Starfield Combat & Gunplay Breakdown

Table of Contents

    Introduction

    Recently Bethesda gave us a 15-minute gameplay reveal of Starfield, the next mega game from the Studio and their first new IP in 25 years, which is set to release sometime in 2023 as a Microsoft Xbox and PC Exclusive.  The game is set in the year 2330, and Game Director Todd Howard succinctly describes Starfield as “Skyrim in Space.” But what will the game’s combat and gunplay be like?

    Will Starfield be similar to the Fallout series with time stopping mechanics? Will it be an RPG with guns, or will this be a legit shooter? What sort of mechanics will be at play? And should this game be on your radar in 2023?

    This is Deltia from starfieldguides.com and in this game preview I intend to answer these questions and more as we breakdown Starfield’s Combat & Gunplay from the gameplay reveal trailer

    An RPG or a shooter with guns?

    The most important question I wanted answered by watching the gameplay reveal was how similar and close to the Fallout series will the combat be? More specifically, will there be a slow or stop time feature like VATS?

    V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) is a visually dynamic, stat-based combat system in Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 to a lesser degree. The key feature of this system is that it allows you to slow or stop time and assists the player with their aim – or it can aim entirely for you with a percentage-based chance to hit and also critically strike.

    This is a great RPG feature for people like me who frankly suck at aiming, but it really changes the fundamental nature of the game to be more RPG based, rather than like a true shooter.

    Starfield Combat Slow Down UI
    Starfield Combat Slow Down UI

    During the gameplay reveal, we get a clue on how this might shake out with a slow time effect which is shown when swapping weapons. This appeared to only slow down time but not entirely stop the combat, nor did it seem to allow for aim assist or auto targeting. 

    That’s not to say the game couldn’t eventually contain this system through modding weapons and/or armor. The combat as seen so far looks dramatically improved from Fallout series, while still not at the apex of shooters out there. Starfield will likely land somewhere in between, I think in a fair assessment, with more emphasis on gunplay than previous titles.

    User Interface

    As this fight kicks off, we get some early User Interface elements which show interesting mechanics that will come into play later. Specifically, the compass with O2 and CO2. This again reminds me of the Fallout series where you are managing your radiation settings and not getting poisoned and or contaminated.  I expect combat in Starfield to have a somewhat similar dynamic. 

    With over 1,000 planets to explore, this feature alone will be interesting to see what happens on individual planets and how it could dramatically change what would otherwise be static gunbattles with little variation.

    Weapon UI

    Starfield Weapon and Ammo UI

    We also get a pretty standard glance at the Weapon UI and health. What sticks out the most to me here is the sheer number of grenades you are apparently allowed to carry at one time.

    Having 10 seems like a massive amount and this may foreshadow traits and background perks that give a boost to your overall carrying capacity.

    Combat UI

    Starfield Sneak UI

    As combat kicks off, we get a short clip showing the player character crouching down to sneak, but the only way you would know that is because the angle of the camera has shifted. The UI itself didn’t seem to change at all. I didn’t notice any extra damage modifiers, popups or anything like the classic Skyrim eye with a detection warning.

    This could be either good or bad – or may be another feature to be added on – but I know this has been popular in previous RPGs from Bethesda or other studios.

    Starfield Combat

    When combat initiates you have a series of simple, easy to read health bars. First is a number which I assume is level, and enemy name. After you destroy the enemies, you have a simple popup for loot and experience – nothing earth shattering here. What was is interesting, however, is the lack of combat data, specifically damage numbers.

    We get no feedback on damage outside of health bars moving and no indication of head shots/critical strikes. This feature and hitbox could be in development but would be an odd feature to not highlight or leave out. It’s possible that the UI we see here might have turned off damage statistics to keep the combat and footage looking clean for the gameplay reveal, however.

    Starfield Gernade Throw

    The grenade effects looked gorgeous, with the character hiding from the blast around the corner and a huge bit of AoE damage. At this point the main character has taken some damage and the health bar starts to deplete.

    Further onto the fight we get a very low health bar with ¾ and a glowing reddish effect signifying low HP. The interesting part is, the main character jumps up in HP during the next portion of the gameplay trailer but we don’t see a med pack being used nor do we see UI elements indicating how many. We know med packs are in the game since it’s seen in another section of the video, and also shown as a passive ability in potential character backgrounds, specifically Medicine – Med Packs heal 10% more.

    Even the still image from the slow time weapon swap portion don’t appear to offer the choice of a medpac, so I’m assuming the use of medpacs to be implemented on the fly like a potion or consumable from other games. There must be a way to heal, which the likely case would be through medpac consumables, food or water similar to Fallout, rather than a shielding system with regeneration similar to Halo.

