Starfield is the first new IP in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, and it’s shaping up to be very exciting indeed. It’s been described as ‘Skyrim in space’ by its creators, and even though we haven’t seen much of the game, it’s undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated releases coming next year.
Though it’s due to release in the first half of 2023 (not long to wait at all), we’ve only seen a little bit of Starfield gameplay so far, and it remains unclear when we’ll get our next look at it. That said, thanks to a growing library of teasers, behind-the-scenes featurettes and concept art, we have started to get a real feel for the game’s ‘NASA-Punk’ visual style and what Bethesda is hoping to achieve with it.
We still have a little while to wait before we’ll be playing Starfield for ourselves but in the meantime, we’ve searched the galaxy to bring you the latest news and rumors on Starfield. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Starfield, including details on its console exclusivity.
Starfield: cut to the chase
- What is it? A single-player RPG set in outer space, from the makers of Fallout
- What can I play it on? PC and Xbox Series X|S
- When can I play it? First half of 2023 (exact date TBC)
Starfield: Release date and platforms
Starfield launches for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC sometime in the first half of 2023, after Bethesda announced a delay for the game.
As for when in the first half of 2023 the game might release, some small print spotted at the bottom of an Xbox Game Pass subscription plan page has suggested it could be “early 2023”.
Further to that, Kingscast (opens in new tab) host, KingFanMan, has theorized it could be March 2023. According to him, Bethesda has only delayed three games before and that while “all three games were supposed to come out in the fall” like Starfield, “all three games came out in March the next year.” We’ll have to wait for something official from Bethesda before we can be certain.
Originally, at E3 2021, Bethesda announced Starfield would release on November 11, 2022. In an interview with the Washington Post (opens in new tab), Todd Howard said the studio was “confident in the date”, but the delay, Bethesda has said, is to ensure that players “receive the best, most polished” version of it.
When Starfield does release, it’ll be an Xbox console exclusive, with the E3 2021 trailer explicitly confirming this, ruling out a PS5 release. It won’t be on Xbox One either, Bethesda’s moving on from Microsoft’s last-gen console. With Microsoft now owners of developer Bethesda, this could be indicative of the future of titles like The Elder Scrolls 6 and Fallout 5 going forward.
During 2022’s Xbox and Bethesda Showcase, we got our first in-depth look at Starfield’s gameplay. Starting with customization, we’re playing a fully customizable protagonist. Changeable skin tone, head shapes, hair, hair color, eyes, and body details, Bethesda’s giving us the usual options here, alongside ‘Background’ and ‘Traits’.
Backgrounds offer three starting skills each. For example, picking ‘Dueling’ awards 10% extra melee damage, while ‘Gastronomy’ lets you create unique food and drinks, alongside researching further recipes. Meanwhile, Traits can shape your personality, so if you choose the ‘Extrovert’ trait for example, you’ll have more endurance when travelling with companions, and less when alone. Unsurprisingly, this can’t be mixed with the ‘Introvert’ trait, which does the opposite.
This presentation also gave us our first real look at ship customization too, which we know is modular. You can piece entire sections together, swapping out core components like cockpits, engines, and more, and it seems that there’s no need to individually craft those parts. It looks like we’ll buy these from individual vendors across different locations.
Shortly after the presentation, Bethesda confirmed more on its Twitter (opens in new tab) account. Revealing that Starfield uses a first-person perspective for dialogue, our character also won’t be voiced, which may prove welcome news. For the unaware, a voiced protagonist was first attempted by Bethesda in Fallout 4, which faced widespread criticism. Unsurprisingly then, this change has been (mostly) well received.
In a previous Reddit AMA (opens in new tab), Todd Howard said he was “Really excited about what the team has done with character creation”, explaining that it includes “choosing background, skills, etc. You also can pick your pronoun (he, she, they) and we’ve recorded all the relevant dialogue to support that choice.”
During this showcase, we went to the rocky moon of Kreet as part of an early mission, and Kreet’s one of Starfield’s many different explorable locations. Notably, this demo also confirmed we can play Starfild in first-person and third-person during gameplay, showing off both during this demo.
