Two years after its initial announcement, Bethesda Game Studios finally opened up about Starfield at Xbox’s recent E3 2021 showcase. It’s the studio’s first new universe in about 25 years and ventures to a realm that’s been unexplored till now – outer space. While the reveal trailer’s footage was from an alpha build, we’ve learned quite a bit about the setting, the technology, some of its systems and much more. Let’s take a look at those new things you should know about Starfield.
Exclusive to Xbox
Upon kicking off the showcase, Bethesda Game Studios confirmed once and for all that Starfield, is indeed, exclusive to Xbox Series X/S and PC with a release date of November 11th 2022. It will also be launching day one on Xbox Game Pass though whether that includes both PC and Xbox platforms remains to be seen. Either way, if you want to experience Bethesda’s next big RPG, then you’ll either need a decent PC or an Xbox Series X/S.
Starfield takes place 300 years in the future with Constellation, the so-called “last group” of space explorers that’s like “NASA meets Indiana Jones meets the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” as per director Todd Howard when speaking to The Telegraph. While he didn’t offer too many details on the plot, what answers Constellation was searching for, or about the “key to unlocking everything” from the trailer, the development team is looking to ask some “big questions.” “The kind that people have asked when they look to the sky, you know? ‘What’s out there?’ Why are we here? How do we get here?’” Howard feels that there is a unique presentation to all of that with Starfield where “Maybe we don’t have all the answers but I think it’s good to get people thinking.” The trailer does posit that one reason why “we” – whether it’s the members of Constellation of humanity in general – are “here” is in order to discover what’s out “there.” In other words, it’s possible that the journey itself is the answer for some players.
Speaking to IGN, Pete Hines, Bethesda’s SVP of global marketing and communications, discussed the philosophy behind the technology. He noted the spaceship, various writings and objects present in the reveal trailer and how the development team wanted to give a sense of place while making sure it all felt “real.” “All of those buttons and knobs, everything you’re seeing, has been thought out and is practical. It’s not hand-waved…somebody goes through and makes sure all of that stuff has a purpose and a reason for being there. It feels like a real cockpit as opposed to some decoration.” This helps to reinforce the fact that Starfield is more of a grounded experience.
When speaking to The Telegraph, Howard mentioned that the ship has “touchstones back to the current space program. So in your mind, you can draw this line between them. Like there’s various guns the player has, and other weapons and things like that… but the more exotic ones feel exotic in the reality of the game versus not.” Artist Istvan Pely coined the term “NASA-punk” to describe the game’s aesthetic and style.
Weapon, Explorer’s Watch, Robot Walker and More
Speaking of guns we briefly saw one of them – which looks like an assault rifle – placed on the table in one’s spaceship (with a flashing exclamation icon). Howard also said that there will be lasers, that too lasers which can be shot in a vacuum though how that will ultimately work remains to be seen. Other objects included in the trailer include the Explorer’s Watch, which the player receives upon joining Constellation, and a robot walker that’s just casually walking around outside of your ship. There’s more that fans are discovering (like the folder designated Omega or the poster of a violinist named Alyssa) but those are the most substantial for now.
First and Third Person Perspective
A Bethesda title that has first and third person perspectives? Who could have known? Howard confirmed the same when speaking to The Telegraph, stating that, “We like that style of gameplay. First person for us is still our prime way of playing. So you can see the world and touch all those things.” It probably shouldn’t come as any surprise considering the leaks but it’s still good to know for those who like being able to choose.
Creation Engine 2
Something else that stuck out during the reveal trailer was the text at the bottom that said “Alpha In-Game Footage, Creation Engine 2.” Bethesda Game Studios would later confirm on Twitter that it was an all-new engine and that Starfield would be the first title utilizing it. Further details weren’t provided but the team has spent years working on it to “power the next generation of immersion and exploration.”
For all the praise that Bethesda Game Studios’ titles have received, some have found the visuals for some titles like Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 to be wanting. So it’s interesting to hear about the importance of graphics in Starfield. When speaking to IGN, Hines said that, “As we go through, you’ll get a better sense of why the graphics are important. Once we start to show what we’re doing with the game, what that team is building and what they’re able to do with the visual fidelity that is…elite beyond anything that they’ve done before.” Of course, we’ll need to actually see the game in action but it’s good news for those worried about the quality of visuals.
Factions and Alien Races
Constellation may be the player’s main faction in Starfield but it’s not the only one. A lot of others also exist that can be joined with the player carving out their own path in the universe. There are also alien races though Howard wouldn’t provide any details. With regards to how they tie into the game’s realistic grounding, he simply responded with “There is a way we approach it, I will say that.” The concept art from the “Into the Starfield: The Journey Begins” trailer did indicate some alien wildlife but that’s all we have to go off of for now (and may not even be in the final game).
Another complaint from previous Bethesda titles, notably Fallout 4, is that the role-playing aspects haven’t been super in-depth. Starfield will reportedly be different though. Howard revealed that it’s a “bit more hardcore of a role playing game than we’ve done” with some “really great character systems.” This includes being able to choose one’s background. In that sense, Bethesda is “going back to some things that we used to do in games long ago that we felt have really let players express the character they want to be.”
Be Who You Want
With all this talk of factions, exploration and whatnot, Bethesda Game Studios is really leaning into player choice. The player can be who they want to be, go where they want and so on. Along with experiencing the story that Bethesda wants to tell, there will be a “lot of other ones” to discover. Howard also doesn’t want to drag players “by the nose” and tell them to do “X,Y and Z” in Starfield, instead hoping that they’ll test its boundaries. “You know, can I read this book? Can I pick this up? Can I do this? What if I do this? What if I do this? And the game is saying ‘yes’ a lot.” And if you want to kill time by picking flowers or gazing upon a sunset, that will also be possible.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and Fallout 4 constitute some of the biggest games that the studio has ever created, especially in terms of replay value. Both enjoy healthy player bases to this day, whether it’s due to the sheer amount of stuff to discover or all of the mods available. Mod support in Starfield is still a mystery but Howard assures players that the game is “very big.” “People are still playing Skyrim and we have learned from that. We spent more time building [Starfield] to be played for a long time, if you so chose that you just wanted to keep playing it.” There are more “hooks” in it from the outset to ensure that. Of course, if you just want to finish the main story quests and “win the game” so to speak, then that’s also possible.
…But Not Infinite
Players may be exploring the final frontier in Starfield but the game isn’t on the same scale as our universe by a long shot. When asked about the challenges of developing an open universe instead of an open world, Howard responded that it’s “not necessarily” the former. “I don’t want to set any crazy expectations for that. You know, we have cities and we build them like we built the cities we’ve built before. And we have lots of locations that we’re building like we’ve built before. And we want that experience of you exploring those to be, you know, as rewarding as we’ve done before.” There are different planets though and that same philosophy of heading in a direction, hoping to find something interesting and rewarding, is still very much in play.
Inon Zur as Composer
Those who enjoyed the music in the trailer will be happy to hear that Inon Zur is the composer. Zur is known for his work on a number of titles with Bethesda. He’s also composed for several other well-known titles like Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2, Outriders and Pathfinder: Kingmaker. So if nothing else, you can be assured that Starfield’s soundtrack will be great.