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. Set to release sometime in 2023, Starfield will be a Microsoft Xbox and PC Exclusive. The game is set in the year 2330, and will be akin to other RPGs from the studio like Skryim and Fallout with a emphasis on exploration. In this game, you’ll be exploring the stars and solar systems, settling new planets and living as a space faring explorer. The gameplay reveals and subsequent interviews divulge more details about the game, specifically how long the main story could take for the average player and what various activities could keep players busy for years to come. This is Deltia from starfieldguides.com and in this game preview, I’m going to break down important points from these interviews and videos which should give us some ideas as to how the game may unfold. Let’s begin with the burning question most RPG fans have, and that’s just how vast is the game?
1,000+ Planets to Explore
Starfield Planetary System
The first major revelation reviewed in the Bethesda Gameplay footage was that Starfield will have over 1,000 planets you can visit. This revelation sent shockwaves through the community and many speculated if these will be procedurally generated or hand crafted by the developers. Todd Howard, Director and Executive Producer, discusses this in the IGN interview.
“We do a lot of procedural generation…keep in mind that we’ve always done that”
Howard goes on to explain how this was done in Skryim and that if done right, these procedurally generated quests, worlds, environments, and stories might feel more natural and increase gameplay elements.
Consider that Skryim technology is over 10 years old, and people still play every day – it’s quite impressive. Now with new technology, how far will they be able to push this, rather than spending precious development time handcrafting individual planets? We will have to wait to find out for sure, but for the RPGer in me – someone who LOVED creating settlements in Fallout – the thought of near endless planets to explore, settle and roleplay in is a Sci-fi fan’s DREAM come true. Howard goes on to say:
“We have done more handcrafting like content wise than any game we’ve done, we’re at over 200,000 lines of dialogue so we still do a lot of hand crafting…”
That amount of dialog is more than double Skyrim and well above Fallout 4. While the main bulk of the planets are randomly generated, for that amount of dialog, questing and interaction, the main hub cities must be beaming with life, choices, and options to complete the story. Jumping ahead to the next portion of the IGN interview that’s relevant Todd gives an estimate on the length of the main story quest. “So, it (Starfield) might be 20% more than our previous ones…this one might be in the 30s maybe 40s just for the main quest.”
With 30-40 hours of main story quest you’ll get a lot more main story than previous Bethesda titles. In comparison to another game like the Outer Worlds, a Sci-fi RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment, I still loved that game and enjoyed the main quest, even if it only took between 5-10 hours. Partly the reason why is the story telling, and choices that had you wanting to play another story/campaign just to see if you changed your decision or how would that effect your playthrough? This model is core to Bethesda games and even with a long campaign, the choices will drive players back to the character creation screen time and again.
Bethesda also has a knack for morally grey storytelling. Their best writing comes when you need to make a choice on a faction, a quest, or something where there is no right answer. Sometimes just like life, you need to use your gut make a split-second decision and let it play out. Unlike real life, however, you can go back and change the decision and see how it plays out. While 30-40 hours is great, I think the massive re-playability will be just how the story plays out and will it have the typical “good guy” faction, bad guy faction or will there be some grey in there like Fallout 4 and other previous titles.
Speaking on the main stories, we may as well touch on the four main cities which will be in the game. The biggest main city is New Atlantis, home of the main Constellation faction. Todd Howard describes it as “NASA-meets-Indiana Jones-meets-The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” The way it looks from the trailer and footage gives me the Mass Effect Citadel feel of a bustling city with folks traveling from all over. I’m sure there will be many quest and other parts of the area to explore.
The other two mega features I think players, including myself, will spend an inordinate amount of time on are Ship building and Outpost building.
The Bethesda footage reveals some of the outpost construction. It has some unique gameplay features – specifically atmospheric considerations like oxygen, temperature, and even gravity. You’ll have materials on the planet to consider before settling and even a “Military Hab” shown from a still image on the preview. That leads me to believe this will have some sort of mechanics just like in Fallout 4 where randomly your settlements (or in this game, outposts) can be attacked and must be defended.
