Almost a year has passed since the game studio Bethesda showed its new project Starfield, which game journalists have already managed to jokingly name No Man’s Skyrim. Ahead of the game’s launch scheduled September 6, a 45-minute presentation Starfield Direct from Bethesda offered new details on a new galactic-scale role-playing game with over 1,000 planets to explore and the space between them, reports ArsTechnica.
The Starfield presentation began with game director Todd Howard talking about Bethesda’s first brand-new universe in 25 years. Howard said the studio wants to keep its trademark “feeling of being who you want to be and exploring a new world,” but take it into space.
Art director Istvan Pely spoke of Starfield’s “NASA-punk” aesthetic, which he said was meant to evoke “the romance of the golden age of early space flight.” This means a kind of retro-analogue touch to the ships, where everything looks used, worn, and “lived in”.
The main story of the game – at least at the beginning – focuses on the Constellation, a legendary group that is called “the last true explorers in the galaxy”. They include a range of archetypal characters, from a space cowboy to a theologian and a businessman who finances everything.
Individual members of the Constellation can serve as crew members on the player’s ship, unlocking unique quest lines and lending their abilities to help complete those quests. Players will also be able to pick up new crew members from spaceports or simply meet willing crew members while exploring populated worlds. Bethesda promises that the friendships the player develops with crew members can even “blossom into romance.”
With the help of Constellation, players will hunt for the remains of a mysterious artifact, which seems to hint at the existence of a previously unknown alien civilization. But this main storyline will be interspersed with Bethesda’s usual character-based quests, controlled by individual NPCs that can be encountered throughout the galaxy.
The story of Starfield itself unfolds in a galaxy divided into three main groups. The United Colonies consider themselves the “true children of Earth” and are centered in the city of New Atlantis, which Bethesda calls “the biggest city we’ve ever made.” Beyond the colonies, Freestar Collective represents the frontier, offering a sci-fi take on the aesthetics of the Wild West. There will also be systems full of hostile factions like the Crimson Fleet fighting for control of the Colonies.
As for Starfield’s character creation engine, Bethesda says they scanned the faces of people of various ages and ethnicities to create a system that the developers themselves used to create every character and NPC you’ll see in the game. After choosing one of 40 pre-created characters, the player can change everything from piercings to teeth to skin blemishes simply with a series of sliders.
In addition to physical features, players will also be able to choose a profession for their characters, from cybernetic to chef. This can come in handy at unexpected moments during missions; maybe someone will ask you to cook a certain dish during a specific quest. Players will also be able to choose from several additional “traits”, each with their own pros and cons – being a ‘worshipped hero’ means fans can shower you with gifts, but they’ll also annoy you with constant praise and comments.
Completing in-game challenges will earn players a certain amount of points that can be applied to an extensive skill tree that allows you to customize your gaming experience. Specific builds highlighted in the presentation include using a boost pack to fly over enemies and shower them in explosive mines; buffing up “neurostrikes” to punch through combat; building up stealth skills to pickpocket your way through challenges; or talking your way out of scrapes with charisma.
While Bethesda said it was aiming for a “balance of fun and realism” in Starfield, much of the presentation focused on the game’s “realism.” The studio paid a lot of attention to this. For example, created planets with variable gravity depending on their size and density, and atmospheres that accurately refract light coming from the Sun as they orbit.
This also means creatures that look natural in the unique environment of the planet – they can be scanned No Man’s Sky-style, and in some cases even collected for useful resources. And then there are zero-gravity fights, where projectile weapons actually knock you back when fired.
Bethesda notes that not every planet in the game will be inhabited, meaning some of them will be useful mainly for resource extraction. But for those that are settled, the emphasis on free exploration should provide plenty of opportunities to encounter hostile activity or settlers in need of help. The idea, according to Bethesda, is that even if two friends visit the same planet, they “may have different stories.”
Between planets, the player will control a ship and participate in battles that are less like aiming and shooting, and more like an “complex dance” in space, Bethesda promised. This battle will include the ability to switch the ship’s power system between a gravity engine — allowing for faster jumps to warp speed — and weapons and shields, allowing it to be ready for unplanned engagements.
Bethesda also highlighted an aiming control system that allows you to select specific systems on enemy ships that the player can destroy first. In addition, it will be possible to dock with ships and board the crew from within, and then add the captured ship to your personal fleet.
Ships can be heavily customized in spaceports using a quick-connect system somewhat reminiscent of the Kerbal Space Program game. A small ship that starts as a maneuverable, high-speed fighter can be upgraded with additional modules that will turn it into a massive cargo ship, for example. And these additions affect not only the ship’s data but also the interior space that the crew uses for storage and living.
The general impression after reading all this is that Starfield is a much larger project than any previous role-playing game from Bethesda. Whether this staggering scale will prove to be as exciting and interesting for research as the company promises remains an open question, the answer to which can be obtained as early as this fall.