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Starfield is all about exploring the vast expanses of space. To do this, though, you’ll need a ship on your side. Ships are pretty varied and deep in this game, honestly being like its own entire experience in a way.
You can spend as little or as much time as you want with this side of the game. Regardless of what you do, you’ll likely find that ships are quite overwhelming, but I hope to help with that in this Starfield ships guide.
You see, ships are a massive part of the game, with the various controls, combat, different ship types, and the like. That is all before considering how to even get new ships in the first place and the upgrades you can put on your existing ships.
There is so much to ships in Starfield that I know I had to spend hours really digging into this aspect before the game came out. From my time learning more about this feature, I present to you this Starfield ships guide.
Bottom Line Up Front
My goal is to prepare you for everything you need to know about ships starting out in Starfield. There is so much to this part of the game that it is like its own video game in a way. You can spend dozens of hours just customizing your ship, stealing other people’s ships, and participating in the rich space combat.
It is for this reason that I tried to go over everything you need to know about ships, from how to pilot other classes of ships to how to customize them to even how to buy ships in the game the fastest. If you focus solely on ships in the game, you can quickly become a space pilot master within a few hours, but only if you play your cards right.
How to Get Your First Ship in Starfield
First and foremost, there is the easy question that will be on some players’ minds when they start and even before they begin the game: How do you get your first ship in Starfield? Fortunately, the game is quite generous and ensures you get your first ship relatively early on in the game’s main story.
In fact, all you have to do is beat the game’s prologue. I won’t spoil the prologue here for those who want to go in and experience the beginning of this game freshly, but the end of the prologue sees the group of Constellation offer you a ship to use in the form of the Frontier.
This seems like a loaner ship, but the game pretty much gives you this ship outright. You can go wherever you want once you get it and even do whatever you want with the ship once you have it.
However, I do suggest visiting the Constellation Lodge on New Atlantis before you try anything too crazy with it. That is also because there are some restrictions on where you can go before meeting with them.
How to Get More Ships in Starfield
Now that you already have your first ship, there is something you’ll likely notice, and that is how limited this ship is. You can only have two crew members at a time; it is pretty tiny, the cargo load is meh, and the overall speed is fine, but it could do with some upgrades.
Now, you could focus on upgrading your first ship, the Frontier (more on this in a bit), but you could also opt to get a new ship entirely. This is one of the easiest ways to instantly benefit from a better ship that could be larger, more powerful, or faster. There are a few key ways to do this.
Buy a Ship
The first method of getting a new ship in Starfield is the fastest and most straightforward, which is to buy a new ship. You can head to the spaceport of any major city, such as New Atlantis or Gagarin, and speak with the ship technician near where your current ship has landed.
In addition to offering to fix your ship should there be any problems, you can also buy ships from this person. This is an easy way to instantly have a new vessel to travel through the stars with, but you are limited by what class you can use in the game currently.
And, in general, the ships they offer aren’t the best. It is for this reason that I don’t often suggest buying ships from vendors in this game.
There are some exceptions to this rule, such as the later game areas of buying ships from the Crimson Fleet, or the UC SysDef but those are unbelievably expensive and most players won’t be able to enjoy them for quite some time in the first place.
How to Get Credits Fast to Buy a Ship
But let’s say you do join the Crimson Fleet and now you want one of their lovely ships, which usually includes some shielded cargo with them. Well, if that’s the case, you want to make credits as fast as you can. There are a couple of ways to do this in the game from my experience.
The first is to just keep doing quests in the game. This may seem odd to say, but you get a lot of credits for most quests. Even the shortest and easiest quests I’ve done in this game gave me at least 1000 or 2000 credits for my time, and that excludes the occasional persuasion option to get more.
But then you get quests like main story quests from Constellation and the faction quests, such as from the Crimson Fleet or Freestar Collective Rangers, where you can get much more credits than that.
And don’t get me started on finishing a faction, either. This is slight spoilers here, but one faction gave me around 250,000 credits for completing its final story quest.
