The wait for Bethesda’s Starfield, first announced in 2018, has felt like interstellar travel itself. But the journey is nearly over: On September 6, 2023, Starfield will finally arrive on Xbox Series X/S and Windows PCs. Promising an ambitious scale and signature Bethesda role-playing, there’s a lot to look forward to. So, we’ve put together everything we know about this gargantuan game as of right now, April 2023. Let’s hit it.
Starfield features more than 1,000 worlds
The scale of Starfield is a little mind-boggling. Some might say it’s too much. The number of player-explorable, traversable planets will exceed 1,000, as per Starfield director Todd Howard’s statements during last year’s Xbox 2022 press conference.
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Fans of that other big space game might snicker and say, “yeah, but it’s not 18 quintillion planets.” They’d be right, but Starfield is aiming for a different presentation than the seemingly endless cosmos of No Man’s Sky and other games that rely on procedural generation to populate large-scale worlds.
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Starfield is prioritizing intentional design wherever possible. In November of 2022, Todd Howard described the many worlds of Starfield as being made up of both “handcrafted content [and] open procedural planet” design. “Realistic-looking” tilesets detail entire worlds, but Howard stressed that the game’s planets avoid the “fractally goop” look that untempered procedural generation can sometimes produce. If you played No Man’s Sky in that game’s very early days, you likely know what he’s referring to.
Starfield features survival elements, but don’t expect anything too scary
Todd Howard said that while Starfield contains survival elements, the game doesn’t tax the player with anything he described as a “fun-killer.”
“There’s some effort involved” in traversing space, Howard told Lex Fridman in November of last year. The game appears to have some resource management and environmental hazards. According to Howard, early builds featured tougher survival challenges, but Bethesda scaled survival elements back quite a bit in favor of fun and the theater of cruising the stars.
In October of 2022, Todd Howard revealed that ship fuel won’t “run out,” but that you are limited in “how far you can go at once.”
You can adjust character traits without rerolling a new one
Nothing’s worse than getting a few hours into a dense RPG and thinking “damn it, I built this character wrong.” Thankfully, Starfield aims to provide a solution for that.
While it hopes that starting up a new character spontaneously will always prove fun on its own, Bethesda also revealed that specific quests will let you respec your character’s traits, allowing you to swap out ones you picked at character creation for abilities that make more sense for what you’re trying to accomplish a few hours in.
Starfield is “hard sci-fi”…sort of
Science fiction, sci-fi (or SF, in the literary tradition) largely falls into three broad categories: hard science fiction, soft science fiction (sometimes called “social science fiction”), and what’s often referred to as science fantasy.
Hard SF aspires to achieve a kind of fiction based on plausible scenarios of technological advancement; Robert J. Sawyer’s works are an excellent example. Soft or social SF, which we see in the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, usually concentrates on the story and characters, typically involving themes of politics, philosophy, and sociology. Science fantasy, however, could easily see warp drives replaced with magic portals and still mostly tell the same story; think Star Wars. How things work in science fantasy isn’t necessarily important. Rather, thrilling heroics and pure spectacle are typically the main features.
According to Todd Howard, Starfield pulls from the hard science fiction tradition. Citing inspiration from tabletop games like Traveller, Howard said that Starfield clearly takes its inspiration from current technological accomplishments and contemporary theories about quantum physics. He said, however, that “it’s a video game” and elements of realism, such as fuel management, aren’t the priority.
Space “anomalies” await your discovery, in addition to shootouts
So you have over 1,000 damn planets to explore, but what will you even be looking for or doing? Well, we know from early gameplay footage that there will be combat, both on foot and in space. Screenshots and the launch date announcement trailer, however, reveal that we’ll also be searching the stars for mysterious space anomalies, mystical artifacts that light up and move in magical ways. An NPC refers to these as anomalies. What role these play in the story, however, remains to be seen.
The main quest is about 30-40 hours long
Let’s be honest, the main quests in most Bethesda RPGs are kinda quick if you just breeze through them. Few play Skyrim or Fallout, however, for just the main story alone. Bethesda has said, however, that Starfield’s main quest contains more than you’d expect from the usual Bethesda open-world RPG jam. Speaking to IGN in June of 2022, Todd Howard said that the main quest will be about 20 percent larger than in previous Bethesda games.
Yes, you can visit our own solar system
According to Lead Quest Designer Will Shen, an early quest in Starfield sends players to our solar system, referred to in-world as “the Old Neighborhood.” In this quest you’ll explore “what happened to Earth” and will visit a settlement on Mars, described as a “whole city with its own problems and people to meet.”
Like previous Bethesda games, Starfield features NPC factions
As is to be expected from an open-world Bethesda RPG, Starfield will feature a number of different factions. Politics and philosophical outlook will vary from faction to faction and the game’s main quest will introduce you to each one. While you’ll be able to go on quests specific to these factions, you won’t necessarily become the leader of each one, though your choices will have “far-reaching consequences.”
Starfield will have a ton of dialogue
Back in October, Todd Howard said that Starfield will feature over 250,000 lines of dialogue. Howard said it bears the markings of “classic Bethesda-style dialogue.” You’ll also have the option to persuade NPCs via some sort of points system, which Howard said is similar to in Oblivion.
Companions have their own perspectives and can speak for you
Starfield’s main quest, referred to as the “Constellation storyline” will draw different opinions from your various companions. They’ll share their takes with you and can even step in to speak for you. On companion interaction, Will Shen said:
We’ve also added in several times where you can ask them to speak for you. So, you might have a companion with you, and you’ll be challenged. Someone will tell you that you ‘can’t get through here’ and you can actually turn to your companion and say “hey, actually could you handle this?” and they’ll actually speak on your behalf. And there could be consequences, good or bad for what they have to say.
Shen also said that companions’ fates, “whether someone lives or dies,” are also affected by the actions you take. Outcomes of various storylines and the main quest will determine “who ends up with you at the end.”
There’s no sex in Starfield
I hate to disappoint you, but no one’s getting laid in Starfield. Go play Mass Effect again if you’re looking for that. Really, anyone familiar with a Bethesda game ought to have expected this. Sex and sexuality in Bethesda RPGs is, at most, peripherally implied, and—outside of sleeping with your romanceable NPC of choice in Fallout 4 and receiving the Lover’s Embrace perk—never really an actual activity the player can engage in.
The Australian Classification Board recently dashed the hopes of players looking to hook up among the stars. In March of 2023, the ratings board gave Starfield an 18+ rating, citing that there was “very mild impact” of nudity, and zero sex. Oh well.
Starfield will cost 70 bucks, and is exclusive to Xbox (and PC)
More and more games are carrying that sigh-worthy 70-dollar price tag, and Starfield is no exception. According to Microsoft back in December of 2022, Starfield will cost 70 bucks (though it will also be available “free” to subscribers of its Game Pass service).
Also, as Microsoft purchased Bethesda parent company Zenimax Media back in 2021, Starfield is locked in as a console exclusive on Xbox, with Windows PCs the only other supported platform. So no, much as your PS5 looks like some kind of monolith from deep space, Starfield ain’t coming to Sony’s machine. Them’s the rules.
At least it’ll be on Steam, thank god.
Bethesda is expected to reveal even more about Starfield in on June 11, 2023
Even though we know quite a bit about Starfield right now, Bethesda has promised that there’s a whole lot more to reveal. Fortunately, we’ll get a peek at what else is in store on June 11, 2023, with a “Starfield Direct” presentation.