Starfield is the latest open-world RPG coming from Bethesda Game Studios, and it has a lot of expectations to live up to. It’s the company’s first original RPG in 25 years, and not everyone is equally as hyped about it. Some gamers are excited about Starfield being an original sci-fi RPG from Bethesda, the studio behind Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. On the other hand, some gamers are more skeptical given how little has been shown, and that the studio’s last game was the disappointing Fallout 76.
Thankfully, Bethesda has been providing interviews, blog posts, and more to provide a better understanding of the game before its inevitable blow-out this summer. These are just five of the things that have us most excited about Starfield.
A well-realized sci-fi setting
Starfield is far from the first RPG to tackle the sci-fi genre, but Bethesda is trying to put a unique spin on this. In an interview with Xbox Wire, Lead Artist Istvan Pely said that the studio coined the term “NASA-punk” to reflect the art style it is creating for the new universe. It’s a style that is focused on being grounded and somewhat realistic compared to the exotic sci-fi space operas of games like Mass Effect or The Outer Worlds. Bethesda wants players to be able to imagine a feasible link between the technology of the current day and the star-faring future humans of Starfield.
This style seems to be a mantra for the studio, and Game Director Todd Howard even toured Elon Musk’s SpaceX company to gain some inspiration. One such detail Howard considered is using Helium 3 — a potential fuel for nuclear fusion — as an element to power the ships of Starfield. In last year’s trailer for the game, the cockpit of the spaceship contains buttons that somewhat resemble current technology. With all of this in mind, Bethesda is clearly demonstrating it has a focused vision for how it wants to present the visual tone of Starfield.
The story possibilities
Starfield is a game about “hope, our shared humanity, and searching for the answers to life’s greatest mystery.” That sounds somewhat vague, but it implies that there is an underlying tone of optimism and discovery involved. Humanity has spread out across the Settled Systems, where tensions are high between factions like the Freestar Collective and United Colonies after a recent war. Dangerous groups like the Crimson Fleet pirates, Spacers, and the fanatical religious zealots of House Va’Ruun are all potential threats in this vast galaxy. We don’t know any concrete details about the core plot just yet, but these factions set the stage for a world with plenty of stories to tell.
Bethesda is also implementing a persuasion system into conversations. In the second episode of Into the Starfield, ‘Made for Wanderers,’ Lead Quest Designer Will Shen mentions that it is an unintended evolution of the persuasion system used in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Howard added, “It feels like you’re having a conversation where you’re actually trying to persuade somebody of something.” He believes it’s one of the most successful dialogue systems Bethesda has had.
At Tokyo Game Show 2021, Howard said that Starfield has over 150,000 lines of dialogue recorded, which is over double that of Skyrim. That could imply a lengthy campaign, ample side quests, and an enormous amount of branching dialogue options. If players can use their silver tongues to organically avoid conflicts or gain unexpected bonuses, it could lead to some fantastic flexibility in how you shape your relationships and the overall story.
An upgraded new engine
It’s a well-known fact that Bethesda games have had technical bugs in the past. However, this has largely been something that fans could look over when compared to what the games achieved elsewhere. Games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 are remembered for their freedom of exploration, rich lore, and seemingly limitless gameplay possibilities. That said, the frequent bugs could dampen the immersion, and it’s been something that fans have been hoping the studio could fix for a long time now.
With Starfield, Bethesda is finally moving forward and using the brand-new Creation Engine 2 for the first time. We’ve only seen one in-game teaser thus far, so it’s hard to gauge how much of a leap forward the technology is. However, the Starfield trailer showcases some nice lighting and detailed environments to get excited about. In episode 2 of Into the Starfield, Howard mentioned that the studio has put a lot of focus into scanning real-world models, which hopefully means a significant improvement for facial animations. That’ll be important for a game with so much dialogue. More than anything, if the game can minimize the bugs, then fans can finally immerse themselves into a Bethesda RPG with minimal barriers.
It’s been in development for longer than you think
Bethesda claims that Starfield is a game 25 years in the making. That may sound a little exaggerated, but there’s more to that phrase than meets the eye. Back in 1997, Bethesda canceled a sci-fi space combat game called The 10th Planet. It was developing the game in collaboration with Centropolis Entertainment, a company that worked on cinematics for Independence Day. Perhaps it was too ambitious for the time, or Bethesda had trouble making a schedule work with Centropolis. Regardless of the reason for its cancellation, Bethesda didn’t forget about it. A reference to the game can be seen in the Starfield teaser trailer, indicating just how much it means for the studio to be returning to the sci-fi genre.
Starfield itself has been in development for a substantial amount of time. Howard said that development had moved out of pre-production and was playable in 2018. Talking to The Guardian, he went on to say that Bethesda has been “talking about it for a decade,” and that “active development was from when we finished Fallout 4.” Later in an interview with IGN, Howard said, “We wanted to do something else for a long time, and play in a new universe.”
Lengthy development time doesn’t necessarily create a stellar game, with Cyberpunk 2077 being a prime example. But it’s apparent that Bethesda has put a lot of thought into the game’s creation. Starfield feels like a passion project Bethesda is truly excited about. Hopefully, that dedication appears on-screen in the final product.
The freedom to explore space
Exploration and freedom have been key selling points of Bethesda’s RPGs, and Starfield could take that to the next level. Players will get to create a character with traits and backgrounds reminiscent of older hardcore RPGs. They can then take that character to the stars in a game that Howard says is like “Skyrim in space.” That sense of freedom might be most apparent in the way the game is handling factions. Players can choose to align themselves with seemingly any faction, and can even double cross or snitch on them. Bethesda has also confirmed the game will have mod support, which should add limitless player creativity to the experience.
Speaking about the exciting potential exploration of Starfield, Howard says that the game has two “step out” moments. Howard seems to be promising to blow players’ minds with how vast the world of Starfield could be. That vastness needs to be accompanied by fascinating locales, and it looks like there’s plenty on offer here too. The pleasure city of Neon on a beautiful aquatic world looks like a visual treat. Elsewhere, New Atlantis is a melting pot of varied races says Emil Pagliarulo, a lead designer and writer. A fantastic open world is nothing without enjoyable points of interest, and Bethesda understands that.
Bethesda is set to release Starfield on November 11 this year, and it’s likely that we’ll be getting a better look at the game at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase in June.