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Starfield will let you explore over 1,000 planets — is it too big for its own good?

Starfield gameplay
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda finally gave us a first look at its highly anticipated space-based action RPG Starfield at the Xbox and Bethesda Game Showcase, offering a taste of how much exploring there is to do — over 100 solar systems.

Set to arrive in 2023, Starfield is Bethesda's next big venture that isn't Fallout or Skyrim. There's expansive character creation, the ability to create your own outposts and build spaceships, select your own crew members, along with plenty of hostile aliens and space pirates to deal with.

There's a lot to enjoy in the official gameplay reveal, and director Todd Howard gave us a hint of just how big the game is: ginormous. There are over 100 solar systems with over 1,000 planets to explore. Not just one random city, the whole planet. As Howard shows as an example, you can in the city of Atlantis on planet Jemison, but also explore "anywhere on the planet." That's a lot to take in. 

"From barren but resource-heavy ice balls, to Goldilocks planets with life. And not just this system, but over 100 systems. Over 1,000 planets, all open for you to explore," Howard says. Sounds an awful lot like No Man's Sky, but it also sounds like an overwhelming amount of time-consuming exploration.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited for everything to come in Starfield. For a game this big, it looks amazing, And the freedom to become your own kind of space explorer while you go about interacting with a slew of characters from different factions — like the UCC or Crimson Fleet — is exactly the amount of Fallout and Skyrim I'm looking for. But on over 1,000 planets? It's intimidating. 

Exploration with purpose 

Fallout and Skyrim players will know just how they've spent in cities like Megaton or Whiterun, and the lands between them. In Starfield, these areas span a whole planet, which means there could be a bunch of sidequests and intriguing locations players miss out on if they don't check it all out. That's a lot of ground to cover, and I'm worried a lot of that will be empty space.

Bethesda has clearly put a lot of time into development, seeing how it was even pushed back to 2023. I have faith that the team has learned from the mistakes of the barren wasteland of Fallout 76 when it first came out. Plus, Howard stating there will be "barren but resource-heavy ice balls" offers a good indication that some planets may just be a place to gain resources and little else, while other "Goldilocks planets with life" will be the main places to travel to.

However, games with expansive yet empty environments are simply not a joy to explore. We've seen it happen one too many times in open-world titles, as a landscape without purpose is just dull — no matter how good it looks. Still, we only got a slight look at Starfield's plentiful rocks and what we can do on them, so only time will tell if hours of exploration will be put to good use. And, most importantly, it delivers entertaining space exploration.

Starfield will arrive in 2023, but the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase gave us a look at all the other games set to arrive over the next 12 months. This includes Redfall, Diablo IV, Scorn, free-to-play Overwatch 2, Persona 5 Royal and more coming to Xbox Game Pass, and plenty more. 

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.