Starfield is the first new intellectual property from Bethesda Game Studios in twenty-five years, and their first new game since Fallout 76 was released in 2018. According to studio head Todd Howard, Starfield is “a next-generation role playing game where you’ll be who you want, go where you want, experience our stories, and forge your own.” RPG fans are eager to get their hands on the game; it is currently the most wishlisted item on Steam.
Bethesda has been slow to release information about Starfield, and has already delayed the project once. The game was completely absent from the studio’s Developer Direct spotlight early this year, and while they’ve promised a separate showcase just for Starfield, no date has been given for it yet.
Here’s a summary of all the Starfield news we have so far.
Starfield takes place in the year 2330 in a small corner of the Milky Way galaxy known as the Settled Systems. The Settled Systems is a zone that extends outward from our own solar system (known in the game as “the Old Neighborhood”) for about 50 light years. An early quest will send the player to Mars to explore one of humanity’s earliest settlements, the city of Cydonia. Along the way, you’ll also find out what happened to Earth.
The Settled Systems include over 100 systems with more than 1000 planets and moons. The player can land anywhere on any one of these worlds. Concept art and screenshots from the game show a variety of landscapes, from rocky desert to lush jungle to urban metropolis.
At the time the game begins, the Settled Systems are in a period of uneasy peace following a bloody conflict between two colonizing factions, the United Colonies and the Freestar Collective.
You play a character known as the Spacefarer, the newest member of Constellation, an organization that Todd Howard calls “the last group of space explorers.” Early in the game you discover an alien artifact, and Constellation sends you to the furthest reaches of the Settled Systems to find more. The main quest is bigger than that of previous Bethesda games and could take 30–40 hours to complete.
As with any Bethesda game, the main quest is just a jumping off point. There are a multitude of other stories to experience in Starfield. The game has over 250,000 lines of dialogue, the most of any Bethesda game to date (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had 60,000 lines and Fallout 4 had 111,000).
Starfield is also more dynamic than previous Bethesda games. The random encounters and radiant quests that made their previous worlds feel alive have been sized up. In the past, you could run into a character or group of characters along your journeys who would trigger a quest, initiate dialogue, or just outright attack you. In Starfield, you will come across entire outposts that have been dynamically placed on the worlds as you explore them.
Every Bethesda RPG has a variety of factions for you to join or fight against, and Starfield is no different. The developers have said that you will be able to experience every faction’s story in a single game if you choose to do so. Here are the factions we know about:
- Constellation is an organization of space explorers that sends you on a mission to uncover alien artifacts. You’ll join this faction early on as part of the main quest.
- The United Colonies and the Freestar Collective are two rival colonizing factions who were at war with each other until about 20 years ago. Both factions can be joined, although it’s unclear how the game will handle the player being a member of both.
- Ryujin Industries is the game’s requisite mega-corp. It’s unknown if the player will be able to join them.
- The Pirates of the Crimson Fleet are a joinable faction of space pirates. There will be an option to play through their story as a “good guy” who reports back to your superiors.
- House Va’ruun is a group of religious zealots. It’s unclear whether they can be joined by the player.
- Ecliptic Mercenaries and Spacers have also been mentioned as enemy factions, but not much is known about them yet.
Companion characters are another hallmark of Bethesda games, and there will be plenty more of them in Starfield. As always, they can fight for you, carry your stuff, and make comments about what is going on around you. You’ll even have the option to let them speak for you in certain situations, which can have consequences, either good or bad. They’ll also act as the crew for your ship.
The only companion we’ve met so far is VASCO, an expeditionary robot who is assigned to you as part of the Constellation mission. VASCO is a large bipedal machine designed for navigating rough terrain and carrying heavy loads, although he does have some defensive capabilities as well.
The developers have said the companions in Starfield will have more depth than in any of their previous games, particularly the companions who join you through Constellation.
In Starfield, you’ll play a human character known as the Spacefarer. Body customization options include body type, walk style, and skin tone, as well as how muscular, thin, or heavy your character is. Face customization includes skin tone, head shape, hair style, hair color, and eye color. Players will also be able to choose their character’s pronouns.
