can’t hide with you after them.
Speaking of Star Wars, another brilliant aspect of space media is bounty hunters. Those classic people who hunt down targets for some money, which you can do in this game. While you don’t have to have the Bounty Hunter profession to do this, the roleplaying potential helps.
It also helps you get three solid skills with the Bounty Hunter background. I’ve already talked about it enough, but Piloting is a slow-burn skill you should start with as soon as you can. But Targeting Control Systems is one that is underrated for making your ship combat stronger.
In addition, you can’t go wrong with the jet packs from the Boost Pack Training skill. But there is still more to this than meets the eye. If you notice, all three of these skills fall under the purple category known as Tech. To unlock deeper skills in this category, such as building custom ships, you have to unlock a certain amount of ranks. This immediately gets you quite close to unlocking the second tier of skills in Tech from the start.
3. File Not Found
- Initial Skills: Wellness, Ballistics, Piloting
- Backstory Description: Oddly enough, there is no information whatsoever about your past life. Whatever the reason behind this, your past is only known to you and the path you will embark on.
This is by far the most fascinating background of them all. With this background, you don’t have the weight and burden of the others on this list with their backstories and the like. If you need a blank slate from which to create your own storyline, this is the background you should certainly go with.
I haven’t yet had the chance to try out a playthrough with File Not Found, but I would be curious to see how this affects your game choices. As mentioned, other backgrounds occasionally have conversation options exclusive to them, so I would be curious to see if File Not Found does, too, and what those options would look like.
Besides the excellent roleplay potential to the utmost extreme, you also get some solid skills. There are better skills out there, but this is an excellent mix of what the developers know you need early on. You’ll be able to pilot well, your health will be higher than most, and you have Ballistics for the quite common standard bullet-based rifles you can use in the game. Overall, this is a solid wildcard background option.
- Initial Skills: Persuasion, Commerce, and Wellness
- Backstory Description: The wars are now over, and peace reigns in the Settled Systems. This only happened because of people like you who signed agreements and heeded words to save lives.
This is the background I went with for my character, so, of course, I am a bit biased when it comes to it. But there is a lot to love about its skills, which include three that I would recommend to any beginner player. You have Persuasion, which is a must for anyone who wants to get the most out of conversations.
You also have Wellness, which will keep you alive with the more health you have, which is welcome in the earlier parts. And then there is Commerce, which grants you better money for the items you sell and a discount for the items you buy. Commerce, in particular, is necessary in this early game when it is so hard to make money.
While it doesn’t include Security, which I would recommend, it is pretty easy to level up in the game early on and immediately take that skill. I picked that first when I leveled up, so I never felt like I missed out on anything in the game. Plus, you get some solid Diplomat conversation options occasionally in Starfield, which keep the peace and add some intriguing layers.
1. Cyber Runner
- Initial Skills: Stealth, Security, and Theft
- Backstory Description: You’ve sacrificed everything working for the mega-corporations that exist in places like New Atlantis and Neon. You’ve also worked against them, giving you unique skills to use.
Something is riveting about playing the quintessential downtrodden thief in this type of game. If you want that, the Cyber Runner is the one to pick. It is all about doing what is best for you in this world that will treat you wrong, giving you the tools to do that.
For one, you have Stealth, which allows you to sneak around better and use sneak attacks against enemies from the start of the game. In addition, you have Security, which I have already talked to death. But you also have Theft, which allows you to pickpocket NPCs, which you can’t do otherwise.
Overall, these skills are highly useful in the game, especially if you don’t mind playing a bad or more gray character. The only thing missing here, again, is Persuasion, but you can get that as your first skill when you level up, so it will be fine.
What makes up for that is the Cyber Runner conversation options. In fact, there is a core character in one faction who I think you’ll be able to connect more with if you have this background, and that would be very welcome.
Question: How many backgrounds are there in Starfield?
Answer: There are around 18 different backgrounds for you to pick in Starfield at the beginning of the game. That is quite a lot of variation, and you can only pick one, so it is worth taking your time and carefully considering which one is right for your current play-through.
Question: Does Starfield have classes?
Answer: Starfield sort of has classes, but not really at the same time. The backgrounds featured in this guide are the equivalent of classes for this title. However, they aren’t classes in the traditional sense. They barely affect your gameplay outside of the start and specific conversation options you’ll occasionally have. Traits are much more game-changing in some ways.
Question: How long will it take to beat Starfield?
Answer: It depends on a lot of factors how long it takes for you to beat Starfield. For one, it depends on whether or not you’re talking about the main story of Starfield or the game 100% as a whole. For the former, you can beat the main story of this game in 20-40 hours. But if you want to 100% this game, good luck, as it will take hundreds of hours to do that. And that’s assuming you only mean completing all major story, faction, and side quests.
Check Out 300 Years Worth of Starfield Lore Next
At the end of the day, one of the first crucial decisions you’ll have to make in Starfield is what type of character you’ll be. Your background doesn’t determine too much about your character besides the history of them and the three initial skills you’ll have at the start of the game.
When it comes to history for your character, this doesn’t come up that often at all, besides some occasional unique conversation options. And as long as you love at least two of your starting skills, you can make up for this issue the more you gain experience and level up during the game.
But if you want to know about some history that truly affects Starfield and everything you do in this game, you need to know about the 300 years of history between now and the events of this game in the 24th century. So many characters, battles, and events in this fictional future are crucial to the main story.