During this reveal, we got a look at examining local wildwilfe, mining resources, and crucially, combat. Finding an abandoned research facility, we soon discover it’s been taken over by a pirate group known as the Crimson Fleet, and it’s down to us to clear them out.
It’s only a brief look, so we didn’t learn a huge amount, but it revealed a few details about gunplay. Offering a choice of sub-machine guns, pistols and shotguns, this segment ends with a jetpack-assisted jump over a chasm, as the protagonist clears out the last remaining foes.
Finally, in a separate Bethesda blog post (opens in new tab), it also elaborated on building outputs, which you can do on discovered planets. The publisher’s not sharing too much just yet, though we know we can conduct our own research with previously gathered materials. These resources can then upgrade our character’s gear and notably, that includes modifying weapons.
Thanks to an IGN (opens in new tab) interview with Todd Howard shortly afterwards, we soon learned plenty more. Speaking about Starfield’s length, Howard explains it’ll be 20% bigger than Bethesda’s previous games, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. Estimating you’ll need 30-40 hours for the main story alone, he advised: “This one’s ending up a little bit longer [than our previous games] and we may tune that some still. It’s more quests, so it might be 20% more than our previous ones”.
He’s also clear that despite the large-scale freedom to explore, Starfield still offers a clear ‘golden path’ to follow, for those only interested in the main story. Telling IGN there’s more handcrafted content than Bethesda has ever created in Starfield, Howard confirmed:
“I should also add that we have done more handcrafting in this game, content-wise, than any game we’ve done. We’re [at] over 200,000 lines of dialogue, so we still do a lot of handcrafting and if people just want to do what they’re used to in our games, and follow a main quest, and do the questlines, you’re gonna see what you’d kind of expect from us. But then you have this whole other part of, ‘Well I’m just going to wander this planet, and it’s going to provide some gameplay, and some random content, and those kinds of things.”
During the showcase, Howard confirmed there’s 1000 fully explorable planets across 100 star systems. In this interview, he then explains you can’t seamlessly go from space down to a planet. “People have asked, ‘Can you fly the ship straight down to the planet?’ No. We decided early in the project that the on-surface is one reality, and then when you’re in space it’s another reality.” As for the why, we’re then told the feature is “really just not that important to the player” to justify the work needed.
Finally, that same interview also touched upon Starfield’s influences. Calling it a unique take on space combat, Howard revealed this approach was partly inspired by FTL and MechWarrior:
“Your ship has various power systems. [There’s a] little bit of FTL there in terms of putting how much power into three different weapon systems, then your engines, and shields, and the grav drive is what lets you jump, and sort of get out of some situations that you have to put power to.
“One of the games I love that we sort of look at for pace is MechWarrior, believe it or not. That’s probably a little bit slower, but in terms of systems and power and being able to line things up – it’s a little bit faster than that but you know what I mean as opposed to a twitchy dogfighter. But it’s not just dogfighting, you can dock with other ships, you can disable them, you can dock, you can board it. There’s actually some quests that involve that. You can steal the ship, there’s dialogue in space, there’s star stations you can visit, there’s smuggling. All the things that we would want.”
He ends on this point by promising we’ll learn more about this aspect of combat at a later date.
Starfield: Story and setting
Starfield promises a grand spacefaring adventure across the vast universe, set 300 years into our future. After a few initial missions, our protagonist gets invited to join Constellation, the last group of space explorers. We’ll be meeting them in the United Colonies’ capital city, New Atlantis, tasked with searching for artifacts across The Settled Systems.
Speaking to IGN (opens in new tab) in a June 2022 interview, Todd Howard revealed New Atlantis will be Bethesda’s biggest city yet. “It has all the services you would expect, and you can work on your ship there, the factions touch that. But that’s also the headquarters for Constellation, which is the faction that you join that is the last group of space explorers – kind of this NASA-meets-Indiana Jones-meets-The League of Extraordinary Gentleman [group].”
Unsurprisingly, there’s rival groups with separate goals, like the Crimson Fleet, who it seems we’ll be frequently clashing with. Previous videos from Bethesda have also confirmed the existence of violent Spacers, ecliptic mercenaries, and fanatical religious zealots of House Va’Ruun.
