When we first got a look at it, Starfield appeared to not have any stealth system.. However, it was later revealed that it most certainly did, and once we got our hands on it, the stealth system was actually more detailed than even Skyrim or Fallout’s!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the stealth skills first. Also, spoilers will be kept to a minimum here, but there will be one at the very end of this guide; I’ll provide a warning beforehand!
The basics of Starfield’s Stealth skills
There are 2 skills related to stealth: One is literally called “Stealth”, while the other is “Concealment”.
Stealth is your standard stealth skill used in Bethesda RPGs since.. Well, a really long time, but it has undergone a few changes.
Each rank in stealth – up to 4 ranks – makes you 25% harder to detect while sneaking and also adding a sneak attack bonus with suppressed weapons. This doesn’t mean that you become invisible at rank 4, but factors that impact your discoverability while sneaking are reduced by 25% with each point.
The first rank adds a classic stealth meter; without a rank in stealth, you won’t even know how successful you are at sneaking! Anyway, this meter is farely simple to understand; It tells you your current stealth status – the base of which is “Hidden” – and also shows you how close you are to hitting the next status levels, which are Caution and Danger. There is also a “Detected” status for when you’re in non-hostile environments and are visible.
You’ll notice as you move around and make noise the edges of the meter show either green or orange; Green is the stealth meter when you’re near non-hostile enemies, while orange is for when you’re in a hostile environment. When you’re in a non-hostile environment, there is no “Caution” state; you just toggle between Hidden and Detected.
If you hit a “Caution” or “Danger” state, you can get back down to the next level if you find a good hiding spot and don’t do anything to get noticed, but it can take a while, and enemies will be looking for you.
If you get a second rank in Stealth you’ll get a welcome addition to your stealth meter: A noise/light meter. This will help you be aware of just how noticeable you are while you’re moving around; If you’re making a lot of noise and standing in direct, bright light, the meter will be nearly full. If you’re standing still in a dark area, it’ll be practically empty.
The second stealth skill – Concealment – doesn’t really impact stealth until you get the 2nd & 3rd ranks; Rank 2 makes movement speed irrelevant in stealth, and also eliminates equip weight from factoring in to your noise levels. The 3rd rank unlocks a special Chameleon effect when crouched and not moving. This is the same Chameleon effect found on some pieces of armor, and we’ll talk about it in more detail further in the guide.
Also, just to note, the 4th rank of concealment lets you attempt to re-engage stealth after detection by crouching again; if you’re far enough away enemies will lose sight of you. Note that this just toggles a “Caution” state, not “Hidden”.
Let’s talk about what impacts stealth next, shall we?
What impacts stealth in Starfield
There are 2 core factors that impact stealth in Starfield: Visibility and noise.
As I noted before, the stealth skill reduces the amount each of these is likely to reveal you to NPCs by 25% per each rank, but you can’t completely eliminate them. If you’re in an exceptionally bright area, an NPC is looking right at you 5 meters away, and you are firing an unsuppressed weapon, you are going to get noticed no matter what your stealth skill is. You can think of visual and auditory actions as negative modifiers to stealth after your stealth skill percentage is applied.
Unlike many games with dedicated stealth, there is no tall grass in Starfield. In order to be seen while sneaking an NPC will need to have you in their cone of vision (which is actually much wider than in other stealth-focused games, FYI); Do note that NPCs turning their heads as part of an idle animation DOES change their cone of vision, too! Also, you’ll need to be within their visual range (which varies – some animal NPCs have a shorter visual range interestingly enough). Finally, for visual detection, light and movement determines just how far away they can spot you. If you’re well-lit and moving as fast as you can while crouched (unless you’ve got the 4th rank in Stealth), they can spot you from further away.
Additionally, objects in between you and the NPC do impact visual detection, although glass provides no concealment (obviously).
Noise in stealth is probably the simplest: Until you reach rank 2 in Concealment, movement speed impacts the amount of noise you make while moving. Additionally, your equipped weight – including the weapon you’re holding – impacts your noise level, so if you want to be really stealthy, take off your space suit (when able) and put away your weapon! Once you reach rank 2 in Concealment, however, this is no longer a factor.
Weapons also impact stealth; explosions, gunfire and more can put enemies in an aware state.
