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What to do first in Starfield

When the galaxy is your oyster, where do you start?

Starfield player piloting a starship with a planet and asteroid field visible through the cockpit windows. Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon
Ari Notis (he/him) is a guides editor at Polygon, where he writes, edits, and shepherds service-oriented articles about the biggest games du jour. He previously worked at Kotaku.

Starfield doesn’t just give you one world to play on. It gives you 1,000 (give or take). Bethesda’s spacefaring RPG casts you as an interstellar traveler — and gives you everything you need to actually feel like one. On one hand, this results in (at times) truly awe-inspiring moments. On the other, it’s also an overwhelming amount of choice.

Let me help you get started. Now that I’m roughly 40 hours in, I can look back and say I’d have played this game differently, knowing what I know now. Specifically, there are five things I would’ve gone out of my way to do earlier. Here’s what to do first in Starfield.

Play the first three missions

It’s antithetical to the way that many people prefer to play Bethesda games (i.e., by getting distracted every five seconds), but you should focus on the main quest line — at least for the first three missions. After you finish the “One Small Step” and “The Old Neighborhood” quests, you’ll unlock three missions at once: “Back to Vectera,” “The Empty Nest,” and “Into the Unknown.” Prioritize “Into the Unknown.” Completing that quest opens up an aspect of the game you could otherwise miss, and you get a chance to really see what the game is all about.

Get a new ship

A Starfield menu shows details for a massive ship called the Shieldbreaker.
This ship cost me most of my credits — and all of my patience.
Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

Fun story: I spent my first 35 hours in Starfield saving up every penny (251,480 credits, but who’s counting?) to purchase a massive new spaceship. What I didn’t realize was, without the Piloting skill leveled up to its third rank, which would allow me to fly B-class ships, I couldn’t even captain it — even though I owned the damn thing. What’s more, to get the skill to the third rank, not only would I need to acquire four more skill points, I’d also need to destroy 20 enemy spaceships. All while captaining the shoddiest vessel in the game.

Yes, the Frontier — the spaceship you’re given in the tutorial — can reliably exit a planet’s gravitational pull, but that’s basically the extent of its spacefaring bona fides. (That’s to say nothing of its pittance of a cargo hold.) You’ll quickly want to swap it for something better. Instead of saving for a top-flight ship, invest in or steal a marginally better vessel to serve as a stopgap until you’re leveled up enough.

Join a faction

As soon as you can, you should affiliate yourself with factions such as the United Colonies, the Freestar Collective, the Crimson Fleet, or Ryujin Industries. Not only are faction quests generally more interesting than most other side material (and the main story itself), they also tend to reward more credits than most missions. In some cases, you might get special dialogue options that open up unique narrative pathways; my association with Ryujin Industries opened up a route in the “Juno’s Gambit” side quest that I’d otherwise not have been able to take.

Do the Cydonia mining quest line

Trevor stands with his arms crossed in front of a mining vehicle in Cydonia on Mars in Starfield. Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

One of the best early side quests in Starfield starts off as a fetch quest. The “Red Tape Blues” mission, which is found by speaking to Trevor in Cydonia on Mars, initially tasks you with collecting 10 iron. (“A whole galaxy, and this is what you’re choosing to do?” quips one of your in-game companions.) It quickly balloons into a multifaceted tale of corporate espionage, political machinations, and interstellar firefights. There’s also a gameplay incentive: You make a ton of money, for one thing, and you also get a tour of the key areas that comprise Starfield’s early-game region, opening up convenient fast travel spots in the opening hours.

Visit some planets off the beaten path

Most of Starfield’s early game funnels you through and around three cities: New Atlantis, Akila City, and Neon. All three locations are packed with activities, but you can find fascinating quests by going off the beaten path a bit. Here are three other places to check out:

  • On Polvo, found in the Valo system, you’ll find Hopetown. It’s home to some interesting side quests — including one that sees you take on the identity of a smuggler to fend off bounty hunters — and you’ll also get a look at what a small town looks like in the Settled Systems.
  • In the Tau Ceti system, you’ll find Lopez’s Farm, an otherwise nondescript little settlement where you start a series of missions about organizing a league of independent farmers against pirates. (For me, it was Tau Ceti IV, but it could be different in your game, thanks to how Starfield randomly seeds quests.) Prepare for a lot of space battles. All the more reason to get a new ship!
  • Set course to Nesoi, in the Olympus system, and you’ll find yourself in the same orbit as the Almagest space station. Dock with it to engage in one of the early game’s most riveting firefights — and nab a small lottery’s worth of money in the process.

Between the three major cities and these three minor destinations, you’ll pick up enough quests and activities to keep you going for a long, long time.

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