This takes place across 1000 fully explorable planets between 100 star systems, and four major cities. Including New Atlantis, we currently know about three of them. Following a past war with the United Colonies, the Freestar Collective marks the other major faction within The Settled Systems, and both currently maintain an uneasy peace.
Controlling three star systems, Freestar uses the walled Akila City as its capital, which keeps out “alien predators that are a cross between a wolf and a velociraptor.” Then we have Neon, a pleasure city created by the Xenofresh Corporation. Having created a unique psychotropic drug, Aurora, it’s now a popular tourist spot.
We finally got our first look at Starfield’s gameplay during 2022’s Xbox and Bethesda Showcase, which you can check this out in full below:
The Sound of Adventure
Bethesda has released an April video diving into Starfield’s music and sound design. In the video, the game’s audio director, Mark Lampert, and composer, Inon Zur, discuss music and its importance for the overall gameplay experience.
Zur describes music as the “fourth dimension. It is the emotional dimension” while Lampert says, “the main theme sets the tone for everything else we do.” The video is interspersed with more new concept art to give insight into the visual inspirations for the music.
Meet Starfield’s first companion: Vasco
Bethesda has introduced Starfield’s first companion in a brief new video. Called Vasco, this companion is Constellation’s expeditionary robot who has been refurbished by the space exploration organization “to meet the requirements” of its mission.
According to Lead Artist, Istvan Pely, Vasco is a “utilitarian, heavy industrial machine well-suited to the rigors of space travel.” Vasco’s primary role is, apparently, “peaceful” as, while he does have defensive capabilities, he’s especially well-suited to travelling across rough terrain while loaded up with items that are useful for “extended overland journeys.” See him for yourself below:
Made for Wanderers
In the second episode of the “Into the Starfield” series, members of the Bethesda development team discuss the ways in which they’re hoping to immerse players in a realistic game world. They touch on a range of topics, from NPC and companion interaction, to the game’s factions and the choices players will have in relation to them.
The Endless Pursuit
In this behind the scenes video Game Director Todd Howard, Studio Director Angela Browder and Art Director Matt Carofano discuss Bethesda’s vision of the future with Starfield.
Howard discusses “step-out moments” in the Fallout games, where a character emerges into a world that’s been irrevocably changed by nuclear war, and cryptically says that Starfield will have “two step-out moments”. Carofano, meanwhile, reveals that Starfield will have a “realistic science-based backing” and calls it a “more grounded game and grounded setting” than the likes of Skyrim.
In October 2021, Bethesda released a video giving an overview of Starfield’s overall setting, known as ‘The Settled Systems’.
Narrated by Bethesda Game Studios Design Director Emil Pagliarulo, the video explains that Starfield will transport players to the Settled Systems in the year 2330. The Settled Systems are located in “a relatively small pocket of the Milky Way, in an area that extends outward from our Solar System for approximately 50 light-years.”
It also gives some details on the game’s two largest factions, the United Colonies and the Freestar Collective. Both engaged in a “bloody colony war” before the game begins but have developed an unsteady peace.
In August 2021, Bethesda revealed three brief videos which give an overview of cities that will feature in Starfield. The three locations are pretty distinct, comprising the metropolitan capital of the United Colonies, New Atlantis; the freedom-driven capital of the Freestar Collective, Akila; and the vice-drenched pleasure city, Neon.
Each video (all below) gives a description of the locations and a look at some of the concept art, offering a good sense of the overall atmosphere you can expect.
The first proper Starfield trailer was revealed at E3 2021, showing off Bethesda’s more realistic approach to sci-fi than the likes of Outer Worlds or No Man’s Sky:
We’re shown a very NASA-like astronaut exploring the rocky surface of a Moon-like location, complete with a blue-sky atmosphere, preparing for take-off. We’re shown drones, a cool mech-like buddy robot, and the promise of uncovering the “key to unlocking everything.”
Into the Starfield
E3 2021 also brought a more behind-the-scenes style video for Starfield called Into the Starfield. In this clip that’s just under 2 minutes, Bethesda gives an overview of Starfield and what it’s aiming to achieve with the game.
