Stealth archers have long been a popular playstyle in Bethesda games, going all the way back to Skyrim where players would inevitably end up as stealth archers regardless of their initial build. Now with Starfield, the long-awaited new IP from Bethesda, players can take the stealth sniper concept to the stars in this expansive new sci-fi RPG.
In this comprehensive build guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to create the most overpowered stealth sniper build that makes even Very Hard difficulty feel like a breeze. We’ll cover character creation, early game progression, core skills to invest in, how to use powers to your advantage, and plenty of tips and tricks for mastering this playstyle.
Whether you’re a veteran of previous Bethesda games or completely new to their signature open world RPG formula, this guide will set you up for success with the stealth sniper right from the start. So let’s dive in and get ready to one-shot enemies across the Settled Systems!
Introduction to the Stealth Sniper Playstyle
For those unfamiliar, the stealth sniper build focuses on dealing massive damage from long range using sneak attacks and critical hits. By remaining undetected, you can take down enemies before they even know you’re there. While Bethesda games have long catered to a variety of playstyles, stealth has always been a popular choice, especially when paired with archery or sniping.
In Starfield, you can fully embrace that stealthy precision shooter experience. With the right build, you’ll feel like an intergalactic assassin, surveying areas from a distance, marking targets, and eliminating them swiftly and silently with surgically-precise headshots. It’s an incredibly lethal yet methodical playstyle perfect for players who want to feel like a space ninja.
Compared to a run-and-gun playstyle, the stealth sniper is also far less reliant on gear and stats early on. You win encounters through skill and positioning rather than simply overpowering enemies. And there are few things more satisfying in Starfield than landing a long distance headshot right as an enemy turns around to detect you.
The stealth sniper is an ideal build for those who want to ramp up the difficulty but don’t enjoy drawn-out firefights with bullet sponge enemies. While Starfield lets you tweak difficulty dynamically, higher levels do increase enemy health pools considerably. But when you’re landing sneak attack critical headshots, even Very Hard difficulty foes drop with a single bullet.
This guide will contain some minor early game spoilers, as I’ll be showcasing some combat mechanics and special abilities you unlock through the main questline. If you want a completely blind playthrough, I’d recommend checking out the written version of this guide on my website which omits spoilers entirely. With that said, let’s jump into character creation and the all-important early game progression.
Character Creation and Early Game Progression
When first creating your stealth sniper character in Starfield, choose a background that complements this playstyle:
Cyber Runner – This background gives bonuses to stealth, security for hacking, and theft. All 3 are extremely beneficial for a stealth sniper build, so Cyber Runner is a top-tier choice. Stealth is of course core to the build, while security enables hacking computers and locks which aids infiltration. And theft allows pickpocketing unaware NPCs.
Industrialist – This background provides persuasion for easier quest resolutions, research methods to more efficiently learn weapon mods and upgrades, and security for hacking. Well-rounded and great for a more social stealth operative.
Soldier – A more combat-focused background that boosts damage, provides training for boost pack maneuvers, and improves oxygen capacity for exploring hostile planets. The damage buffs are nice early on.
Long Hauler – Grants increased weight carrying capacity for loot, improved piloting skills for space combat, and a bonus to ballistic weapons like rifles. The piloting and capacity boosts are helpful quality of life skills.
No matter which background you pick, it’s viable for a stealth sniper. Choose one that aligns with your intended roleplaying style. Next, you have to pick two traits during character creation:
- Alien DNA – This trait increases your oxygen and health pools at the cost of reduced food buff durations. Very useful early on before you acquire gear to boost stats. The extra breathing room in oxygen capacity helps exploration.
- Introvert – Since you’ll be stealthing solo in most encounters, you don’t benefit much from companions. Introvert buffs your skills when alone in exchange for weaker group buffs.
- Terra Firma – Given how much sprinting you’ll be doing to traverse planets and get into position undetected, the major oxygen consumption reduction from Terra Firma is extremely useful.
There are many viable traits to complement a stealth build like Kid Stuff for roleplaying or Dead Eye for bonus headshot damage. But I’ve had great success with the three suggested above. Feel free to experiment with alternatives that appeal to your playstyle or character background.
With your stealth sniper’s identity forged, you’re ready to loose an arrow volley…err I mean a hail of bullets across the cosmos! In terms of early game progression, there are a few key things to focus on:
Acquire a rifle with useful bonuses – Keep an eye out for rifle drops or visit vendors that sell ranged weapons. Some of the best prefixes to look for include increased sneak attack damage, critical hit damage/chance, and attack speed. The higher the item level/rarity the better generally.
Prioritize suppressor mods – Obtaining a suppressor mod for your rifle is absolutely crucial early on. This will prevent your shots from breaking stealth. Vendors sometimes sell blue quality suppressors which are good temporary options.
Max out Stealth skills first – As soon as possible, invest skill points into maxing out your Stealth skill. This governs your ability to remain undetected based on movement speed, noise, and other factors. Critical for a sniper.
