Starfield: Best Skills to Level First

Picking the right skills to level first in Starfield makes the initial parts of a playthrough much more comfortable.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Choosing the best skills to level first in Starfield is key to making your initial dozen or so hours the most comfortable they can be. You’ll gain levels quickly, especially if you do a lot of combat and exploration. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve your skills. Progression slows down a bit in the mid-game as you need more and more XP to level up, making your early choices even more valuable. Here are our favorite picks.

The Best Skills to Level First in Starfield

These are the best skills to level first in Starfield:

You won’t have access to many of Starfield’s skills early in a playthrough. You’ll need to actually spend a certain number of skill points to unlock higher-tier skills. There are also rank challenges you must complete to improve skills you’ve already unlocked. These can take vastly different amounts of time to complete, especially if they’re a part of the game you either aren’t good at or haven’t invested the time into.


Screenshot by GameSkinny

Commerce tops our list of best skills to level first in Starfield. You’re going to be collecting a lot of loot as you explore this skill provides a flat bonus to how much vendors buy items for and how expensive their inventory is. The rank challenges are also simple: all you need to do is sell increasing numbers of unique items. A “unique item,” is any single unit of an item sold to a merchant. Selling items in stacks greater than one won’t count.

Leveling the Commerce skill isn’t the only way to make money fast, nor is it the most valuable skill in the game. However, getting its passive benefit early will allow you to focus on the parts of the game you really enjoy and have an easier time making money without lifting another finger.


Screenshot by GameSkinny

You don’t have to solve every problem in Starfield at the point of a gun. Oftentimes, talking your way out is more rewarding both monetarily and experientially. While I don’t think you need to max Persuasion early on, having Rank 1 or 2 will make you that much more likely to succeed at Persuasion tasks.

I (ironically) can’t properly express how important having my Persuasion skill leveled has been as I continue to play. Sure, it might be more fun to shoot your way out of every bad situation, but talking has saved me time, grief, and let me have many other fulfilling moments I would have missed had I chosen violence instead.


Screenshot by GameSkinny

Personally, I think the Piloting is the best skill to level first in Starfield, because it’s incredibly valuable. While it’s possible to beat the entire game with the starting ship (upgrades included), one of the most lucrative and satisfying progression loops involves boarding enemy ships, taking out the crew, and adding the ship to your fleet. That process is also a great way to get free upgrades to your ship, whether that involves size, reactor and engine quality, or any number of other qualities.

Max-rank Piloting ensures that no matter how big or complicated a ship is, you can board it and take it as your own. If you don’t have the skill leveled enough and you try to take a ship that’s too complex, you’ll be locked out of sitting in the pilot seat altogether. There’s nothing more disheartening than taking a prize, hoping to add it to your collection, and not having the ability to fly away into the starset.

Research Methods

Crafting is one of its most important side activities, allowing you to create medical items, weapon upgrades, and outpost equipment. You also use it to equip higher-quality ship modules. The Research Methods skill is a flat decrease in the cost of crafting. And because you have to complete research projects if you want to make the most powerful items available to craft, the less you have to spend to complete them, the less farming and looting you have to do in between.

Crafting is also a great way to make money. If you have a surplus of materials of a specific type, you can use them to make higher-value items. Doing so is not only a great way to empty your cargo hold of excess resources, but you can then put the profits into materials and items you actually need, like Digipicks, to name just one.

Related: Starfield Beginner’s Tips and Tricks


Screenshot by GameSkinny

The Security skill is another of the best skills to level first in Starfield. It lets you lockpick your way into more and more secure containers and through more secure passageways and computer systems. You could use console commands, sure, but where’s the fun in that?

In most cases, you’ll be cracking safes and locked doors that hide high-value items, contraband, rare resources, or straight-up money. The higher the difficulty of the lock, the more valuable the loot it’s protecting (usually). If you don’t level the Security skill, you’ll be stuck unlocking only the Novice locks. As you progress through the game, these become less and less common. Even in main campaign-specific areas, sometimes your path will be blocked by a higher-rank lock, forcing you to find another way around — or through — to the next objective.

Targeting Control Systems

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Did I mention I like dogfighting in Starfield? And if you do, too, the Targeting Control Systems skill is essential to getting the most out of that part of the game. Without TCS unlocked, all you can do is fire your weapons at enemy ships, ignoring their specific parts. With TCS, you can target one of your enemy’s main systems, from their weapons, engine, shields, or grav drive. Taking out their weapons disables that weapon. Taking out their shields makes it impossible for them to recharge. And a disabled grav drive ensures they can’t escape.

The biggest benefit is taking out the engines. Doing so lets you board the enemy ship (if it’s the last one on the field), take out the crew, and put their ship in your back pocket if you care to. If you have no interest in taking the ship, not having engines makes it impossible for any craft to evade. Bear in mind that the same is true of your ship. But if I’m in a dogfight, I’m always going for the engines first, even when I don’t intend to board. It just makes the fight easier.

Related: Starfield Ship Combat Guide

Those are our picks for the best skills to level first in Starfield. You’ll notice a distinct lack of combat abilities, and there’s one main reason: they’re nice to have, but not necessary. Finding better weapons will go much further than adding incremental damage bonuses. I’ve also not included more advanced skills here, as the ones above make blanket improvements to any playthrough. Higher-tier skills are more specific. For other, equally specific content on this massive galaxy, check out our guides hub.

About the author

John Schutt

John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.