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Why I Am Even More Excited for Starfield

As the finale to the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on the weekend, Game Director at Bethesda Game Studios Todd Howard took fans on a 15-minute gameplay preview of Starfield, a new next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars. The first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, Starfield will allow you to create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom as you embark on an epic journey to answer humanity’s greatest mystery.

First teased back at E3 2018, at that point the game had been talked about for a decade. Howard said at the time, “we started putting things on paper five, six years ago, and active development was from when we finished Fallout 4, so two and a half, three years.” Fast forward to now and we got to see gameplay footage from both first and third-person perspectives, desolate lunar landscapes as well as lush, forested areas, snow-covered stations and of course, the vastness of space.

In the year 2330, humanity has ventured beyond our solar system, settling new planets, and living as a spacefaring people. From humble beginnings as a space miner, you will join Constellation – the last group of space explorers seeking rare artifacts throughout the galaxy – and navigate the vast expanse of the Settled Systems in Bethesda Game Studios’ biggest and most ambitious game.

Bethesda has previously confirmed that Starfield is the first game to be built in their new Creation Engine 2 and is “an epic roleplaying game where you get to be who you want and go where you want.” The gameplay footage starts on the moon of Kreet, as the player exits their ship. This scene gave me memories of walking out of a vault for the first time in a Fallout game. The character scans a nearby tree root, confirming it is in fact called a ‘dust root’ and I had vibes of playing No Man’s Sky. The game’s music is tense and moody as we look out over the desolate moonscape.

The gameplay then moves to third-person view over the shoulder of the main character. The player HUD has O2 and CO2 levels in the bottom left, as well as health bar, weapon ammunition count and frag count in the bottom right. Further along there’s a tunnel with resources on the walls, and equipping a mining gun, the player collected iron. Weapon switching is done via a selection wheel and some of the weapons shown look awesome.

Entering the Kreet Research Lab, we see dark and misty corridors looking eerie, as if I’m waiting for something to attack. There’s a room with a locked box, and the lockpicking mechanism looks simple enough to play with at security level novice. Some level 2 pirates were spotted, and they scattered, running to cover before firing back. The player character then used a jetpack to cross a raving which had limited boost power. So far, the graphics look really good with great use of lighting and shadows to set the mood.

“Early on in this project when we were trying to establish the overall aesthetic of this game, we sort of coined the term ‘NASA-Punk’ to describe a sci-fi universe that’s a little more grounded and relatable,” said Starfield’s Lead Artist Istvan Pely back in February. “We wanted a very realistic take. You can draw a line from current-day space technology and extrapolate from there into the future so it’s believable and relatable.”

“What’s really interesting is how much we all latched onto that concept,” added Lead Animator Rick Vicens. “When you said NASA-Punk, the Art team could instantly take those two words and make them work. It was just the perfect term for our art direction and keeping everyone in same flow and working with a consistent style. For me, it just clicked. At the start of the project, I think that term was critical for us.”

Back to the gameplay video and we next with the capital city of New Atlantis on the planet of Jemison. Here we see a sprawling cityscape with people walking around going about their business. We are part of a faction called Constellation and we see discussions with npc characters. The character facial animations look a slight step up from Fallout 4. It is explained that there are many artifacts scattered throughout the galaxy and if we find more, we can unlock their secrets.

Howard has previously said of Starfield, “There are a lot of factions in the game but [Constellation is] the main one that you’ll become a part of. It’s kind of like Skyrim in terms of the structure of the game, where you’re going to be who you want to be, and then there’s different factions that you can join, and really carve your own path.”

We are then shown the in-depth character creation screens where we can customise all the elements of how you look and Starfield uses their most robust system character creation system yet. We must pick a background (class – like beast hunter, combat medic, gangster) that gives you three starting skills and then choose three traits that has advantage and disadvantages. Once created, the character skill system combines the best from previous Bethesda games. Players will unlock new skills as they level up and then rank those up by gaining XP through using those skills and completing challenges.

What we saw next impressed me the most, with deep crafting systems from running research projects with resources you find across the galaxy. Players can build their own outposts which act as a home away from home for survival and resource generation. We can hire characters you meet to keep it running. We can also build our own spaceships and can hire crew. Further, we can completely customise the look of the ship with loads of different modules, and we can upgrade ship components like engines, shields, weapons systems, and so on. If the crafting and ship customisation is as good as it looks, this is sure to be a game I am going to sink a lot of time into.

If we can build a ship, surely, we can fly it, right? Yes, we can, and the in-cockpit view looks awesome, though you can from a viewpoint outside the ship. Space combat looks fantastic, and it was interesting hearing the creaks and moans of the ship as you bank and manouvre to take out the enemy. We are shown a brief glimpse of docking with a station, and we can fly to and land on planets.

There’s a planetary, system and galaxy view, and in planetary view which reminded me of the one used in the Mass Effect games. We can choose from specified landing locations, but Howard mentions we can land anywhere on a planet. It looks like we transition from ground to space and back via cutscenes, and that is ok by me. Plenty of other games have load screens to transition from ground to space like Mass Effect and Destiny 2 and they handle it fine.

Howard explains there are over 100 systems and 1000 planets to explore which is an exciting prospect. I don’t personally plan to visit all 1000, heck, I’ll likely not stray too far from the main quest lines, but with all likelihood of a heap of side quests, the possibility is there and ultimately it will be up to each individual player to forge their own path. No doubt procedural generation will have a part to play.

I am even more excited for Starfield now having seen this gameplay video. Highlights for me are the character customisation and creation options, crafting and ship customisation, and especially the space combat. I can’t wait to see a deeper dive into the things you can do in space and whether one of the factions is a pirate faction that you could choose to join and complete missions for them. There’s a lot I like from what I have seen so far, so the road to launch is going to be super exciting. I didn’t know it on the first viewing but the robot seen in the first half of the video is Vasco, a companion that will join your travels through the galaxy. You can see more about Vasco and his design in the video below.

Starfield is scheduled for a 2023 release on Xbox Series X|S and PC.


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