Scanning and Surveying – Starfield

Starfield is a game about discovery and exploration. It makes sense, then, that one of your main tools is your scanner, which you can use from above a planet to determine is resources, and on a planet to learn about it’s local environment and (ultimately) the planet itself. Whether you need to scan a room for valuables, scan a creature to survey a planet, or scan the planet itself to learn its resources, this guide will help guide you through the process. Don’t worry, it’s less invasive than your scanner will be.


The first type of scanning you will do regularly is scanning a planet, which can help you determine where valuable resources are, and therefor the best places to land to get what you need. In order to scan a planet, you must first travel there by hovering over the planet in your solar system map and pressing X / playstation x button / button xbox a v2 to travel there (Image 1). You can tell a world has not been scanned before traveling there by looking at the planet map; if you see “Scan Unavailable” (or “Scan”) at the bottom of the left-hand information readout (Image 2).

Once you are to the planet you want to scan, you can do so by pressing X / playstation x button / button xbox a v2, or by clicking and holding the white “Scan” button (Image 3). This will scan the planet, showing what resources are under the surface, as well as how many unique traits the planet has (Image 4).

You can determine what resources are in what location by matching the colors on the planetary map with the colors of the resources on the left-hand panel — for instance, in the example above you can see where Water (H20), Chlorine (Cl), Lead (Pb), Nickel (Ni), and Argon (Ar) are. Hovering over any of these colors will also display the name of the resource, if the colors are too close to tell. Notice that the last three resources, Benzine (C6Hn), Cobalt (Co), and Silver (Ag), are still grey, meaning that the planetary scanner cannot determine where they are located on the planet — you’ll need to land to find them.

In order to survey this planet, and not just get a rough lay of the land, you will need to land on the planet. Something to note about this is that, when you select a landing site, the biome you will be landing in will be displayed in the bottom right, above the “Land” prompt, together with a percentage. The percentage indicates how much of the flora, fauna, and resources of that biome you have scanned, and can be a handy way of determining where you will need to land next to complete a planetary survey. Below are examples where nothing has been scanned (Image 5), compared to a biome where 50% of the flora, fauna, and resources have been scanned (Image 6).

Lastly, it should be noted that, from orbit, you can tell if a planet has already been totally surveyed by looking for the “Surveyed” banner at the top of the left-hand readout (Image 7).

Outside of space, one of your most valuable tools is your hand scanner, which you will be able to use for a variety of things after receiving it during the game’s tutorial. Most prominently, the hand scanner shows interactable and lootable objects within its range and cone of vision. In order use the hand scanner, simply press F / button xbox leftbumper / playstation l1 button, and it will open (Image 8), as indicated by the white circle in the center of the screen and the survey information to the left (on a planet). Note that, while use the hand scanner, you will only have access to your Cutter, to mine resources and use as a weapon, and in order to use other weapons you will need to exit hand scanner mode by pressing F / button xbox leftbumper / playstation l1 button again.

If you’d like to survey, pull your hand scanner out and look around. Anything highlighted in unshaded blue which is part of the environment (flora, fauna, or resource) can be scanned (Image 9), as well as any resources in the ground (which will be highlighted in their own color regardless of survey status). For now, though, let’s focus on flora and fauna.

To scan flora or fauna, you simply need to approach the plant or creature until the “Scan” prompt on the bottom of your screen is not greyed out (Image 10). The distance you can scan something is based on your “Survey” skill. Once you are in range, scan the object with E / playstation x button / button xbox a v2. It object will become shaded (Image 11), indicating that it has been surveyed, and you will see a percentage indicator on the right side of your screen indicating how much percent of your survey you have completed for that flora or fauna (you need to scan 8 instances of any flora or fauna to complete the survey). Flora or fauna you loot (whether harvesting flora or looting resources off of fauna) will also count as scanned.

To complete a survey, you will need to scan 8 instances of a flora or fauna in order to reach 100%, which will also be indicated by the highlight for that flora or fauna now being green and the readout on the left-hand side of the screen now counting 1 higher for the Survey (Image 12). Once you have fully surveyed all the flora or fauna of a region, even if it is not all the flora and fauna on the entire planet, the left-hand readout will also show “Biome Complete” (Image 13), indicating that there is nothing else to scan in that category in the biome. If you have scanned everything (Including Resources and Traits, which we will discuss later), then the readout will also display a “Surveyed” banner at the top to indicate a finished survey of the planet (Image 14).

Scanning resources works similarly to scanning flora and fauna, in that you simply need to approach the resource (whether it is above the surface or in a colored vein underneath) and press E / playstation x button / button xbox a v2 to scan it (Image 15). Resources only need to be scanned a single time, and whenever you scan a resource you will be shown a wheel showing you what resources remain needing to be scanned to complete the survey (Image 16)

In order to locate locations on a planet, you will nee to scan the horizon and look for white-on-black icons, indicating the presence of a Point of Interest (or POI) (Image 17). You can scan these from any distance by pressing E / playstation x button / button xbox a v2, and when you do they will turn black-on-white, and provide a more revealing icon as per the purpose of the POI in question (Image 18).

One type of location you can scan is what allows you to fill in a planet’s traits, which is necessary for fully surveying a planet: to do so, you will need to find a feature on the horizon which says “Natural” or “Life Signs”, and head toward it (Image 19). Once you arrive, if it features a trait, you will be given a title for the location and a banner which reads “Unexplored [Type] Feature”, where [Type] indicates the kind of feature you have encountered (Image 20). This pop-up will also tell you how many Features you will need to scan in order for the trait to be considered “Discovered”. To scan these features, simply use the hand scanner to locate objects with a blue highlight in the environment, and scan them with E / playstation x button / button xbox a v2 (Image 21). Once you have scanned enough of these features, the Trait will fill out, as indicated by the symbol at the bottom of the left-hand readout (Image 22).

There is one more type of scanning you can do: ship-to-ship scanning. This is the simplest type of scanning, simply requiring you to press E / playstation x button / button xbox a v2 while looking at a ship, which will give you a readout of its systems and information, and will lock you on to that ship (Image 23).

starfield scanning ship to ship
Image 23

Now that you know how to scan, both using your hand scanner and ship scanner, it is time to get out there and use your newfound knowledge to collect information and explore the galaxy of Starfield. Maybe it’ll even help you uncover something new and fascinating…

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Graves
Graves

Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he'll try. When he isn't working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

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