Bethesda has been messing around with the level-up formula with every iteration of their RPGs. The systems vary between brands, but for the most part, they’re pretty similar across the board. So although you level differently in Fallout 4 than, say, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the bones of the system are similar. Fallout 76 added interchangeable cards, which brought on-the-fly flexibility to the perk system, but by and large the level-up system follows the same general idea as previous Bethesda systems.

Personally, I really like the system in Skyrim, which grants experience for your stats/skills every time you actively engage with them — so sneaking improves sneaking, or (famously) smithing an endless amount of iron daggers improves your smithing skill. And so on.

Starfield carves out a similar system on paper, but adds a wrinkle unique to this new open-world RPG. There is a chart roughly similar to the one found in Fallout 4‘s skill leveling system. But in Starfield, you don’t just unlock a skill, you also have to complete an arbitrary requirement for that skill in order to unlock the next level. So if you just want the basic level of lockpicking, it is yours once you plunk a skill point into the Security stat. But to level up beyond the first tier, you must pick 5 locks. Once you have done that, you are now able to unlock the next Security tier using another skill point. But this also comes with it the requirement of picking 15 locks before you unlock the ability to use another skill point to reach the next tier of Security.

Starfield - Security

I apologize if this is a bit confusing to read, but it actually makes sense in practice. For the most part, I like this system, as it effectively tasks you with engaging with the skill you are unlocking in a certain way before you can continue your journey up that limb of the skill tree.

My only gripe with this system is that the requirements don’t always make sense, and sometimes they don’t jive with a specific playstyle.

For example, if you want a semi-decent jetpack ability, you have to spend a skill point unlocking the boost pack before you can ever even leave the ground. That’s right, unlike in No Man’s Sky, boost packs are not a God-given right in Starfield; you have to earn it. Fair enough. Whatever.

My problem is that unlocking additional tiers requires you to use the boost pack in combat, which sucks. I do not actively zip around in combat; my boost pack is almost exclusively reserved for traversal purposes. In fact, most of the combat I have been seeing lately takes place inside ships, space stations, or science outposts, all of which require absolutely zero boost-packing.

Starfield - Boost Pack Training

So now I have to boost fifty times in combat, even though I typically boost zero times. So this means I have to either adopt a playstyle that I normally would not engage in, or — and this is what I have resorted to — I just trigger combat and isolate myself from taking damage, then repeatedly boost in order to cheese the meter. This sucks because it feels stupid, and it completely pulls me out of my roleplaying.

I’m wracking my brain to come up with an alternate requirement, but nothing immediately springs to mind other than simply using the boost pack. Maybe having to use it no more than 10 meters off the ground in order to prevent severe fall damage would be a decent alternative to boosting a set number in combat. But that would no doubt lead to more cheesing. I just can’t help but feel like there must be a better way.

In order to beef up your carry weight limit, you run 1,000 meters with 75% of your inventory taken up for the second tier, then I believe it’s 2,500 meters for the third tier and 5,000 for the last tier. Although you can cheese this if you just want to do desert sprints (I did cheese the last 40% of the third tier meter doing this in Neon), this feels like a requirement you could naturally reach through normal gameplay.

As another example, if I wanted to venture down the stealth skill limb in Starfield, it would be because my intention is to avoid interactions with enemies. But the requirement is to land a certain number of surprise attacks in order to unlock the next tier, which completely flies in the face of what I want out of that particular skill. And since I rarely think to go into stealth mode just to land a sneak attack before engaging in combat, I find myself struggling to make progress without actively focusing on that particular skill.


Look, I get it. This system will never be perfect for everyone, and I am sure Bethesda spent countless hours and manpower before they ultimately landed on the current system. But it can be less-than-optimal when the skills you want for reasons all your own can only be leveled up for reasons Bethesda dictates. For a roleplaying developer that trumpets a play-as-you-like ethos, it just sort of sucks when they insist: “For these specific sections, play as we tell you.”

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