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Starfield ‘Top of the List’ quest, how to survey a habitable planet explained

Ticking off the check-L.I.S.T.

Scanning a planet in Starfield Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

Surveying a habitable planet in Starfield for the Top of the List quest is one of the space game’s more confusing side quests.

Missable instructions and scant tutorials for planet scanning mean it’s easy to overlook things like “can people breathe on this planet” or “will the water kill me” – y’know, the kind of minor details a prospective settler might want to know.

This Top of the List (or L.I.S.T.) guide explains how to get everything you need in your planet scan and where to look for a habitable planet.

Getting started with the “Top of the List” quest

Talking to Phil Hill in Starfield Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

You might have heard several people talking about L.I.S.T. in your travels, but there’s only one potential settler you can try to recruit for this quest. Follow the quest marker over to the very unenthusiastic man at the back of the Broken Spear, and try to recruit him. You may need to purchase pamphlets from Phil to carry on, depending on how well your conversation goes.

If you fail the persuasion check, you can still convince the man to go along with your scheme, so there’s no need to reload and try again.

Speak with Phil to get your next task: surveying a habitable planet.

How to survey a habitable planet in Starfield

Surveying a habitable planet in Starfield Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

Phil skims over the criteria for what makes a habitable planet, and the quest notes don’t actually mention it. I also encountered a bizarre quirk where quest markers and scanner paths would show up on planets that were definitely not habitable and point me toward resources, so you might want to just ignore quest markers for this step.

What you need for a habitable planet

  • An atmosphere with strong oxygen (O2) levels
  • Moderate flora
  • Moderate fauna
  • Natural, Safe, or Biological water
  • Temperate temperature
  • At least “moderate” magnetosphere

A few planets meet the criteria, including Arcturus II and Leviathan IV, the latter of which is a good source of XP and even an achievement, since it takes a lot of grav jumping and route plotting to reach.

However, the easiest to tackle is Eridani II in the Eridani System. It’s sunny, with science outposts and even a few quests to tackle, so you can use this as a base for experimenting with outpost building if you wanted to.

The Eridani system in Starfield Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

If you’re early in the game, the Eridani System is at the bottom left of your star map, beyond Alpha Centauri. Eridani II has a pretty common spread of resources and biological life – seven mineral resources and eight each for flora and fauna.

You need to fully survey the planet, which means scanning multiple types of each flora and fauna sample – five Leafhunters, for example, and five Pinecone Scavengers. Once you have enough, the scannable resources show up as green on your scanner, so you can ignore them and move on to the rest.

Eridani II has several biomes, like most habitable planets in Starfield, and you’ll need to visit them to scan every resource. Open the planet map, select a spot on the planet to see what biome it’s in, and then land and use your scanner to see what resources are nearby.

Scanning a creature - the pinecone scavenger - in Starfield Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

A prompt may appear that tells you to build an outpost scanner to improve your scanning range. I did that, and it had no apparent effect on my ship or hand scanner. You’re probably free to ignore this if you aren’t ready to build an outpost just yet.

Once you sort all your scans out, open the planet map again, and perform one final planet scan. It’ll show up as a complete survey, and you can send Philip the results. You get a few thousand credits in return.

Philip never tasked me with helping the company again, despite L.I.S.T. activities still carrying on around me throughout the game, though it’s possible he may give you another quest if you find him on some other planet later in your journey.