For its next adventure, Bethesda is transcending the confines of Medieval prisons and retro bomb shelters to boldly go where, as it turns out, many games are going: space. Announced back in 2018, Starfield is Bethesda’s first new intellectual property in 25 years, and as such, there is a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming project–and perhaps just as many questions. In an attempt to answer at least a few of ’em and help you keep up to date with what’s going on with Starfield, we’ve compiled everything we know about the game so far.
Starfield is confirmed to release on Xbox Series X|S and PC, thanks to Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda. Game director Todd Howard said being able to focus exclusively on Xbox and PC is in the best interests of Starfield. However, he definitely hears and feels for PlayStation owners who won’t be able to play it.
“You don’t ever want to leave people out, right?” Howard said back in June 2021. “But at the end of the day, your ability to focus and say, this is the game I want to make, these are the platforms I want to make it on, and being able to really lean in on those is going to make for a better product.”
Some portion of the Bethesda fanbase continues to believe that Starfield could release on PlayStation, but that seems unlikely given that Microsoft now owns Bethesda.
While Starfield was originally scheduled to release on November 11, 2022–the same day The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim did back in 2011–the game has since been delayed. It is now scheduled to come out sometime during the first half of 2023.
Back at E3 2018, Bethesda teased Starfield for the first time with a very brief trailer that gives only the barest sense of what it might be like.
The trailer shows the sun flaring over a planet before also revealing a space station with a very current-technology look. A second later, a rip in space appears that seems to suck everything in. It has the look of a bright Star Trek-like warp field, but it could be anything–a singularity, a wormhole, a space anomaly, or a cool special effect to end your trailer on. At this point, who knows.
After a long wait, Bethesda finally unveiled a new trailer for Starfield at E3 2021. It’s yet another short glimpse, but it further nails down the look and feel the game will have. The trailer follows an astronaut preparing to lift off from an alien planet. All the while, a monologue plays, discussing the endless frontier of space. Some fans believe that the trailer has an Elder Scrolls clue hidden in it.
During June 2022’s Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase, Bethesda gave fans the closer look at Starfield they had been waiting for with a significant chunk of gameplay and more details regarding the game’s size, skill tree, and space exploration. Don’t feel like giving it a watch? Don’t sweat it–we’ll go into everything shown shortly.
Into the Starfield
In November 2021, Bethesda kicked off a new video series for Starfield called Into the Starfield. In this series, the game’s developers, including Howard, discuss the ambitious RPG and reveal new details about what fans can expect. In the debut episode, The Endless Pursuit, Howard, art director Matt Carofano, and studio director Angela Browder talked about how Bethesda’s ambition and passion have shaped the team and what they are hoping to achieve with Starfield.
Carofano said Starfield is more grounded and realistic than Skyrim, though at its heart the two projects share an ambition to give players the freedom to explore.
“It’s got a more realistic, science-based backing to it. Whereas Skyrim is sort of an epic fantasy, this is a more grounded game, and a grounded setting about exploration. So I think that gives us a different take on how we make everything,” Carofano said.
Howard said the mechanics of Starfield, compared to Skyrim, are “entirely different,” though there are some similarities. One of those is how Starfield is presented with a first-person camera (with a third-person option), and this helps make things seem more believable, he said.
“Being able to watch the sun set and nighttime come, and just sit there and watch the world go by, seems like it’s not gameplay. But it is vital to how you feel through the rest of it,” Howard said.
“There has to be an emotional trigger that occurs,” Browder added. “As time has gone on, I think we’re able to paint an even better picture that triggers that emotional thing.”
Also in the video, Howard teased that Starfield has two “step-out” moments, referencing the points in past Bethesda games where you leave the starter area and step out into the open world.
“Technology’s changed, we’ve all changed, so our expectations when loading up a game–like, ‘OK, I’m going to step out and there is going to be this moment’… Us being able to do that and have it feel new every generation, every game, is something that is really special about what we do,” he said. “I like to say that Starfield is two step-out moments–that’s cryptic.”
It’s an open-world, “more hardcore” RPG
Bethesda is known for its expansive open-world RPGs, like The Elder Scrolls series and the Fallout series. However, both series’ massive worlds pale in comparison to the universe we’ll be exploring in Starfield.