Howard also shows that you can hire NPCs to defend and run your settlements. Ironically, not much of this system was shown beyond a small snippet which is kind of shocking considering many players sole gameplay loop in Fallout 4 was just building, supplying and defending settlements.
The question I have on the settlements, is this: Will the resource gathering have some impact on the story beyond upgrading weapons and ships? I hope outposts somehow directly correlate with the story progression and while I don’t want other players to be forced into outpost building, most likely this will be my end gameplay loop. The role-playing element of creating my own galactic empire in the stars is just too appealing.
Games like Elder Scrolls Online have incredible housing for an MMO, and the creations people make in that game are unbelievable and out of this world creative. BUT, there’s very little utility from it. There’s no threat of destruction or hostile takeover like there would be in the wild west, or in this case, space. Adding a unique RP aspect to this system could result in a game that you could play for decades.
But that’s not all, we also have Spaceships!
We see footage of the ship building and it seems to be one of the major focal points of the game. You have images of the cost/mass of various engine parts, so there seems to be a physics element in the construction of your spaceship. It also shows jump range, which I assume is light speed “jumping” and traveling to different systems. All and all, the small glimpse we got of the ship building feels like the TV show Expanse, which focused on the actual scientific principles of physics. Maybe that won’t be entirely the case in Starfield, but enough to keep you close to modern day sci-fi and not year 2500 tech that seems like space wizardry.
We get a look at space combat scenes next, where the HUD looks incredible with a lot of information. We get a gravity reading, the hull with shields, boost, speed and targeting system against the Crimson Fleet Ghost. During the fight scene you get an impressive glimpse of the physics and the graphics – this looks incredibly impressive visually. But if I’m being honest, I’ve never been a fan of space combat games. The gameplay loop is nothing more than constantly turning to finally get the right angle and kill your opponent. I hope it’s different in Starfield, but I’m skeptical. I imagine a lot of Star Citizen and EVE players will love this system and eventually it may be their entire gameplay experience. Crafting, building and roaming looking for space fights. Howard goes on to explain in the IGN interview that you can dock with other ships. You can disable ships and board ships, which includes questing. You can even steal ships. This game is so huge and so deep it’s incredible.
One thing worth touching on briefly is character customization and creation, which I think will add even more replayability to the game. The gameplay trailer shows two unique factors when creating your character beyond appearance and that’s with background and traits. Think of background as perks to help with a variety of combat or non-combat related systems. Two quick examples are Combat Medic and Diplomat:
- Pistol Certification 10% more damage
- Medicine Med Packs heal 10% more
- Weightlifting increase total carrying capacity by 10 kg
- Persuasion gain an increased chance of success on speech challenges
- Diplomacy You can force a target NPC at or below your level to stop fighting for a while
- Bargaining buy items for 5% less and sell for 10% more
Next you have traits, which Howard says “comes with unique advantages and disadvantages.” One shown from the gameplay footage was Kid Stuff “Your parents are alive and well, and you can visit them at their home. But 10% of all the money you earn is deducted automatically and sent to them.”
Seems like only a disadvantage here, but is there some story element at play in the game or in lines of dialog, messages from your parents or something that adds to the uniqueness of your story? I think back to Skryim, when you kill the initial dragon and everyone has this reaction to you in Whiterun. Those reactions made you feel like it was your world. You actions, your background and your choices were the driving factor in what happened in the game.
Opinion on Length
Believe it or not, I think this game has the potential for massive replayability. Rerolling countless characters to see how the background and traits influence your story. It reminds me again of the Outworlds, which also had negative traits like being afraid of wolves and other various things. While a small negative perk, the interesting thing was how does this slight variation change my story? Next thing you know, you’ve started and finished 20 characters just to see the unique playthroughs. In fact, that’s exactly what I did with the Mass Effect series. How will my initial decisions on background, conversations and choices play out across the game? Much like the Mass Effect Series, I’ll need to play it all over again in order to see what changes and why.
That brings us back to our initial question – How long is the game Starfield? We know the main story is 30-40 hours but the countless systems, activities, quests and replayability through the character creator are endless. 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!