Suppressed weapons practically eliminate the chance for enemies to notice you via gunfire, although the impact of shots can be heard, too. This can be useful for distracting enemies to a limited extent, but the AI isn’t savvy enough to really fully investigate where a shot impact or explosion happened; instead they’ll mostly seem to wander around, and will be in a higher alert state.
If you take enough actions that sustain a high caution state, enemies will start to perform suppressive fire on your location. This doesn’t mean they’ve spotted you, but they suspect you are in that general area. What is really great about this is that they will continue to suspect you are there until you’re able to re-engage a hidden state.. So if you start receiving suppressive fire, you can move to a different area and wait it out. This is usually the best move, as enemies will still come to investigate that area while they are firing at it, too.
Finally, you’ll notice that I said visibility and noise are the 2 core factors; In addition to this you’ve also got to worry about enemies when they are eliminated. This is a less clear factor; You can silently eliminate an enemy 2 rooms and 50 meters away from one group and that group will become alert and start investigating, while other times you may eliminate someone in a larger room with a handful of enemies, and they will have no idea their buddy has been killed. This could be a bug with the alert system, however, so just keep in mind that it could change in future patches.
As a special aside: Starfield really missed an opportunity for stealth while in zero/low gravity or zero/low atmosphere; As it stands there is no way to “crouch” while in 0g, so you’re relegated to standard visual and auditory detection levels (although you at least don’t make standard run/walk noise). Additionally, low gravity and low atmosphere planets have no impact on stealth either based on my testing.
Starfield’s “Active Camo” Chameleon Effect
As I mentioned earlier, there is a special effect called “Chameleon” which acts as a sort of “active camo” making you partially invisible. This effect (except in one instance which is discussed in the spoilers section) is only active when you’re standing still, and isn’t flawless; Just a single stack of Chameleon is more like a general boost to stealth, rather than a complete method for eliminating visual detection.
You can get this effect via Concealment rank 3, and via equipment. It should be noted that this effect DOES stack! So, getting rank 3 of concealment and multiple pieces of equipment with it can make you effectively invisible when standing still.
Concealment DOESN’T impact noise levels, so firing an unsuppressed weapon will still get you noticed even if you’re not moving. I will note that actions like firing, picking locks and more won’t cause concealment to break; only movement does (which includes jumping, FYI).
I noted it only applies when standing still, but that’s not entirely true; you can move very, VERY slightly for a short amount and not lose the effect, but if you’re hoping to sneak past a group of enemies this way, expect it to take a very, VERY long time.
Starfield & Ship-Based Stealth
There is one more little bit of stealth mechanics to mention as an aside before we get into spoiler territory: Starfield does have a little bit of ship-based stealth in the form of reduced power; If you turn off power to everything but a single pip or two in engines you can get past enemies relatively unnoticed, however.. It’s not that useful of a mechanic. You won’t be evading ship scans or breaking off combat using this, so most of the time you’re better off just jumping away rather than trying to “stealth” your way in (except for the one time the game has you use this mechanic as part of the main story).
Starfield Stealth Final Notes: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Here’s your warning! Below this image we’ll have some potential spoilers for you, so if you’re avoiding spoilers, don’t go past this until you’ve completed the main story!
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s talk Starborn powers and stealth!
There is one Starborn power that directly impacts stealth: Void Form.
Void Form is a special kind of Chameleon effect; it’s effectiveness appears to be the same as the standard Chameleon effect based on my testing, but it allows you to also move while it’s active! This power is incredibly useful for quests where you have to move undetected through facilities (such as the Ryujin and Crimson Fleet questlines). As you progress through NG+ playthroughs and rank this power up, it’s cost will go down slightly and it’ll last a little longer, so it’ll be even better at Rank 5 vs. the initial rank.
There is one absolutely critical thing to keep in mind with Void Form, however: If you also have Concealment rank 3 or any equipment that grants a Chameleon effect and the effect engages, once you move again BOTH Concealment and Void Form will be removed! This may be a bug, so hopefully it will get patched eventually, but definitely keep this in mind when using the power!
Speaking of using powers and stealth, powers that don’t impact the environment themselves won’t break stealth; this means powers like Personal Atmosphere, Void Form or Sense Star Stuff (plus others) won’t break your stealth.
Powers that impact the environment, such as attack powers and gravity-affecting powers, do have the potential to break stealth, FYI..
..And that’s the full guide! Good luck and happy sneaking, Starborn!