That last bit is enough to get some of the better ships you can buy in the game. The other way to get credits fast, which is a bit more manageable for the ship aficionados reading this, is to sell ships.
This might seem weird, but if you can acquire ships you won’t ever use, you can sell them for credits, and you usually profit a few thousand off of each one once you register them.
You can sell ships to the ship technician where you buy them. And, yes, you can even sell ships you steal from someone; again, you only need to register it first (which costs a few thousand credits usually), and then you can do whatever you want with the ship.
Steal a Ship
The other primary way to get a ship in Starfield is to steal it. This is a complicated feature that the game doesn’t explain well to you. All it says is that you can disable and board a ship during space combat. But the game doesn’t exactly tell you how to go about doing this.
There are two ways to steal a ship in Starfield. The first is to disable it using electromagnetic (EM) weapons on your ship. You have to buy and install these, which aren’t cheap usually.
But they are non-lethal weapons that can disable a ship and freeze it in place. This is great for both enemies and innocent people you come across in the cosmos.
The other way is by destroying the engine of the ship with your usual weapons. This is mainly luck-based, minus one method, so it isn’t the wisest route to go, as you are more likely just to destroy the ship and miss out on being able to steal it.
That is unless you have the Ship Targeting skill in Starfield. You have to unlock this one, but it gives you a Fallout VATS-style option in space combat. You can press a certain button while fighting (Y for me on a controller), and you’ll zoom in on the ship.
Like VATS, it will show you the parts of the ship, and you can pick away at certain things, such as the grav drive, shields, and even the engine. The key here is to take out the engine so the ship can’t move. Then, like with the EM weapons, you can get within 500 meters of the ship and have the option to board it.
From here, it is all about your on-foot combat. You’ll have to take out all of the enemies onboard the ship and make your way to the cockpit. Once you arrive here, you can enter the ship’s pilot seat, and now it is yours. All you need to do then is head to the nearest spaceport and pay the fee to register it, and you can access it anytime you want, upgrade the ship, or even sell it for credits.
Can You Get Free Ships in Starfield?
Yes, you can certainly get some free ships in Starfield. Now, this section is going to be a bit spoilery, but for those who don’t mind some light spoilers (nothing story-specific here, just progression stuff), this can give you some goals ahead for knowing what to do when you jump into the game.
I will admit that I have beaten Starfield and used New Game+ already to start over the game. I have not purchased a single ship the entire time I have played the game. There is honestly no reason to since you can steal and even get free ships in specific ways.
Usually, free ships have to do with certain story quests, characters, or doing various things in the game. Here are all of the free ships I have come across in my time playing Starfield, but know that there are likely more out there since this is a massive game that will take hundreds, if not thousands of hours, to 100% complete.
All the Known Ways to Get Free Ships in Starfield
The first way to get a free ship in Starfield outside of the initial one is to do the miner storyline that is waiting for you on Mars in the central city of Cydonia. This is an entire side quest storyline, which you can do exceptionally early in the game. Just make sure to level up your Piloting skill to the max first.
You see, there is a governor of Mars here who is involved in this Mars mining storyline in a way, which I won’t spoil here. At some point, you have to do something for the governor, and it can lead you aboard his ship. Though he wants to destroy it, it is very easy to board the ship and steal it for yourself if you are able to pilot it.
The following way to get a free ship is by picking the Kid Stuff trait, which is a spoiler for this one. I won’t go into too many details about this trait other than it involves you having a mom and dad in the game. In my opinion, this is a must-have trait, and at a certain point with this trait, you’ll get a free ship.
Next up has to do with the random NPCs you meet in the game while you are flying around in space. There are certain characters who will be friendly and let you go onto their ship or invite you over.
It is possible to take these people out and then take their ship without much effort at all. Just know that Space Grandma is a wonderful old lady, and you are a horrible person if you take her ship from her, in particular.
