Starfield: Everything we know so far

Starfield: Everything we know so far
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Starfield is Bethesda’s first self-developed title not in the Fallout or Elder Scrolls franchises, finally giving Todd Howard the ability to create something unlike anything we’ve seen before.

After the release of Fallout 76, Bethesda went through a bit of a rough patch. Starfield has the potential to restore the company’s reputation and at just the right time considering the massive hype revolving around The Elder Scrolls 6.

If you’re interested in Bethesda games, here’s everything you need to know about Starfield, including its release date, gameplay, leaks and more.

Starfield release date 

Starfield is set to launch in the first half of 2023, exclusively to PC and Xbox Series X | S via Xbox Game Pass. As tweeted by Bethesda, we're going to have to wait a little longer than the previously announced release date of November 11, 2022. If you go to SteamDB's history, it apparently shows that the game might have been delayed to late next year. The current date is December 29, 2023, so hopefully that's just a placeholder and doesn't indicate a late 2023 launch.

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It's a shame, as the confidence seemed to be high in this dropping at the end of this year, given the cinematic teaser we saw during Microsoft + Bethesda's E3 2021 presentation and the small snippets of info coming in the regular Starfield updates.

Lucas Hardi, one of Starfield's concept designers, has been working on the game since 2016, meaning it probably started pre-production as early as then. This isn't too surprising, as the game's title was revealed in 2018. Inon Zur, composed for Starfield, claims that it's a "huge game" and will "consume a lot of your being." While this sounds terrifying, we're still as excited as ever.

Starfield gameplay 

Starfield received its first gameplay demo at the Xbox & Bethesda showcase on June 12. We got a first look at an extended 15 minutes of gameplay, ranging from details on character creation to gunfights to flying spaceships to how diplomacy works. It was a full blown showing, so if anyone who's been interested in this game wants to check out whether or not it'll be their type of thing, check it out.

Starfield: Release date, gameplay, story and more

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Todd Howard introduced the mysterious moon, Kreet, which takes place early in the game. Our setting is in the year 2330, which seems like more than enough time for humanity to get off its butt and advance this far technologically. At some point, we see a weird bug-like alien lifeform scurry past the player, which hopefully indicates each planet will feature unique lifeforms. Players can swap between first and third-person as they explore and shoot some space rocks for minerals.

Shortly afterwards, the player runs around a facility overwhelmed with pirates, using strange space-guns to defeat them. We also saw some footage of a bunch of NPCs the player can interact with, the factions that will be available, and many of the environments we can expect (especially the cities). The gunplay seemed underwhelming, but this isn't much of a surprise for a Bethesda developed title, as the company's combat systems never seemed to be a selling point.

Later in the demonstration, Starfield shows off how its character creation works, and not just aesthetically, but also how the different perks and stat boosts can impact your gameplay. Outposts will also be available, allowing the player to completely create their own little colony on a planet. You can even build your own space ships, select crew members, customizing the look and layout. And of course, the player can fly their ships and will have to engage with space battles.

Todd Howard ends the conference with a brief showcase of how exactly space travel works, and how every planet in over 100 solar systems have fully explorable planets. Starfield is coming 2023. This number is overwhelming for many of us, but at least it's not as huge as No Man's Sky.

Starfield fans are already gathering to begin patching the game once the launch date comes up. Bethesda games are notorious for being riddled with bugs, so a collective called the Starfield Community Patch have begun coming together to prepare when it inevitably happens. They are encouraging fans to submit bug patches through their website, specifically highlighting "misplaced objects, script error, inconsistencies in item properties, faulty missions/quests, game-breaking exploits, missing attributes (such as tags, header flags, etc), and spelling errors."

Starfield story

We don't know much about Starfield's story, but it's been recently revealed that the game has over 150,000 lines of dialogue. This is more than twice the amount of dialogue seen in Skyrim. It seems like Bethesda is going for "more is better" here, which could be a cause for concern.

Starfield developer diary

The official Starfield Twitter account uploaded a developer diary today, providing an update on what we can expect out of Starfield. Game director Todd Howard, design director Emil Pagliarulo, lead quest designer Will Shen, and lead artist Istvan Pely offered their insight in this six-minute video.

Bethesda seeks to avoid linearity with Starfield, allowing players to forge their path within its immersive world. Howard claims he wants to "put you in the situation where you're going to decide" what happens rather than follow a "dotted line."

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Pagliarulo claims that Bethesda doesn't "just make RPGs," but they specifically create "simulations." Player agency is at the core of the company's design, often resulting in each playthrough feeling different in significant ways. Pely goes on to say, "We embrace the chaos, let it play out, and usually, it's pretty fun."

Howard is excited to bring elements of "older, hardcore RPGs" to Starfield, promising features like backgrounds, traits, and other stats. Pely even says that the team has "leveled up" when it comes to character creation, thanks to the implementation of real-world model scans.