    Will this be good or bad for the game?

    I remember the early days of Diablo where potion smashing was key to victory rather than regeneration or healing with a resource pool like magic or some other mechanic. I’m all for consumable base healing, so long as it’s limited by some factor – otherwise you get into chugging potions, smashing stimpaks and the threat of death only comes with one-shots or monsters way over your level.

    Enemy UI

    As the gameplay through moves along we come outside to an open view outdoor gunbattle. The first point of interest is an enemy with what appears to be a unique name: Brogan. Unfortunately, he gets gunned down in a single second, but it does show the variety of either naming the mobs or mob types as his level is 6 and the other mobs in the same area were level 2.

    Starfield Boss or Higher Leveled Enemy

    What continues to stick out throughout the gameplay reveal is the lack of aiming down sights from the gunplay with little penalty. We see A  LOT of hip fire which is pretty accurate. However we do get some aiming down sights with a good old iron sight and it seems pretty standard for shooters. What was surprising was that there wasn’t a fancy scope applied to a high-end rifle called the Equinox, shooting out what appeared to be an energy weapon.

    Additional Combat Influences

    Crafting

    Starfield Weapon Research UI

    We know there will be the ability to craft and modify your weapons, as this was also shown later in the gameplay reveal video.  You will need to research items before they can be crafted, and it appears that there will also be levels to each unique mod which can be further improved upon. You can see from this screen cap that there will be barrels, grips, sights, muzzles and so forth.

    Boost Jumps and Zero G

    Two more extremely interesting elements of combat that I think will dramatically increase replayability is jumping and zero g combat.

    Near the end of the initial fight scene, we get a jump with a boost meter. A boost forward similar to what I’ve used in Mass Effect Andromeda, making combat much more interesting and injecting some verticality into it.

    Starfield Boost UI

    If we go back to our prefight scan seen earlier in the video, the Kreet Moon gauge shows .55 gravity. Nearly half the Earth’s gravity would explain the reason for the massive jumping and boost added via technology. Fallout 4 used a bit of this with power armor, along with a massive number of mods and upgrades including a jet pack. This being a sci-fi game, I’m wondering how extreme they will go with the jumping and gravity combat.

    From what we’ve seen so far, they’ve kept the technology and space wizardry limited with an emphasis on being closer to modern technology. When the game releases will get a better indicator of just how far this technology will push the limits.

    Starfield Zero Gravity Combat

    Next up we get a VERY brief image and footage of zero gravity combat. 

    A third person shot of the main protagonist and an enemy in what appears to be a cargo hold or ship shooting it out. This was a mere split second shown but it’s proof the game will have some type or element of Zero G combat.

    Your environment, the planet, ship, situation will determine just how combat will play out.

    Leveling Up

    Starfield Combat Skill Tree
    Starfield Combat Skill Tree

    We also get some detail from Todd Howard on how you rank and level up skills, which, much like previous Bethesda games, you accomplish primarily by using them. If you want to improve as a sniper, it’s not just by taking background and traits, but also by using the weapon eliminating targets and ranking up the skill. The combat skill tree didn’t seem overly complex with 5 skill trees and only one being combat.

    Combat in Context

    And with that, I think similar to previous Bethesda games, combat will not be the entire focus of this game but a decent chunk.

    Starfield, as stated previously by Howard is ‘Skyrim in space’ and Skryim is about exploration. Traveling around from quest to quest, city to city, discovering and unlocking new adventures. It takes place in a sci-fi realm, so there are to be gun battles, spaceships and even space combat, but my initial impressions are Starfield will still be focused more on exploration over combat.

    The combat does look snappier and sharper than Fallout series, and there doesn’t appear to be an auto targeting system. But there are enough features like crafting, upgrades and skill trees to be close enough to what we already know. This gets me excited about the game and hopefully we will have more details to come.

    We also know there is spaceship combat, but I’ll save that breakdown for another video as it’s a robust and complex system in and of itself with the ability to destroy, dock and even capture enemies’ spaceships!

    Looking for more about Starfield?

    Starfield Character Creation Explained (click)
    Starfield Exploration (click)
    Starfield – How Long is the Game? (click)
    Starfield Gameplay Breakdown (click)

    I’ll be doing more deep dives into Starfield and covering the game on starfieldguides.com.  I’d encourage you to hit the subscribe for the newsletter if you want the latest posts and guides when the game launches.  I’ll also be streaming the game on twitch.tv/deltiasgaming.  Until next time, thanks for reading!