Certain other side quests can give you a free ship if you play your cards right. There is a side quest chain that has to do with a star system where some settlers are being tormented by space pirates. You can help them out, and it is possible to get some ships this way through space combat and disabling the enemies.
Some of the factions will even give you free ships in specific ways. For instance, if you join the Crimson Fleet faction, there is an early initiation quest where you have to prove yourself to the space pirates for you to join them. The conclusion of this quest sees you earn yourself a brand new ship and it is a decent enough one as well.
Finally, the last free ship I know of in Starfield so far has to do with the main story with Constellation. Massive progression spoilers ahead, but if you beat the main story, you will get a brand new ship to use when you enter the New Game+ restart. It is one of the rewards for restarting the game, and this ship is pretty nice to use.
How to Pilot B and C-Class Ships in Starfield
A huge part of earning new ships and piloting some of the best ones in Starfield has to do with your class. At the start of the game, you’ll only be able to pilot the A-class ships. Honestly, they are some of the worst in the game, as they are usually quite small, slow, or not that powerful.
If you want to pilot the better ships in the game, you’ll have to unlock the ability to pilot the B and later C-class ships. To do this, you need to rank up the Piloting skill, which is one of the most important skills in the entire game. It is also one of the most annoying to rank up.
This is because ranking up in Starfield isn’t as simple as leveling up and then using your skill point to rank it up. Every skill in this game past its initial rank has to have its challenge completed to rank it up. These challenges usually have to do with the skill in question. In the case of Piloting, it has to do with destroying a certain number of ships.
The second rank is relatively easy, only asking you to destroy 15 ships in the game, which you can do quite fast by completing certain quests or just exploring the cosmos for space pirates to take out. But it only goes up from there to 30 ships and beyond.
The problem with the Piloting skill is you only unlock the B-class ships with rank three, which requires you to destroy quite a lot of ships. And then you have to get the fourth and final rank, which is even worse and more time-consuming to unlock, to get the C-class ships license.
To put this into perspective, at the time of writing this, I still don’t have the C-class license rank yet (though I am very close to it, like maybe two ships away). This is after about 50 hours of playing the game, finishing the Crimson Fleet storyline where you destroy a lot of ships, beating the main story, and restarting with New Game+ at level 37.
You can undoubtedly max out this skill much faster than me, but you have to truly dedicate a fair bit of time to grinding out those ships to unlock the better and more exciting vessels.
All Ship Parts and Systems Explained: Engine, Grav, More
Before you can truly understand how the ship combat works in Starfield, which is one of the deepest and sometimes more annoying parts of the game, you need to understand the parts of your ship.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is the equivalent of Forza Motorsport in space, there is more to the story than turning and looking at an enemy to blast them.
The basic parts of a ship are as follows: your weapons (sometimes up to three different weapon slots), engine, shields, and grav jump. Those are the essential parts you’ll see in every ship. The problem is you’ll usually have two to three weapons per ship, so you could be looking at six or seven parts to deal with at all times.
Every ship has a maximum number of power supplies you can dedicate to each part. If you dedicate seven parts to your engine, you’ll go faster but might suffer in the other parts. And if you only have ten parts in total to use, you might only have one or two power parts dedicated to each individual feature of the ship.
But you can sacrifice power for one element of the ship at any point. For instance, you might want to sacrifice some of the engines in combat to power up your shields for better protection or your weapons to deal more damage. This is what I like to do in the game.
As for what each part does, it’s pretty self-explanatory. The ballistics, weapons, missiles, and all of these have different names, but they control the individual weapons you have onboard. The engine determines your overall cruising speed. Meanwhile, the shields determine how much shields you have to protect your hull.
Lastly, your grav drive affects your grav jump, how far you can jump, if you can jump at all, and how fast you can jump to light speed in the middle of space.
How Ship Combat Works
As for how ship combat works in Starfield, it requires you to first understand your ship from start to finish. Now that you know the different parts, it is up to you to balance those features of the ship while in the middle of combat. What I like to do is move the engine speed of the ship to the midway point.
