For all its time in development, and gamers being aware of its existence (a trademark for the name was uncovered in 2013), explicit details about Starfield have mostly been light. We’ve known it is a sci-fi game about traveling between planets from the creators of Skyrim for some time, but during Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcase, Bethesda pulled back the curtain in a big way.
Alongside showing plenty of gameplay covering everything from walking around densely populated cities to exploring unpopulated planets to combat inside and outside of spaceships, Bethesda detailed some of the game’s story and impressive customization options.
Like past Bethesda games, you will find plenty of stories off the main path, but during the 45-minute presentation, we learned about an organization called Constellation that will be driving the main story of the game. The group is a mythical one, thought expired by many, that consider themselves the last true explorers of the galaxy. They are trying to answer humanity’s biggest remaining questions. They have discovered some strange alien technology, and for some reason, it seems to be connecting to you, the player character. The artifact spoke to you for some mysterious reason, and as a result, Constellation wants you to explore it further. What that means, in terms of player direction, is you must enter space to figure things out, and do basically whatever you want along the way.
In Starfield, New Atlantis is a massive populated city under the jurisdiction of the United Colonies. There are other cities under that umbrella, but there are also other metropolises that exist outside that space. These are the Freestar Collective planets and cities, which function more like the Wild West. In fact, footage of these locations looks more like Fallout locations than futuristic Starfield sci-fi hubs. And going even further, outside the bounds of civilized space, as Bethesda refers to it, are unclaimed planets and systems to explore.
Bethesda promises there are more than 1,000 planets in the game, and as you scan them and land on them, randomized elements affecting layout and creatures will make sure your experience on a certain planet will be different than that of a friend over on their own Starfield save file.
If you’re more interested in designing your own fun than seeing what’s out in the universe for you, Bethesda showcased its impressive customization options, which start with your player character. Character creation tools are improved from Bethesda’s past efforts, and you can also define your character’s backstory and select optional traits to further personalize your character.
Some unexpected optional traits included picking your religion, which dictates how you interact with certain groups, or electing to have a superfan join your crew who can be an obnoxious but helpful stalker (a clear reference to Oblivion’s Adoring Fan character). You can even elect to send money home to your parents, which makes them become actual characters you can visit.
Along with overhauling its character creation tools to make yourself look however you want, you can also customize your spaceship, crew, homes and outposts on other planets, and your weapons.
You can purchase a spaceship at any port and customize and upgrade it with new parts. But even those individual parts can be customized, upgraded, and in some cases, reshaped. Bethesda showed ships that looked like your typical cool spaceships, but it also showed ships that look animals and one particularly strange ship that looked like an awkward, squat mech. It took off and flew into space, despite its odd shape.
The customization and building options are an evolution of the tools first introduced in Fallout 4 where players could make their own outposts, but in Starfield, you can build from a new overhead perspective and then make smaller design changes by zooming in close.
The biggest takeaway from everything Bethesda showed is that Starfield is a massive game. Looking closely at individual elements of the latest footage also showed impressive combat, jetpack maneuverability, and exciting space dogfights, but it’s hard not to zoom out to try and fathom just how massive Starfield will be. Bethesda shared bullet points like how New Atlantis is the biggest city it has ever built and how many planets there are, but I fear we won’t have a true sense of the scale until you enter into space and see how far you can fly. It’s an intimidating universe, but one we’re excited to explore.