Starsector is a very involved action/RPG that is not for the faint of heart. The mastery of this game will require intense knowledge of the various statistical categories that govern combat and the economy. Pair that with a willingness to master various ships in combat and you have a game that is just as if not more involved than a Battletech or Mechwarrior game.
For starters, Starsector can be a bit overwhelming. The various screens are packed with numbers and information that can quickly confuse someone. Not only that, if one plays the game a bit too passively, the AI can and will find a way to overwhelm you with massive fleets. Thankfully, there are other brave captains with mad skills to help you prepare. Here you will find a modest compilation of their knowledge to help you find your own way.
To keep things simple, Starsector puts you in charge of a fleet. You must manage your fleet’s money, supplies, and fuel for survival. You’ll need money to pay for supplies, fuel, and expenses (paying your crew and other things). You need supplies to keep your ships running (Persean League colonies usually provide the most and cheapest supply prices). Run out of supplies and your ships will malfunction and you’ll even lose the ship altogether. Run out of fuel and you won’t be able to hyperspace between star systems (Sindrian Diktat colonies provide the most and cheapest fuel prices). This is particularly dangerous when exploring so plan accordingly.
Merc starter fleet with a Hammerhead flagship
In a pinch, you can always scrap (aka scuttle) a ship to gain supplies, but you’ll lose cargo space needed to hold supplies as well as fuel tank space to hold fuel as well. Be careful which ship you do this too during emergencies.
When you begin the game, you are allowed to create your character. This is achieved simply by naming them, selecting a picture, and then picking your ‘starter role/character history’. At first glance, a player might think that this is ‘selecting a character class’, but it is not. Instead, these ‘roles’ are a way of determining what your beginning fleet will be. The smaller the fleet, the harder your start will be.
- Mercenary – Hammerhead – For those who need a little grace in combat (easy)
- Scavenger – Wayfarer – For those who intend to build their fleet through scrap
- Bounty Hunter – Wolf – for those who want a slight early challenge in combat
- Explorer – Apogee – for those who want a boost while focusing on early game exploration (easy)
- Random – who knows! For those who want a challenge!
Check out our Starsector Ship Guide for info on those starter ships and any other ships that you are given at the start!
Picking a role does not offer you any additional skills or a set path or anything since Starsector allows you to forge your own path. You may start off a smuggler of illegal goods and then decide that being a bounty hunter (hunting pirates) is more fun. Later on, you may even change that path and become a pirate yourself all in the same playthru.
Either way, this starter role will cater towards what path to greatness you’d like to follow in the early game until you get your finances straight.
After picking your role, the game will ask if you want to begin the tutorial. As a beginner, this is essential in that it will teach you the basics of the game. It will also allow you to build your fleet from a number of derelict ships set adrift in your starter system. A beginner should definitely take part in this tutorial.
Once the tutorial ends, you should have the basics for combat, navigation, character skills, refitting a ship with different weapons (and hull mods), and the different navigation abilities.
The first screen you will see when you start the game is the fleet navigation screen.
MAKE SURE THAT THE GAME IS PAUSED (by pressing the space bar) WHILE YOU FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU WANT TO GO AND WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. If the game is allowed to ‘run’, you will see the game ‘date’ in the top left corner progress in days. If this is allowed to happen, you will also be ‘wasting’ supplies which are shown next to 3 yellow boxes in the bottom left corner of the screen.
Almost like a top-down view of a star system, you’ll see a colored circle that highlights your starter fleet. All about the screen will be a lot of numbers and information.
- Burn Drive – the ‘speed’ of your fleet
- Credit Balance – How much money you have
- Supplies – The total amount of supplies you have to maintain your fleet’s functionality. Next to the total is the amount your fleet uses per day.
- Cargo Space – amount of space used / max amount of space you have. Buy civilian freighters or use Expanded cargo hull mods to increase
- Sensor Strength – The higher the number the further away from your fleet you can identify other objects and fleets in space.
- Sensor Profile – The higher the number the further away you will show up on other sensors. The bigger your fleet, the bigger this number gets. Small ships and phase ships will keep this low.
- Sensor Display – Exactly as described
- Combat Readiness – The status bar next to the star with a circle around it is your fleet’s total combat readiness. This stat is important because it determines how long of a battle your fleet can take on before it malfunctions. Once a ship reaches 0%, it ceases to function and will just drift in space. This can be boosted using hull mods and/or character skills and typically will never be at 100%.
- Navigation Skills (Abilities) – Set up like powers in an MMO, these abilities are for use in this Navigation screen. As you progress through the tutorial, you’ll discover Sustained Drive, Salvage, Sensor burst, Interdiction Pulse, Transponder, Go Dark, and Emergency Burn Drive.
Gradually, as you progress through the tutorial, the game will unlock each of the Navigation Abilities. While it is not explained much here, the use of the Transponder is a very key skill. Each inhabited system will ask you whether or not you want to have your transponder turned on if it is off as you try to enter.
This will be important if you are friendly (and want to remain friendly) with the dominant faction in the system. If you leave your transponder off, the idea is that you are trying to stealthily explore the system (aka have a low sensor profile and sneak around trying to only use the black market on each planet with a market). However, if the faction sends a patrol and they catch you, you’ll lose a bit of reputation as they instruct you to turn on your transponder.