Other than that, we previously saw our first glimpse of the game during E3 2018 where we got little more than a title, a setting and a glimpse of an unnamed planet, a floating satellite or space station, and some sort of… glowing wormhole?
Check out the teaser trailer below:
Starfield: News and rumors
Missing from QuakeCon lineup
Bethesda has confirmed that there will be no brand new Starfield gameplay shown at Gamescom and it looks like fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for QuakeCon either. The schedule for the August Bethesda event (opens in new tab) has been revealed and while it features Redfall, Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online, Starfield is noticeably absent.
Speaking during Xbox Games Showcase Extended, Bethesda’s Pete Hines touched a bit more on Starfield’s ship customization feature.
“Every ship is customizable to the Nth degree and not just cosmetically,” Hines explained. “It goes much deeper than that in terms of what shields you have, what kind of weapons you have, what kind of ship are you building, what do you want it to be good at, what trade-offs are you willing to make or not. And the other part of it is that you have to figure out ‘how am I going to do this?’, ‘where do I get the resources to build this stuff?’, ‘what kind of skills do I need to level up to improve my ship beyond what I could do without those skills?’ It’s a lot of choices. You get to decide that…all of those things are part of the fun of deciding how much you want to interact with this and how do you want to interact with this.”
It’s not prescribed
Speaking during Xbox Games Showcase Extended, Bethesda’s Pete Hines explained that the developer doesn’t want to “prescribe” the Starfield experience for players and instead is simply handing them the tools to make their own story.
“Ultimately those games are massive sandboxes where they give players just ridiculous amounts of freedom to say ‘you go figure out what kind of game you want to play, and what kind of experience you want to have, because that’s what this game is about’,” Hines explained. “It’s not us prescribing and saying ‘you have to do these things’, it’s about creating this huge sandbox with over a thousand planets so you can completely explore. It’s entirely up to you to figure out ‘what is fun for me?’. The team really puts all those tools in the players’ hands, steps back and says, ‘now it’s time for you to tell the story of Starfield’.
“Which is your story and it’s going to be different than mine and different than everyone else’s and I think that’s really where the magic of a Bethesda Game Studios game happens.”
Pete Hines addresses delays
During the Xbox Games Extended showcase, Bethesda’s Pete Hines addressed the delays to both Starfield and Redfall, saying that these delays were to allow the teams to “fully realize” the games.
“With all the time that goes into a game, it would be foolish to rush it out the door before it’s ready, Hines said. “I think we have continued to examine how we think about games and making sure that they’re going to meet players’ expectations. Obviously, the last few years have really challenged us from a development standpoint, how we work now largely remotely while a lot of our folks are not back in the office, and that has an impact. I also think we’ve been thinking about things like release dates and when do we give those out and how do we make sure we give one out that we actually hit and don’t have to change later.
“So, it’s not something that we undertake lightly but, at the end of the day, what our fans expect is a high-quality game and we want to do everything we can to give our teams the time to fully realize the games.”.
Covering ‘so much’ new ground
Starfield’s lead designer and writer, Emil Pagliarulo, discussed the development team’s progress on the game in a blog post on the official Bethesda site.
The lead designer suggests that the game is coming along well in the interview, saying that while, early on in development, there can be moments where a game is “just kind of a mess”, eventually “you get to that point where systems really start to come online, and things start to work well, and gel, and you see everything forming into the vision you had when you first started on this crazy journey.”
The Starfield team has, according to Pagliarulo, gotten to that point. “When that first happened with Starfield,” he says, “it really was an, ’Oh. Oh wow. Yeah. This is… something really special. Players are going to lose their minds.’” Pagliarulo adds, “It’s been so awe-inspiring watching Starfield morph into this amazing game, little by little, and with us covering SO much new ground.”
The game is now in full production and much of Pagliarulo’s time is now spent playtesting, which feels like a pretty good sign for the game meeting its release date. This playtesting is key, he says, to “experiencing Starfield the way a player would, at every stage of development.” According to Pagliarulo, the development team is “brutally honest” with itself “about what is and isn’t fun, what does and doesn’t work.”