Like previous Bethesda games, Starfield will feature diverse factions, each taking inspiration from a different space idealogy. The United Colonies is an idealized representation of the "space republic." The Freestar Collective is essentially a "space-western fantasy." And Ryujin Industries is a mega-corporation, with Shen also offering his opinion that it has "one of the best starts of any of the factions."

Starfield Robot Companion

(Image credit: Bethesda)

And to further solidify player agency as a core tenet of the game's design, The Crimson Fleet (a major enemy faction in the game) can be joined by the player. Howard offered further insight, saying, "No matter what story we write, the one the players tell themselves is the one that they think about and love the most."

The video also shows a brief clip of one of the game's robot companions, VASCO. We get a glimpse of their design, but all they say within the video is, "Hello captain, how may I be of assistance."

Starfield's persuasion system also takes a few beats from Oblivion, forcing the player to think about the risk within a conversation. Developers also wanted to avoid "a right thing to say." Howard claims it's "one of the most successful" new systems in their dialogue.

To top the diary off, Pagliarulo claims that the core question of Starfield is "what is out there," promising a layer beyond just surface elements like romance and adventure, evoking a sense of wonder within the cosmos and the universe. Howard wants the player to ask the big questions, like "why are we all here, where is it leading, and what's next for humanity."

Starfield setting 

Starfield takes place in space in some capacity, which is pretty much the only thing we know about its setting. It could be a dark, futuristic science-fiction about how humanity is dangerously low on resources and needs to expand its grasp outside of the solar system. Or it could have nothing to do with Earth, and could revolve around all sorts of colorful alien lifeforms while the player travels throughout bizarre environments.

I hope Starfield represents a wide spectrum of unique alien races that the player can create relationships with, whether that be in the form of romance, friendship or rivalry. The Elder Scrolls series has always allowed the player to pick from a handful of fantasy races when creating a character, so I’d love for Starfield to do the same.

I loathe the idea of Starfield featuring dozens of planets only for them to be inhabited by generic humanoids within earth-like environments. If I’m flying my ship toward an alien planet teeming with life, I expect it to be unlike anything I have never experienced. This isn’t to say that earth-like planets can’t be prominent, but I’d at least prefer if the game featured a healthy balance between exotic and ordinary.

This comes with the expectation that the game is more colorful. If Starfield intends to go into a darker direction where humanity is scattered, and our rugged spaceships are barely chugging us across space, it’s expected that the game will be gritty.

If the game is gloomy, I hope Bethesda understands the value of an ambient soundtrack, muted colors and the utilization of darkness to instill fear into the player. If we're going to explore a world ripe with hopelessness, I want flying through space to not feel adventurous, but terrifying.

There's one thing we currently do know about the game's setting, and this is that it will feature expansive cities, larger than we've ever seen in a Bethesda game before. This is thanks to the overhauled Creation Engine, which allows the developers to craft larger worlds.

We got a first look at some in-engine footage, although no gameplay was shown (which is disappointing after three years of waiting). The teaser didn't reveal much, but it did give us an idea of what type of sci-fi setting we could expect. It seems that it'll be more grounded, with an aesthetic that accurately reflects where space-related architecture and designs are at in the modern day.

Bethesda released three short videos highlighting the concept art for some of the game's areas. These locations are Akila, New Atlantis and Neon. Each video runs around 50 seconds long and is accompanied by developer commentary. 

Bethesda Softwork's YouTube channel published another video explaining a nugget of Starfield's lore. It will boast a section of its universe that's referred to as "The Settled Systems" as players embark on their journey in the year 2330. 

20 years prior, the United Colonies and Freestar Collection were engaged in a brutal war. Cut to modern day, an uneasy peace is kept among the two major powers. And yet, The Settled Systems are still as dangerous as ever, occupied by groups like the Ecliptic Mercenaries and Pirates of the Crimson Fleet. The player will be part of Constellation, an organization that seeks to explore the deepest depths of the galaxy to uncover its secrets.

Starfield leaks 

Starfield supposedly had a few images leak that revealed a surprising number of details.

In the first image, we see the model of a rugged spaceship. Immediately, this implies a less high-tech version of humanity, as the ship is beat up, has paint scratches, and looks like the engineer had stuffed a bunch of scrap together to make a barely-functioning spacecraft. This sorta evokes the feeling of a space western.

However, the second image paints a different picture. We see our protagonist floating in front of a spaceship that looks far more modern and well-kept. Additionally, the playable character's space suit looks a lot like a modern Extravehicular Mobility Unit, the suits Nasa use to traverse space.

Additionally, we see a weapon icon on the bottom right that looks a lot like a sawed-off shotgun. It could potentially be a futuristic laser-based weapon with a similar shape, but if it is a sawed-off shotgun, the setting will likely be more realistic than fantastical. Another leak showcases a few images of a gold dome, further sementing how Starfield is inspired by real-life space technology. This was from a 2018 build, so it's not particularly reliable as far as what to expect goes.

Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.