After decades of working in fantasy and post-apocalyptic settings, Bethesda Game Studios is finally tackling science fiction with Starfield, their upcoming role-playing game which also happens to be the first new IP the team has created in over twenty-five years old.
Bethesda Game Studios titles have garnered tens of millions of fans between Elder Scrolls and Fallout, making early interest in Starfield unsurprising. Her name was first discovered when Bethesda filed her in September 2013. Game director Todd Howard would go on to say later that no other name was being considered and that it had to be Starfield.
Following his official announcement at Bethesda’s E3 2018 press conference, fans learned that the project had been brewing for a long time in the minds of the developers, mainly Howard himself who had wanted to create a space game since 1994. At that time, Bethesda owned the rights to the tabletop RPG science fiction Traveler, but those quickly disappeared, he said. The Delta V game, released in 1994, was originally part of the planned Traveler game. There was another space combat game called The 10th Planet, but it was canceled shortly before its scheduled release date in 1997. A few years later, Bethesda had the Star Trek license, and Todd Howard even released an RPG based on the beloved sci-fi universe, but it obviously didn’t work out.
Active development on Starfield began as soon as BGS completed fallout 4 late 2015. Development moved from pre-production to full production in mid-2018, when the game was already playable in some form.
Release date, platforms, editions
Starfield was originally scheduled to launch on November 11, 2022, the eleventh anniversary of the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda’s biggest hit to date. In May 2022, however, Bethesda announced that it would be postponed to the first half of 2023.
The game will be released on PC and Xbox Series S|X. Like all Microsoft first-party games, it will also be playable by Game Pass subscribers on mobile platforms via the cloud.
There is no information on pre-orders or editions yet. We will update this section later.
The teaser for the announcement was released alongside the game’s announcement at E3 2018.
The first trailer was shared at E3 2021, showing in-engine footage.
Finally, the first fifteen-minute gameplay footage appeared last week at Xbox & Bethesda Game Showcase 2022.
Gender and setting
The Starfield universe is inspired by the so-called NASA Punk concept, with which Bethesda tries to propose a future based on real NASA space missions.
The game is set in the year 2330, some twenty years after a massive conflict dubbed Colony War between two major factions, the United Colonies and the Freestar Collective. At this time, humanity colonized space in an area that extends outside the solar system for about fifty light years. This region of space is called the Settled Systems and is where Starfield takes place.
At the start of the game, the United Colonies are the strongest faction both militarily and politically. Their capital is New Atlantis, located on the planet Jemison, and it is a melting pot of cultures. The Starfield developers have pointed out that in many ways the city is a true reflection of the future of our world. It is the largest city in the game (out of four main cities) and the largest ever built by the developers.
The other major power of the Settled Systems is the Freestar Collective, a confederation of three star systems that have come together for their shared belief in personal freedom and individuality. Their capital, Akila City, has fortified walls to withstand attacks from an aggressive alien species known as Ashta, described as a cross between wolves and velociraptors.
Beyond these two political powers, there are many other factions within the established systems. For example, the Xenofresh Corporation built a city of pleasure called Neon on a currently unnamed water world. Neon was actually supposed to be a fishing platform, but Xenofresh Corporation discovered a fish with mind-altering properties and then turned the town into a place where the wealthy go for recreational drugs. The drug itself, Aurora, is only legal on Neon.
Then there are rogue factions like the Crimson Fleet, a confederation of space pirates that the player will be able to infiltrate.
Starfield’s main quest will see players join the Constellation, described by Bethesda as the last group of space explorers. During the questline, players will make a discovery that will change everything. This could be a clue to the discovery of intelligent extraterrestrial life, although this is only speculation at this time.
According to the developers, the main quest will be longer than that of their previous titleslasting up to 40 hours of play.
Starfield has been described as Skyrim in space, although that’s probably a bit reductive. Like all of Bethesda’s games, it’ll be playable in both first-person and third-person view, and it’ll include basics like lock picking, pickpocketing, and even the newest colony building (here called outpost) of Fallout 4 and Fallout 76.
During the gameplay reveal, fans received confirmation on a number of gameplay features. For example, Starfield includes spaceflight, space combat, spaceship building, smuggling, as well as disabling, boarding, and even stealing enemy spaceships.
Spaceflight was confirmed to be non-seamless between ground and space, as the developers felt it would have been a waste of resources trying to implement this feature.
Space combat in Starfield will be a bit slower compared to the average nervous space shooter. Todd Howard said the inspiration came from games like MechWarrior when it comes to power management between weapons, engines, shields, and the Grav Drive that gets you out of sticky situations.
Building spaceships allows for complete customization of appearance and layout, thanks to the myriad of different modules and shipbuilders. Players will also be able to choose their crew members.
Bethesda then confirmed that it would be possible to land anywhere on any of over a thousand planets scattered across a hundred star systems. This is mostly done by procedural generation, although Howard pointed out that this has also been the case in previous Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. He added that once they had perfected procedural generation for a single planet, it was relatively trivial to extend it to many others.
Nonetheless, Starfield will feature more crafted in-game content than any previous Bethesda Game Studios title. It already has 200,000 lines of dialogue as of June 2022. It will also be clear to players which planet has crafted content and which relies primarily or solely on procedural generation.
As is evident in a fairly realistic space game, there will be plenty of barren but resource-rich balls of ice or otherwise unlivable planets. Still, they will be useful for researching flora and fauna as well as collecting resources that can be used to upgrade equipment, outposts, starships, and more. It’s also possible that these planets were designed as a modder’s playground and, indeed, Todd Howard expects Starfield to be a modder’s dream.
The gameplay reveal included a first look at the character creation system available in Starfield, which is the most flexible yet in a Bethesda game. Beyond the standard options for face, hair, and body types, players can also choose a specific walking style. The most interesting part is related to the background of the character, as it will come with unique role-playing options.
The following backgrounds can be seen in the demo:
- beast hunter
- Bounty hunter
- combat medic
- Cyber racer
- Long haul
Each of them comes with unique starting skills. Then there are the optional traits that have unique advantages and disadvantages. Here is a list of traits seen in the gameplay reveal:
- alien dna
- Freestar Collective Setter
- Kids stuff
- Neon street rat
- Elevated Lit
- Raised Universal
- The Serpent’s Embrace
- Departure reception
- Natives of the United Colonies
- unwanted hero
For example, Kid Stuff establishes that the player character has relatives who can be visited at their home, but 10% of all winnings are automatically deducted and sent to them. Starter Home lets you own a tiny house on a peaceful little moon, but also comes with a 50,000 credit mortgage that you’ll likely have to pay off at some point.
Some of the traits like Extrovert and Introvert, Freestar Collective Settler/United Colonies Native/Neon Street Rat, Spaced and Terra Firma, Raised Enlightened/Raised Universal/Serpent’s Embrace are also mutually exclusive.
star field will feature a silent protagonist unlike Fallout 4. Conversations will take place in first person view.
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