When you start your Starfield quest, you only have one ship to your name: the Frontier. The vessel might not be falling apart, but it hasn’t been top-of-the-line for quite some time, either.
If you want a better shuttle, you’re going to need to buy or build one yourself, both of which require money. Or you can just steal someone else’s ship. However, doing so isn’t like riding a bicycle; you need the proper in-game qualifications first.
Starfield: How to Board a Ship
In order to board a ship, you have to disable it without blowing it up. Sounds pretty obvious when you think about it, but you can’t do that with your unreliable human eyes.
Before you can board ships, you have to unlock the Targeting Control Systems skill in the Tech tree. This ability’s first rank lets you target different subsystems in enemy ships. In this case, you need to use the skill to take out your enemy’s engines. Subsequent ranks make it easier to lock on and bestow benefits while targeting an enemy, but if you are hurting for skill points, these upgrades aren’t necessary.
With the Targeting Control Systems unlocked, you can start shooting out an enemy vessel’s engines, preferably after you’ve destroyed their shields. To target engines (or any subsystem), get in close, wait for your ship to lock on, and then open the targeting tab with the “Target Lock” prompt (the X button on the Xbox controller by default). Once that is all done, keep hammering the engines until the ship is adrift in space, but make sure you stop before the hull is destroyed. You can’t exactly board a burning wreckage, now can you?
If you’re close enough, the prompt to dock the ship will pop up on the screen (the X button on the controller yet again). Press the corresponding button, and a short cutscene will play showing the ships docking. Once the ships are latched, the game gives you an option to board, undock, or get up from your seat. To board, just select the “Board” option (duh), and congratulations, you’re almost done.
A word of warning before trying to board a ship: You can only attempt this trick after you have destroyed all other enemies in the area. If you see two ships you want, you have to decide which one to commandeer before taking out their engines. Also, unless you are going for a full villain route, only attack and board ships that shoot at you first. Nobody’s going to miss a few pirates, but if a United Colonies ship goes dark, you’re going to end up with a bounty on your head.
Starfield: How to Steal a Ship
Once you’ve boarded a vessel, you’re in enemy territory, and the people on that ship won’t let you steal it sitting down.
Before you can actually steal a ship, you have to eliminate all hostiles on board. The size and class of the ship will determine how many enemies will try to jump you. Once they’re dealt with, you have the run of the place and have technically stolen it. But what to do next? That’s up to you, your inventory space, and your character’s skills.
After dealing with enemies, you should probably clear out all valuables. Loot everything that isn’t nailed down and transfer it to your main ship. Anything in the cargo hold, corpses, or random containers are ripe for the taking, and if you boarded a pirate or mercenary ship, you might find some contraband that will fetch a pretty penny if you can sneak it past authorities. After that’s done, you might want to claim the ship for yourself, either to add to your squadron or to sell for extra cash. However, you can only do that if you can fly the ship to safe harbor.
While you can probably pilot most ships you board, some will require specialized licenses. To obtain them, rank up your Piloting skill in your Tech tree to either Rank 3 or Rank 4. Once you have the requisite flight training, simply pilot the vessel to any major city and land in the dock. Finally, talk to the nearby technician and register the ship for a (not always small) fee. Now you are free to upgrade the vessel as you see fit or sell it. Don’t worry, the profits you get from scrapping the starship are generally more than the cost of registration.
And that’s all you need to know about boarding and stealing ships in Starfield for fun and profit (and EXP).