Aiming for realism and immersion
In a behind-the scenes featurette for Starfield, members of the game’s development team touched on ways that they want to make the game a realistic, immersive experience for players. This starts from the higher level of the game’s overall RPG mechanics, with Todd Howard touching on “the backgrounds, the traits, defining your character, all those stats.”
It also extends to the NPCs and companions with whom the player will interact throughout the game. Lead Artist, Istvan Pely, said that while Bethesda have “always allowed the player to create really interesting, unique characters”, this time they’ve “definitely, severely leveled up. The tech is based on scanning of real world models, similar to the photogrammetry we do in our landscapes. We’re kind of applying the same thing to our people as well.”
This realism is part of the immersion, with Pely adding, “it’s not just the appearance of your player and all that, but we want the personal interactions with all NPCs, other characters in the game, to be as impactful as possible. And for that you have to believe these are real people, you’re a real person, and you’re interacting with real people.”
Aside from how players feel about other characters, Howard said that “Something we really leaned into on this game: how those other characters felt about you.”
Pely added, “That’s probably my favourite part, like when you’re exploring and then your companion makes some comment off the cuff about something that you’re checking out or something that just happened. That just feels so perfect for immersion. It’s just so believable, you think it’s a real person.”
Interacting with characters will, however, involve more than them talking at the player; the video touches on a “persuasion minigame”. Taking inspiration from the old Oblivion system, this conversation system isn’t one where there’s “definitely a right thing to say.”
Bethesda has a particular look in mind when it comes to Starfield and that look is “NASA-Punk”.
As described by the game’s lead artist, Istvan Pely, in a recent Xbox newswire post (opens in new tab), NASA-Punk is a term coined by Starfield’s development team “to describe a sci-fi universe that’s a little more grounded and relatable”. Pely explains the team “wanted a very realistic take,” adding, “You can draw a line from current-day space technology and extrapolate from there into the future so it’s believable and relatable.”
The game’s lead animator, Rick Vicens, explains that the term proved to be incredibly useful when creating an aesthetically consistent world. “What’s really interesting is how much we all latched onto that concept,“ Vicens says.
”When you said NASA-Punk, the Art team could instantly take those two words and make them work. It was just the perfect term for our art direction and keeping everyone in the same flow and working with a consistent style. For me, it just clicked. At the start of the project, I think that term was critical for us.”
Phil Spencer wants it to be played more than Skyrim
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has said he wants Starfield to be the “most-played” Bethesda game ever. Speaking to Axios Gaming’s Stephen Totilo (opens in new tab), Spencer emphasised player counts and how services like Xbox Game Pass help with getting games into the hands of more players.
“You can see it with Forza and Halo, the last releases,” Spencer said. “Those are the most played games in those franchises because we made them available on more screens than we ever have, through more business models than we’ve ever made them available”.
“I love the Forza 5 and Halo stats…I love how many people played Psychonauts 2 vs. Psychonauts 1.
“So, when I look at the teams, when Todd and I talk about Starfield, it’s: ‘How do we make sure this is the most-played Todd Howard game ever?’”
Spencer to me: “I love the Forza 5 and Halo stats…I love how many people played Psychonauts 2 vs. Psychonauts 1. “So, when I look at the teams, when Todd and I talk about Starfield, it’s: ‘How do we make sure this is the most-played Todd Howard game ever?'”February 8, 2022
“As a platform, I think we have a lot to do with that. Quality of the title is number one, no doubt about that…” Spencer continued. “But that will be success for me for the individual games: Can we really make these games – can we allow them to reach more players than they’ve ever seen before? And I say that because I believe in the social impact of interactive entertainment.”
Some environment concept art
The Starfield Twitter account has been keeping up a steady drip of teases for the game. In December 2021, the account posted two new pieces of concept art which hint at the diversity of settings players will get to experience in the game.
The first piece of art shows a dense jungle setting, with the tweet promising that “During your travels you’ll discover many unique environments, some lush and abundant with life.”
During your travels you’ll discover many unique environments, some lush and abundant with life. pic.twitter.com/fMpT2vd0AxDecember 20, 2021
The second tweet shows a scene far less “abundant with life”, instead depicting a deep, dark cave where, apparently, there will be things for players to discover.