You’ll also select a background for your character. Each background comes with three starting skills and will define your character’s backstory. Characters in the game can comment on your background, but it’s unclear if it will effect the way your story plays out. Known background options include:
- Beast Hunter
- Bounty Hunter
- Combat Medic
- Cyber Runner
- Long Hauler
Finally, you’ll be able to select three traits for your character. Each trait comes with pros and cons. Traits can be removed through gameplay if desired, so you aren’t stuck with them permanently. The traits we know about are:
- Alien DNA
- Dream Home
- Freestar Collective Settler
- Kid Stuff
- Neon Street Rat
- Raised Enlightened
- Raised Universal
- Serpent’s Embrace
- Terra Firma
- United Colonies Native
Starfield‘s skills are divided into five trees, each with four tiers. Higher tiers are unlocked by leveling up. Individual skills each have four ranks. The player starts with three different tier-one skills unlocked based on their character background. Other skills can be unlocked with skill points, which are earned by leveling. Additional skill ranks can be earned by completing special challenges.
The five skill trees are:
- The Physical tree includes skills like Weight Lifting and Wellness.
- The Social tree includes the Bargaining, Diplomacy, Gastronomy, and Persuasion skills.
- The Combat tree contains the Ballistics, Dueling, Lasers, and Pistol Certification skills.
- The Science tree includes the Medicine skill, among others that have yet to be revealed.
- The Tech tree features the Robotics, Security, and Starship Design skills.
Another ever-present feature of Bethesda RPGs is crafting. In Starfield, you’ll be able to conduct research and craft items using the resources you collect through the course of your adventures. The crafting options we know about are:
- Food and Drink
- Outpost Development
In the Weaponry menu, you will be able to craft mods for your weapons similar to the Fallout games. Not much is known about Pharmacology, Food and Drink, or Equipment crafting.
Outpost Development allows you to build your own outposts on the worlds you explore, similar to Fallout 4’s settlements. Your outposts can generate resources for you to utilize in further crafting. You can even hire characters you meet to manage them.
Starfield will feature a lot of familiar game mechanics from the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, as well as few new ones.
Dialogue will be a big part of the game. Some conversations will include skill checks, where the player can choose a special response if their skill level is high enough. There will also be a Persuasion mechanic similar to Oblivion‘s Speechcraft mini-game, where the player will attempt to sweet talk or intimidate the person. One Fallout 4 feature that is not returning is voiced player dialogue. Bethesda has confirmed that the Spacefarer will be a silent protagonist.
Like other Bethesda RPGs, Starfield will have a lockpicking mini-game. This version appears to be high-tech and uses an item called a “digipick.” Eagle-eyed fans also spotted a brief glimpse of a “Pickpocket” interaction in the gameplay reveal video, so it looks like that feature of the Elder Scrolls games will be included as well.
The game’s HUD gives some hints at a few new mechanics, as it includes an O2/CO2 meter, a temperature reading, and a gravity gauge. How these elements will affect Starfield’s gameplay remains to be seen. There is also a special interface for scanning and harvesting flora, fauna, and mineral resources for crafting. HUD elements seem to be linked to a smartwatch worn by the player called a Chronomark.
Another mechanic new to the Bethesda RPG is spaceships. In Starfield, you’ll be able to build your own ship, customizing the look and layout and selecting your own crew. You’ll use your ship to explore the Settled Systems, utilizing a faster-than-light technology called the Grav Drive. There will be space combat as well, where you’ll do battle with enemy ships from behind the controls of your own.
Customizations to your ship include the following modules, all of which come in a variety of models from different manufacturers and can have their appearance customized:
- Fuel tank
- Pulse laser
Every ship also has attributes that affect its functionality. Different parts affect different attributes. For example, your ship’s top speed is determined in part by its engine. These attributes are:
- Crew slots
- Jump Range
- Top Speed
Combat in Starfield is similar to that of the Fallout games. The player will be able to swap between a variety of guns, each requiring a different type of ammo. Weapon types we’ve seen so far include assault rifles, laser rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns. You’ll also be able to use grenades. However, there’s no sign of any special targeting system like VATS; it looks like you’ll have to aim manually.
You’ll have a jetpack to aid you in getting around. Stealth will also be an option, allowing you to crouch down and sneak up on enemies to gain the upper hand.
The most recent and exciting piece of Starfield news is that we finally have a release date! After delays and numerous unverified leaks, Bethesda has confirmed Starfield’s release date to be September 6, 2023.
The game will cost $70. It will also be available day one through Xbox Game Pass. It will be an Xbox/Windows exclusive at launch, available only for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PC. There’s no word on if or when the game might be ported to other systems.
For Starfield, Bethesda made the biggest update to their game engine since The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was released seventeen years ago. Creation Engine 2 is built around next-gen systems, so it’s possible that the game may have some beefy system requirements. Those details have yet to be revealed, though.
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