During June 2022’s Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase, Howard confirmed players will be able to visit “over 1,000 planets” throughout the game. While a handful of these locations are full-fledged cities, like the hub city of New Atlantis, many will be procedurally generated and ripe for exploration. Others, such as the desert moon of Kreet, lie somewhere in the middle, with outposts occupied by treacherous space bandits.
According to Howard, Starfield is also more of a “hardcore RPG” than Bethesda’s previous work, something made very clear in our first look at Starfield’s character creator. While the physical aspect of the game’s character creation is pretty par for the course (though Todd Howard confirmed during a Reddit AMA that players will be able to select their own pronouns), the wide variety of backgrounds and traits players are able to choose from is impressive. Based on your choices, your character will have their own unique set of talents and flaws that can make your intergalactic adventure truly your own.
Starfield character customization screen
However, this is not where Starfield’s emphasis on customization ends. The game will also allow players to customize the look and performance of their guns and spacecrafts, as well as construct their own outposts. The mechanics for building these outposts seem significantly more complex than those in Fallout 4, allowing for even more personalization and creativity in designing your base.
Base-building isn’t the only fun mechanic in Starfield. On top of the usual exploration and combat we’ve come to expect from Bethesda games, players will also be able to freely fly their own spacecraft and engage in galactic dog fights. Recent gameplay also showed off a lockpicking mechanic and a persuasion mechanic inspired by Oblivion.
The story so far
While we might not know just what Starfield’s main campaign entails, thanks to the recent Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase, we do have a lot more information regarding its setting. Based on Starfield’s first gameplay trailer, the game will be set in the year 2330, long after man conquered the stars. In fact, humans are so well-adapted to space travel, they’ve managed to settle a whopping 50-light year radius around their own solar system. This area is referred to as the “settled systems.”
While you’ll be able to explore seemingly every nook and cranny of these systems, the main hub of Starfield is New Atlantis, capital city of the United Colonies and home to Constellation, “the last group of space explorers.” Starfield begins with your character, the Spacefarer, receiving an invitation to join this organization.
However, the United Colonies aren’t the only space-faring society. There is also the Freestar Collective, who call Akila City their home. While these two factions are no longer at war with one another, the end of their conflict is still fresh, and their peace, an uneasy one.
In addition to the United Colonies and Freestar Collective, there are also a few other notable groups Bethesda has mentioned: Ryujin Industries, the Crimson Fleet, and House Va’Ruun. As you might be able to infer based on their names, Ryujin Industries is a mega corporation, the Crimson Fleet is a band of space pirates, and House Va’Ruun is, well, a religious cult, to put it bluntly. Based on the game’s intense focus on role-playing, it seems safe to say you’ll be able to join up and/or get in all sorts of trouble with these folks.
During 2021’s Tokyo Game Show, Howard revealed that Starfield has more than 150,000 lines of dialogue–which is more than any Bethesda game before it. While your character is not voiced, it seems like just about everyone else is, making for a very immersive experience. We should also mention that companion characters make a return in Starfield, with VASCO the utility robot confirmed as one of them. Last but not certainly least, Howard also announced the main campaign should take around 30-40 hours to complete. To put that into perspective, Fallout 4’s main campaign takes around 30 to beat, while Skyrim takes about 25.
Bethesda’s engine got an overhaul for Starfield
In September 2020, Bethesda released a statement about how much the acquisition by Microsoft and the release of its new Xbox Series X and S were impacting the work the studio was doing on its games. In that statement, Howard said the new technology had led to “our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion.”
“With each new console cycle, we evolved together. From bringing mods to consoles with Fallout 4, now over a billion downloads, to the latest technologies fueling Xbox Series X/S,” Howard said. “These new systems are optimized for the vast worlds we love to create, with generational leaps not just in graphics, but CPU and data streaming as well. It’s led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls VI.”
For years now, Bethesda has powered its games with its Creation engine, which is the technology behind The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, as mentioned, as well as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and Fallout 76. So this makes it pretty clear that Starfield also uses the Creation engine–albeit an overhauled version that takes into account a whole lot of new technology and hardware capabilities.
Starfield will be on Xbox Game Pass
This is a bit of an obvious one, but it bears repeating. With Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda, the publisher announced that new Bethesda games would appear on Xbox Game Pass at release–and that includes Starfield. So you’ll have instant access to it on PC and Xbox Series X|S.
Starfield is currently not available for preorder. However, we’ll be sure to update this feature once listings are available.