You’ll see this shiny area on the speed gauge on the left in the middle of it. This is your sweet spot where your ship is balanced in speed and can maneuver and turn the fastest. Always try to keep it here unless you’re pursuing an enemy ship.
Then you want to actually target the enemy ship and immediately blast at them with your ballistics or lasers. Leave your missiles and other targeting weapons for when it says you’ve locked onto it then unleash those. The goal should always be to take out the shields first.
Now, you might have weapons designed for taking out shields, so use those first and then switch to your primary weapons to destroy or disable the enemy ship’s hull. You can press A on the controller at any point to switch target ships, which is great and necessary for more significant battles.
Finally, there is the targeting system. I don’t always use this targeting system in the middle of fights unless I want to disable the enemy, but it can be helpful in stopping someone from grav jumping away, which can commonly happen if you attempt space piracy.
How Ship Upgrades Work
Once you have a ship you truly love to use, you’ll want to make it better by upgrading the ship. You can head to any ship technician at a significant spaceport or city and speak with them to purchase upgrades. You can buy upgrades for most parts on a ship, such as new weapons, engines, shields, and more.
You can then take those parts and enter the ship editor screen where you manage your fleet. Here, you can attach and detach parts to physically upgrade your ship to be better than it currently is. Upgrading is quite simple in this game, so long as you have the credits to buy them.
I only suggest you pay close attention to how your ship’s stats will change with a part. Some parts might give you better damage, but they could slow you down quite a bit and so be careful of these trade-offs.
How to Build a Custom Ship
The ship editor screen is going to be your best friend if you want to build a custom ship in Starfield. This is considered a late-game activity since it is super detailed and quite challenging to unlock everything for. While I haven’t found how to build a ship from scratch, you can pretty much do that with any old existing ship.
While in the ship editor, you are free to detach parts you don’t like and move others around as you please. With this ship editor, you can replace engines, shields, weapons, and more and pretty much make a brand-new ship without having to start over from scratch.
You can even change the ship’s color, add extra details to its appearance, edit the style of it, and more to your liking. You can even make it larger or smaller than it currently is. Shipbuilding is an absolutely wild and profound part of this game that I have only barely scratched the surface of in more than 50 hours of playing.
This is mainly because it is incredibly time-consuming and costly to do. Most players should focus on simple upgrades for their existing ships for the most part. Some late-game skills in the Tech category give you better options when it comes to creating custom ships from scratch.
Question: Can You Buy Ships in Starfield?
Answer: Yes, you can buy ships in Starfield in a variety of locations. Essentially, any major port, city, and space station in the game will offer a technician who can sell you new ships. There are even some faction-exclusive areas, like the Crimson Fleet’s base, The Key, where you can buy some.
Question: Can you Have Multiple Ships in Starfield?
Answer: Yes, you can have multiple ships in Starfield. Even right from the start of the game, you can start to amass a fleet of ships if you want to.
Question: How Many Ships are in Starfield?
Answer: There are likely hundreds of different ships in Starfield. If you were to try and steal and buy every ship you come across in the game, it could even potentially go up to the thousands. But more importantly, you can build a custom ship in Starfield, so the possibilities are literally endless.
How Do Ships Fit Into the Starfield Lore?
The ships in Starfield are some of the most confusing, deep, and engaging parts of this massive space RPG. You’ll spend a lot of time in your ship as you go from planet to planet and story quest to quest. As such, you should learn to love the vessel you are riding in. That is why learning how to control and upgrade it is imperative.
If you are a ship fan and want to spend all your hours maxing out your stats on your ship and commanding a fleet that the United Colonies would be envious of, you could certainly do that. I hope these basic steps and explanations for every aspect of ships will help you start on the right foot.
But it doesn’t stop with the ships. In fact, if you are preparing to play this massive Bethesda RPG on Xbox Series X/S or PC, there are other ways to get ready for it. I recommend taking the time to learn about the 300 years of history in this game, including when and how space travel ballooned to the point it is in with Starfield.