How does space combat work in Starfield?

Starfield space combat dogfight

Starfield space combat dogfight
September 25, 2023: We've updated our Starfield space combat guide.

Let's look at how space combat works in Starfield. Bethesda's latest is ramping up to be one of the most exciting releases of the year, so many are wondering exactly how it'll work when you're flying through the stars as a space pirate. One such element that will surely differ from what we're used to, is combat in space. So how does it work?

In this guide, we'll break down everything we know about space combat in Starfield. This was previously based on some pre-release leaked footage floating around online, but now we're far more confident after some unhealthily-long sessions on Bethesda's latest.

For more on the game, read up on how to customise your character in Starfield, plus how to crouch. We've got this and the answers to all of your Starfield questions in our Starfield hub!

How does space combat work in Starfield?

Let's look into the nitty gritty of space combat in Starfield.

Flying mechanics in space combat

The flight mechanics are on a completely 360-degree axis, so if you lose sight of your target you don't have to pull a U-turn. Flex your best Top Gun manoeuvres to get your target back in sight, and focus your attacks. You can keep track of where they are with a red indicator arrow displayed on your HUD whilst in combat.

Focusing the enemy ship's shields

When you first engage with a hostile craft, the first thing you'll want to do is lock in on the target. Once you're locked, you'll need to focus on the enemy ship's shields. Laser-based weaponry proves the most effective in these instances, or if you're feeling particularly bombastic you can line the enemy spacecraft up in your HUD and fire a homing missile.

We'd advise tackling the enemy shields first, however. You want to know that your ordnance and attacks will actually hit, right?

The enemy spacecraft will have a health bar displayed beside it, with shields in red at the top, and health in white just below it. As you destroy the shields, you'll see its red bar eventually run out. You can then swap to ballistic weaponry to really unleash hell.

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How to loot after a deep space dogfight in Starfield

It would go against the doctrine of pirates to not loot your slain foe. Once you've successfully destroyed an enemy ship, be sure to search the wreckage for any valuable booty, including spare parts for your own ship and other types of salvage. You can keep track of where this wreckage is floating by a now-white arrow indicator on your HUD. You'll need to fly your spacecraft as close to the wreckage as possible, and once you're close enough you'll be prompted to loot.

Starfield pilot in action
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Starfield pilot in action

How do you pilot your spacecraft in Starfield?

Firstly, let's look at the main component of space combat. Piloting your vessel. When you take the helm, you'll see an on-screen HUD as though you're peering through the glass into deep space. This will show you a front view of your surroundings.

The mechanics of piloting your spacecraft are relatively simple. You'll be able to increase and decrease your speed at will, with a speed indicator on the lower left of your circular HUD. The gauge will move up and down as you adjust the throttle.

Providing you keep the throttle in the sweet spot, you'll also be able to engage boosts for a temporary burst of speed. Crucial when you're dodging and weaving through asteroids and other space debris you might come across.

How do you protect your craft while in space combat?

Your spacecraft in Starfield will have built-in shields that can be utilised as a means of protection when you're in the throes of battle. You can adjust the power of these shields, so you can prioritise them as and when you see fit. Sending more power to the shields naturally grants them more strength.

By using these shields, you protect your ship's hull. Without a hull, you're vulnerable to not just attacks, but any kind of danger.

The shield health of your spacecraft will be displayed in the lower right of the screen, and the hull damage indicator will be just below that. So you can check on the health of your vessel at any time.

So there you have it - that's everything we know about space combat in Starfield. We've already got some awesome guides leading up to the game's release, including how to utilise photo mode in Starfield, plus a look at the exciting possibility of the different endings in Starfield. Additionally, we have an extensive Starfield Portal site that'll give you every bit of information you could possibly need on Bethesda's newest game.

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