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How to Disable Engines and Board Ships

Nathan Garvin

Space is a big place, and it’s full of ne’er-do-wells - apparently in the far distant future, getting your hands on a spacefaring vessel and powerful enough weapons to be a nuisance to everybody else isn’t all that difficult. That being said, sometimes you’ll need to fend off pirates, or, if you end up on the supply end of piracy, you may find yourself engaged in combat with various factions posing as law enforcement. In any event, you’re going to end up in starship conflict, and fortunately dispatching enemy vessels will yield a hefty bit of XP and salvage. Sometimes, however, reducing your enemy to orbiting debris isn’t good enough - sometimes enemy ships require that more… personal touch. This page will provide tips and strategies for boarding enemy ships, including information on disabling engines, docking and how to sell commandeered ships.

(1 of 5) You can spawn and track enemy ships by picking up bounties in Akila City.

How to Board Enemy Ships in Starfield

Possession is 9/10ths of the law, and nothing makes changes of possession easier than a little bit of violence. On paper, snatching an enemy vessel is simple - hop on board, kill anybody who disagrees with the change of ownership, then sit yourself down on the pre-warmed captain’s seat and it’s yours. Mostly. But there’s a rub - pretty much every ship and their crew is armed, and their munitions aim to make a compelling case about the vessel’s ownership. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to grand-theft starship:

  • First things first, find yourself an enemy vessel. You can do this just by traveling from planet to planet (or moon to moon, or planet to moon - you get the idea) in a system, or by picking up “fleet captain” bounties to hunt down. Enemies have a chance to spawn each time you zone in at a new celestial body, but they might grav jump in after a delay, so give it a moment. If you find a skirmish between factions, you probably should just settle for dusting your prey - the neutral/friendly faction won’t hold back just because you want to engage in some larceny.
  • Once you’ve found a target, isolate them by picking off their allies. Neutral and friendly factions wouldn’t hold their fire to let you steal ships, and hostiles certainly aren’t going to.

  • Deplete your target’s shields.

  • With the enemy shields disabled you can now damage the hull. You want to disable the engines. Lock onto your target by keeping them in/near your aiming reticle until the “Target Lock” prompt appears, at which point hit Xbox-ButtonX. The time this takes depends on how many ranks - if any - you have in the "Targeting Control Systems" iconTargeting Control Systems skill. If you don’t have any, you cannot actively target an enemy ship’s subsystems. You can try to fire at the ship’s engines without this, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

  • After you disable the engines (without destroying the hull), approach and when prompted hold the Xbox-ButtonX button to dock, then hold Xbox-ButtonX again to board.

  • Kill all the enemies in the ship and you’ll be able to claim it as your own by sitting in the Pilot’s Seat, at least temporarily.

To summarize, find hostile ships, kill all but one, knock out the target’s shields, target and disable the engines without destroying the hull, board the ship and clear the hostile crew, then sit in the captain’s seat. Simple enough on paper, but there’s a lot of moving parts here. Arguably the most difficult part of this entire series of events is disabling the engines, so we’ll go into some more detail, below.

(1 of 3) Kill the enemy crew,

How to Disable Ship Engines in Starfield

To reliably disable the engines of enemy ships, you need to invest one rank in the Targeting Control Systems skill, which will allow you to lock onto enemy ships and target their components directly. Hitting small components like engines on fast-moving ships without also dealing undue damage to the hull is just not practical. Also, before you target an enemy’s engines, you must break through their shields, which is trivial enough to do with laser weapons (although we’re lazy and just use particle weapons for everything).

Once the enemy’s shields are down and you’ve locked onto the enemy ship, you’ve still got something of a conundrum on your hands - how to reliably target and damage the enemy’s engines without also putting holes in the target ship. The solution to this conundrum is simple, but something you need to prepare for ahead of time - EM weaponry. This class of weapons can be identified by the “Electromagnetic DMG” statline they have in the Ship Builder. Specifically you want EM weapons that deal very little hull damage and significant EM damage - something like the "Spark 750 Suppressor" iconSpark 750 Suppressor (1.04 hull/shield damage, 31.49 EM damage) will suffice. EM weapons generally have a relatively short range (at or under 1000 meters - not too far behind most ballistic and laser weapons), but if you can get into this relative knife-fight range and lock onto an enemy they’ll knock out enemy subsystems fairly quickly while keeping the ship’s overall hull integrity intact. Buying two of these weapons and grouping them into an array comes highly recommended if you plan to disable and board enemy vessels.

(1 of 2) If you want to keep a stolen ship, visit a Ship Services Technician to pay to register it,

If you want to keep a stolen ship, visit a Ship Services Technician to pay to register it, (left), or you can just sell it for some extra cash. (right)

How to Loot and Sell Enemy Ships in Starfield

There’s plenty of incentive to board enemy ships in Starfield, the most obvious being you get to kill and loot the crew, yielding XP and plunder that would otherwise be lost. In addition, you should loot the Captain’s Locker and Cargo Hold for additional treasure (if the ship happens to spawn with an Armory or Brig hab you could also find valuable arms and armor). After fleecing the enemy vessel for all its worth, you can then decide to abandon it, return to your own ship, then destroy the now-derelict enemy ship for more XP.

If you find yourself in need of a new ship, however, you can just sit yourself down in the Pilot’s Seat and commandeer the vessel. Once done, fly back to any port (be wary - if the pirates had any contraband on the ship, you’ll be the one who gets in trouble if you visit a port where such fare is frowned upon) and talk to a Ship Services Technician, who will allow you to register the vessel for a significant fee (expect to spend 10,000-20,000 credits registering the seized vessel). Once done, it’ll count as any other ship you own, and you can customize it freely. If you’d rather sell the ship and turn an additional profit, ask to see the vendor’s wares and press the Xbox-ButtonY button to switch to your own ships and sell the desired craft… just don’t expect too much out of this, it’ll likely net you a fraction of the ship’s value (still a few thousand credits, though).

Now that you know how to board and capture enemy ships, check out the following pages to help get your ship up to snuff, sell your ill-gotten gains (including contraband), and customize your stolen ships:

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Guide Information
  • Platforms,
    PC, XB X|S
  • Genre
    Action Adventure, Action RPG, Shooter
  • Guide Release
    30 August 2023
  • Last Updated
    18 October 2023
    Version History
  • Guide Author

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Starfield is an action role-playing game from Bethesda Game Studios set in a futuristic interpretation of space exploration and colonization. Earth has long been abandoned, but there are plenty of other planets in different star systems where humans have ventured and settled. You have the freedom to create your own character with a unique background, but the main story will take you through a series of adventures as you uncover more information about mysterious artifacts which create gravitational anomalies. Along the way, you can build and customize your own space ship, establish your own outpost, befriend and romance new companions, and more. As a Bethesda game, you can also expect to see a lot of creative mods which have the potential to change your experience of the base game, or take it in an entirely new direction.

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