One of gaming’s most-anticipated titles for 2023, Bethesda’s operatic space-exploration RPG Starfield finally dropped a gameplay reveal last weekend, igniting massive hype amongst millions of fans.
Arguably the most exciting reveal during the Xbox presentation this weekend, the video showed us over 10 minutes of actual gameplay. This included an exploration of the rocky moon Kreet, the basics of resource collection, a variety of interesting UI on display, and much more.
The gameplay kicked off with a cinematic landing sequence, which showed off the game’s somewhat realistic art direction when it came to spaceship, robot, and interior design. Our player discovers some local flora and fauna, before mining a few chunks of iron, and coming across a research lab building.
While the initial aliens were passive, the pirates we soon come into contact with are definitely not. Combat soon ensues, with us getting a glimpse of pistols, grenades, sub-machine guns, and even a double-barreled shotgun. After making quick work of the pirates, the player encounters a weapon case, which in true Bethesda fashion, is quickly broken into using a lock-pick puzzle minigame.
Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard then explains how, following a few encounters, our character will be invited to Constellation — the ‘last group of space explorers’. This takes us to what seems like the game’s ‘capital city’ which is a sprawling urban utopia named New Atlantis.
A character reveals to us the exploratory purposes of Constellation — which involves a series of seemingly alien constructs that exhibit mysterious properties, including ‘speaking’ to people and inducing visions or hallucinations. We’re also teased with the ability to join various factions, such as the peacekeeping Freestar Collective, and the notorious Crimson Fleet pirates.
The reveal stayed light when it came to story elements, however. After these teasers, Howard went on to explain the new character customization system, which he described as ‘the most flexible yet’. (Our characters are still, in true Bethesda fashion, completely voiceless.)
Apart from the standard appearance options, Starfield will allow players to choose from a wide variety of ‘backgrounds’. These, in combination with three trait choices, will dictate much of your character’s skills and weaknesses, as well as how non-player characters will react to you.
Starfield also offers a classic RPG skill system, divided into physical, social, combat, science, and tech trees. These offer around 15-20 individual skills, each of which can be leveled up by reaching certain contextual milestones.
It’s not just your characters that can be customized, either. Weapons can go through extensive levels of personalisation and modding, while you have the ability to craft and design your own custom outposts at the various planets and moons you’ll visit.
These can be manned by allied characters, and will help you take shelter, develop resources, and build a place of your own in the Milky Way, wherever you wish. “That’s not all,” quips Howard. In what seems like a first for serious large-scale space bound RPGs, players will also have the ability to pilot and design their own ships, using a variety of parts from different in-game manufacturers.
These all come together to create a wide variety of combinations, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and lore-friendly aesthetics.
This was followed by perhaps the reveal’s most divisive point. Howard went on to explain how players will be able to explore Earth-like and barren worlds across 1000+ planets, in over a hundred star systems. Fans went on to debate the pros and cons of Bethesda’s ambitions here. Some seemed confident that the team would strike the right balance between content and exploration, while others seemed skeptical, bringing up the ‘sameness’ of counterpart No Man’s Sky’s procedurally generated worlds.
As the first Bethesda IP in over twenty-five years, what we know for sure is that expectations were always going to be very, very high. With the game set to launch in Q1/Q2 2023, it won’t be long before fans finally get their hands on Starfield, releasing exclusively on PC and Xbox platforms.
(Featured Image Credits: Bethesda Game Studios)