Todd Howard and his developers took to the stage at Starfield Direct, revealing everything there is to know about the epic space opera / action-adventure RPG scheduled for release on September 6, 2023. Here is what we learned.
First things first, it has been confirmed that exploration will take centre stage in the Starfield universe with over one thousand planets to explore. There are varying biomes, a new lighting system thanks to real-time global illumination, and various hidden outposts and secrets to explore, mining nodes to bust open that provide crucial resources, plus hundreds of unique alien creatures to defeat and tame, should you so choose. Whew, and we are barely even scratching the surface.
The epic deep dive was broken down into 10 crucial parts that explain in great detail the main story, character creation, the in-depth skill system, ship modification, space flight, exploration and environments, companions, player-created outposts, and combat. As such, here’s a quick rundown of each of those components that make Starfield so unique.
As with any Bethesda game, you kick off the story as a nobody, and the journey begins when you join the Constellation – a space-faring group dedicated to unlocking the secrets of the universe. Before you know it, you’ll most likely become the stuff of legends in the settled systems. This is the golden path, and even though it arguably offers the best gameplay, story, rewards and secrets the game has on offer, it remains a small part of the bigger picture.
“The journey you take with Constellation is just the first of many you embark on. The settled systems is home to all kinds of different stories, people and adventures for you to uncover.”
Part of this epic journey involves visiting various new colonies and cities of which the trailer touched upon. There is New Atlantis, the first major human settlement in space. The people here pride themselves on law and order, discipline, and the legacy of humanity. You can see it in the buildings and the flags that adorn them. The city is pristine and clean, a monument to human ingenuity.
Through dialogue it is alluded that you might be able to join the United Colonies as a Vanguard and help build its legacy, perhaps even obtain a U.C citizenship. This could involve staving off space pirates, establishing new outposts, or simply hauling cargo halfway across the galaxy. Suffice to say, the possibilities are endless.
It isn’t the only city within the United Colonies, however. The city of Cydonia on Mars serves as the system’s largest mining colony, and beyond this reach there are other wild and independent coalitions of star systems.
One such example is presented by Akila City, one of many in the Free Star Collective space. It’s a bit rundown compared to New Atlantis and appears to be the wild western front surrounded by uncharted territory eerily similar to what you would find outside the Outer Rim Territories in the Star Wars Universe. It has whiskey-sipping space cowboys, saloons, wild creatures and everything in-between. A lawless, dust-covered land where anything goes, lest you cross paths with the town sheriff. Howdy, partner.
Last but not least, we got a glimpse of Neon City. Initially starting out as a fishing platform, Neon has developed into a gritty, cyber punk-esque city filled with space pirates and shady dealings, infamous in the galaxy for being a ‘pleasure’ city where almost anything goes. Leave your morals at the door, sir, when visiting these crime-ridden streets.
Character creation and skill system
The character-creation suite has been touched on before in previous deep dives, however it’s bigger than you can ever imagine. Players can literally get lost and spend hours in the new system, which Bethesda says is one of the biggest overhauls yet.
You start by selecting from 40 default pre-set characters, cleverly presented as though you’re cycling through employee I.D cards from a company called Argos Extractors – presumably the starting point of your entire adventure. Thereafter, expect to carefully refine your character and customise everything from facial features to body type, and even create your own unique player background.
Player backgrounds give you a vast choice of options and where you decide who exactly you want to be in the Starfield Universe. It may, or may not, change the way NPCs react to you through dialogue, as well as presenting you with three basic traits that help define your character’s personality and abilities. From the basic Bounty Hunter, Explorer and Diplomat, to more uncommon and varying character types such as Chef, Cyberneticist, and even Ronin. Your choice, your world.
The Skill system has also seen an overhaul, but carries over the skills and perks system we are familiar with from a classic Bethesda game and dials it up a notch. Each time you level up nets a skill point, used to unlock or ramp up skills. Skill ranks are then unlocked by completing challenges within that skill, similar to Skyrim’s levelling and game progression. In total, there are five different skill trees and four ranks per skill, allowing for vastly different character builds and unique and different ways to approach missions, enemies and NPCs.