Research Methods & Weapon Engineering – Put some points into Research Methods so you can learn weapon mods faster. And Weapon Engineering allows crafting of higher tier mods so you can push your damage farther.
Of course, balance stealth skills with some core quality of life skills like Piloting and Weight Lifping so you can effectively explore systems and loot to your heart’s content. But in terms of combat progression, stealth is vital early on. Once you have the ability to reliably remain hidden, you can start strategically picking off enemies. Patience and positioning are key before you have late-game power and perks.
Core Skills and Progression for the Build
Once you’ve unlocked the advanced tier of skills by investing 4 skill points in the starter skills, these should be your next priorities:
- Pain Tolerance – This passive skill provides a flat damage and elemental damage reduction. It’s useful for when combat eventually goes loud and you take hits.
- Rifle Certification – Directly increases your damage with any rifle by up to 20%. Fantastic passive buff to your primary damage source.
- Weapon Engineering – Allows crafting of Epic and Legendary tier mods so you can keep pushing your rifle damage through upgrades.
After you’ve invested 8 total points in a particular skill tree to unlock expert skills, Sniper Certification should be your first pick. The key benefit is an additional 50% headshot damage when using a scoped rifle. This has incredible synergy with sneak attacks.
Finally, once you’ve unlocked the Master tier skills by putting 12 points into a tree, you have access to these must-have skills:
- Concealment – In addition to bonuses like muffling movement noises, at Rank 4 this makes your sneak attacks do an insane 4-10x normal damage based on your stealth skill. It’s the ultimate multiplier for your precision shots.
- Sharp Shooting – Starts off by making your ranged sneak attack crits do 50% more damage. Eventually makes your headshots automatically crit and increases crit chance by 25% after killing an enemy with a crit. It’s insanely powerful paired with Concealment.
Choosing where to allocate your points while balancing combat skills, crafting, exploration, and dialogue/hacking comes down to preference. But I’d recommend prioritizing stealth bonuses first and foremost. By the time you unlock Concealment and Sharp Shooting, your build will hit incredible new damage heights. Even Very Hard enemies will melt before your hyper-empowered sneak headshots.
And keep in mind you don’t necessarily have to kill every enemy you see. As a stealth sniper, you can eliminate high threat targets first and then re-enter stealth. This build affords flexibility in how you approach encounters rather than needing to be a one-man army.
Using Powers to Your Advantage
After completing several of the early main quest steps in Starfield, you’ll gain access to special powers tied to temples found across various planets. These powers can offer huge benefits to your stealth sniper build if acquired early on.
In particular, I highly recommend seeking out and completing the temple on Piazzi 4C as soon as possible. Doing so unlocks the Sense Star Stuff power which is practically mandatory for any serious stealth player. Sense Star Stuff allows you to cast a wide sensory net that makes all living creatures in the area glow through walls and obstructions.
Obviously, knowledge of enemy locations is incredibly vital when you rely on stealth and precision strikes from a distance. And thanks to Starfield’s open structure, you’re able to grab this power very early if you know where to look. It combos fantastically with stealth skills and transforms you into the ultimate hidden scout.
The other temples provide powers ranging from kinetic blasts to temporary damage buffs to suit different playstyles. I’d suggest experimenting with them and swapping based on the situation. But for a stealth sniper, Sense Star Stuff will likely remain one of your most used powers throughout your playthrough.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Here are some final tips and strategies to help master the stealth sniper playstyle:
- Don’t be afraid to take it slow early on. Pick your shots carefully and retreat to re-enter stealth rather than trying to take on groups.
- Maximize XP gains by thoroughly exploring systems, scanning all discoverable points, and crafting items frequently. This will help you level up faster.
- Once an enemy detects you, re-enter stealth ASAP and change positions. Don’t let yourself get swarmed.
- Prioritize high threat targets like heavies and marksmen when deciding who to pick off first.
- Consider leaving companions on your ship rather than bringing them on missions, as they can accidentally break stealth.
- Before entering new indoor areas, use Sense Star Stuff to safely scout enemy locations and plan your approach.
- Fully charge shots for maximum damage. And invest perks into increasing your rifle’s weak spot/headshot damage.
- Use the environment to your advantage. Engage at long range, break line of sight, and strike from unexpected angles.
- With Critical Hits, Headshot, and Sneak Attack bonuses stacked, even Very Hard enemies will die in 1-2 shots.
Closing Thoughts on This Build
Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need to build an unstoppable stealth sniper in Starfield capable of massive damage and surgical elimination of enemies. Properly built, this class absolutely demolishes content and makes higher difficulties feel much more manageable.
It’s a playstyle that really makes the most of Starfield’s flexible progression and open ended environments. And of course it carries on the legacy of stealth archers that Bethesda RPG fans know and love. Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any other questions, and feel free to share your own stealth sniper experiences or builds in the comments section.