What wonders will you uncover in distant caves? pic.twitter.com/hMFZfBLYzBDecember 27, 2021
Full mod support
Bethesda Game Studios boss Todd Howard confirmed in a recent Reddit AMA that despite Starfield moving to an all-new engine from the studio’s previous titles, it will offer the same deep mod support as previous titles from the developer.
“Our plan is to have full mod support like our previous games. Our modding community has been with us for 20 years. We love what they do and hope to see more make a career out of it,” said Howard.
Starfield’s composer has been confirmed as Inon Zur, the composer behind multiple games in the Fallout series, including 3, 4, 76 and New Vegas, as well as Dragon Age and Prince of Persia.
On his website (opens in new tab), Zur explains that he’s been on the “epic new musical journey” of creating music for Starfield “for the past several years”. Zur also expresses his “admiration and appreciation to the incomparable creative visionary Todd Howard, audio director extraordinaire Mark Lampert, and the entire BGS family”, not only for their “daring artistic ambition” but for “the honor of entrusting me with scoring their next groundbreaking RPG experience.”
‘Better’ without PS5
Bethesda’s executive producer Todd Howard has said that the company can create better games now that it’s developing exclusively for Xbox and PC.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Howard said: “You don’t ever want to leave people out, right? But at the end of the day, your ability to focus and say, this is the game I want to make, these are the platforms I want to make it on, and being able to really lean in on those is going to make for a better product. By focusing on those platforms, you really get to lean in a lot on making it the best it can be for those systems“.
Though PS5 players won’t have access to Starfield, Howard says Microsoft is working to get its games to more people than ever before.
“…we’re big believers in all of the avenues that Xbox and Microsoft are doing to get games to more people,“ Howard explained. ”Whether that’s the integration with the PC, which is huge for us, the cloud streaming and all those things. So I think it’s about taking a long-term view. And our belief that those things are really fundamentally good. So we see it actually opening up more and more and more so that people’s ability to play our games – via GamePass and other things – their ability to play our games doesn’t go down. It goes up dramatically.
“And I can say I’m proud to be part of Xbox. I think it’s great for the community of gamers.”
Both third person and first person viewpoints are in Starfield
Whether you like staring down the barrel of a gun, or at your player character’s cool new space threads, Starfield will offer up both first and third person points of view for players to enjoy. “First person for us is still our prime way of playing. So you can see the world and touch all those things,” Todd Howard revealed in an interview with the Telegraph (opens in new tab).
There will be “hardcore” role playing elements
If you’ve felt that previous Bethesda role playing games have dumbed down the RPG parts of the game in favor of action elements, rest assured that Starfield will not be scrimping on the stats and rolls. The game will have “great character systems” and the ability to choose your background, “things that we used to do in games long ago,” says director Todd Howard.
Starfield will have alien races and multiple planets to explore
It may be a more serious approach to space exploration than the likes of No Man’s Sky or Mass Effect, but rest assured – there will be aliens to interact with. In quite what capacity, Bethesda isn’t yet revealing. But with the news that the game will also feature Skyrim style cities and settlements across multiple planets, we’re hoping that we’ll run into a fair few alien habitats, too.
A game engine overhaul
Bethesda (opens in new tab)‘s Todd Howard has revealed that partnering with Microsoft has “led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls 6.“
Speaking at the Develop: Brighton conference (opens in new tab), Howard gave more information on the overhauled Creation Engine, saying it’s been “a significant overhaul,” adding that “It’s taken us longer than we would have liked, but it’s going to power everything we’re doing with Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6. When people see the results, they’ll hopefully be as happy as we are with what’s on the screen and also how we can go about making our games.”
Take with a grain of salt but some images of Starfield may have just leaked pic.twitter.com/CUcj7lWccrSeptember 26, 2020
Starfield companion game “unlikely”
While the wait for Starfield is undoubtedly a long one, it looks like we won’t be getting any ancillary material for the game before its big release late next year. Talking to the Washington Post, Todd Howard stated that a companion game to Starfield (similar to the Fallout Shelter mobile game) is “unlikely.” However, Howard didn’t rule out the possibility of a movie or TV show in future.