Ultimately, the main goal is to invest in skills that best suit your play style. For example, you could choose to dump all your skill points into the social skill tree and become a slick-talking and suave negotiator, or level up the physical tree, allowing you to punch (and stab) your way through enemies with ease. Perhaps combat is your forte and you wish to become a one-man killing machine, or mind control aliens like a Jedi Master by levelling up the ‘Xenosociology’ skill. The options are near endless, and dare I say, worthy of a second or even third playthrough.
Ship modification and space flight
Ships serve as both a portable player home and main method to explore and search the vast galaxy Bethesda created. As such, a lot of attention has been put into ship modification. There are options to buy, sell and modify ships, beginning at space ports where players will encounter ship technicians that will assist in creating the ship of your dreams. Using a modular building system, the trailer reveals starting off with a simple speedy fighter, perfect for bounty hunting and getting into dog fights. Thereafter, by adding various storage compartments and additional thrusters, engines, and fuel tankers instantly transforming into a large space freighter ideal for long hauls, cargo missions and smuggling.
Of course, you will need a crew to man your ship, of which you could choose to hire or come across within missions or perchance encounters when traversing and exploring various planets and outposts. This also includes having to provide additional sleeping quarters, mess halls and recreational spaces, meaning both interior and exterior can be edited according to the player’s desire, based on parts acquired through many of Starfield’s ship vendors, each selling their own unique looks and layouts. Millennium Falcon, anyone?
Space Flight was shown to be more nuanced than you might think. Resources need to be managed carefully through a power allocation system. For example, in space combat and dog fights, it’s not just about hitting triggers and firing away.
Mastering your piloting skills is of utmost importance, while also simultaneously managing resources is key; want to make a speedy escape? Boosting power to you engines will make you ship faster, while allocating power to your ‘Grav’ drives will shorten the amount of time it takes before you can make a ‘hyperspeed’ jump, leaving unsuspecting foes in the dust. Alternatively, you could also power shields and weaponry and get into an all-out dog fight. This leads to a choice – either destroy your enemy ship and keep its cargo as valuable loot or dock and board the vessel, getting rid of the last enemy combatants, making the ship your own, adding it to your fleet.
Enemies aren’t the only thing you will encounter in deep space, because there are massive Star Yards akin to our very own International Space station, and battleships like the UC Vigilance, where you can roam the halls and meet various characters and encounter unique missions. There are also traders you could dock with and make a bit of extra cash, or purchase much-need resources and even rub elbows with the wealthy elite on a luxury cruise ship. Lovely.
Outposts can be configured on any planet you encounter and explore, be it habitable or dangerous. Much like Fallout 4’s settlements, this grants the opportunity to create a home away from home among the stars.
It’s incredibly detailed, too, ranging from various sorts of habitat modules in various shapes and sizes to interiors that can be decorated according to player’s needs. It’s a rather in-depth system and the images simply do not do it justice.
Combat is the final piece to the puzzle, and thanks to the overhauled animations, offer smooth and intuitive encounters with enemies. The world is filled with nefarious space pirates and alien creatures making it a dangerous place to be in. As such, the weapon system enables for myriad modifications to suit your needs. There’s also a booster pack that allows you to zip through the environment when engaging combatants, as well as zero-gravity sequences, making for a rather dynamic and well-rounded affair. Exciting.
Senior Level Designer, Zachary Wilson, best explains the massive scope of the project around the 30-minute-mark by stating “The thing I love most about Starfield is that it is a Bethesda game through and through. It’s really about going to strange new place, meeting interesting people, and getting side-tracked on zany adventures. We’re giving you a massive playground with a ton of toys, and just setting you free.”
Honestly speaking, I know it’s early, but I can’t help but believe in those words. After seeing all the intricate systems in play, I feel this is undoubtedly one of Bethesda’s most ambitious titles yet.
Nonetheless, dust off your space boots and get ready, because Starfield will be coming to Xbox Series X|S and PC soon. Feel free to check out the deep dive, below, if you haven’t already.