Your Story Begins
Once the tutorial is done you’ll have a small fleet, a bit of money, and no clue what to do next. You’ll want to click on the Intel screen to check and see what bounties and missions are available. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Story Points are POWERFUL.
You use them to permanently install hull mods on ships, evade a hostile fleet encounter, improve industries on your colonies, make player and officer skills elite, salvage ships that normally wouldn’t be salvageable, and more.
Be very careful with how you use these story points. It is probably good to always have 1 if not 2 on hand at all times. This is because you WILL oftentimes get cornered by one or more hostile fleets that are too strong or numerous to overcome with a straight-up fight. In those circumstances, you’ll need to burn a story point in order to run away!
Trade is hard
Being a trader is hard to do thanks to tariffs. If you are in a market, press F1 while highlighting a resource to see “additional information”. Then you’ll see planets that are best to buy this resource and which planets are best to sell the resource (with regards to buy and sell prices). Then you can see the distances from where you currently are to determine if it makes sense to do a quick “buy here” and “sell there” run. Most times it isn’t worth it unless you are buying and selling drugs, organs, or military equipment. Typically only Pirates, Independents, and the Tri-Tachyon factions will only let you trade those items. Other factions only allow that trade on the black market (which is difficult to do early game).
An interesting way to handle this is to try to attack unaffiliated or merchant fleets while in hyper or deep spaces that have ‘supplies’ in their title. Then take their cargo and sell it off. That way you won’t lose reputation with any of the factions.
Another way is to go full smuggler mode. This means optimize your fleet for low sensor profile (smaller ships, phase ships, and hull mods), high burn drive (via hull mods and ship types),
Fight pirates in systems with a bounty
A great way to get used to combat AND make some good money on the side is to enter a system with a faction bounty and attack pirate fleets that you think you can handle. Once you win, you’ll get a chance to salvage some ships, acquire some weapons to refit the ships you have, and get some bounty money as a bonus. You’ll also get a reputation boost from the faction that offers the bounty.
Raise your shields in combat
Don’t forget to raise your shields in combat when you are being fired at. If your flux is almost max, it is better to lower your shields and take the hit than it is to get ‘overloaded’ and become a sitting duck for a LONG time.
Analyze Derelict missions are gold mines
If you have the fuel and supplies to do so, take on as many of these ‘analyze derelict’ missions as possible. These are a great way to find abandoned ships, new ship hull mods, blueprints (for when you have a colony that can build ships, weapons, and so forth), and even technology that can improve your future colonies.
Be careful though. Some of these missions are in sectors with threat warnings. If the threat is low, then that means there are AI drones protecting the area that must be dealt with before you can reap the rewards. As you get a stronger fleet, high threats can be taken on which will also reward you with precious AI cores. These cores can be used to improve colony industries or turned in at faction stations for a decent amount of credits and a big reputation boost. Early on, if you acquire a beta or alpha core, DO NOT sell them off however. Keep them for yourself as they are hard to come by and can greatly benefit your colonies when you start them.
Just because you can salvage a big ship doesn’t always mean it is a good idea. Salvaged ships have D-mods that reduce their effectiveness. It costs a LOT of money to remove those D-mods. Later on, if you have the story points, there is a Tier 4 INDUSTRY skill called Hull Restoration that allows your fleet to remove a D-mod from a random ship in your fleet once a month for free! However, it requires you to have 4 other INDUSTRY skills to acquire it. Players who’d rather not spend tons of money to buy their ships from markets or money to remove D-mods will get this skill.
Salvaging ships sometimes is the only way to acquire some ships as finding them in markets is almost impossible unless you are commissioned by the faction that makes that ship hull and have access to their military market.
Officers are essential
Officers are NPCs that can be assigned to pilot other ships in your fleet. You can hire pilots from the ‘com directory’ when you first dock at a planet. You can also find them while exploring ruins on planets or derelict ships drifting in space.
Officers have skills just like you. These skills improve the effectiveness of the ship they pilot. It is key to pair each officer with a ship that can benefit from the skills they have. As you use these officers in battle, they will acquire experience points as well allowing them to level up and gain new skills. ALWAYS check to see if an officer leveled up after battle.
Also, be aware of the officer’s personality. These include Timid, Cautious, Steady, Aggressive, and Reckless. Timid officers are good for ships that are carriers or that have a lot of missiles. Aggressive or Reckless officers are good for tanky ships that you don’t mind losing or have overwhelming firepower. As a reference, the Steady personality is what a non-officer ship would behave like.
You can spend a story point to ‘mentor’ an officer and change their personality by ‘one level’. They also gain an XP boost while mentored.
Learn the Flux/Vent system quickly when refitting ships
Flux exists in this game much like heat does in Mechwarrior/Battletech games. Raising your shields costs flux. Getting shield damage raises flux. Shooting weapons raises flux. Having high flux capacity is good but it is also necessary to have enough vents to dissipate your flux. Have the right balance and you could vent more flux than you generate… as long as your shields are getting hit that is.
There you have it! Stay tuned for more guides on Starsector. There’s plenty more to learn!