The lesser-known Starfield gameplay details I'm most excited about

Until the Starfield "deep dive" this June, the best look we have at Bethesda's space RPG is the gameplay video from last summer embedded above, in which director Todd Howard narrates an overview of combat, character creation, ship customization, and the story. That's not everything we know, though: Tucked away in a smattering of other interviews and roundtables are some interesting tidbits about the space problems we'll encounter when Starfield releases this September. Did you know you can start the game with a mortgage?

We've cataloged all the important details in our guide to everything Starfield, but below I've picked out a selection of lesser-discussed teases that I find most interesting. 

You can start the game with parents… and can also disown them somehow

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Character creation in Starfield looks Fallout-ey. After you pick a background for your space person, you can optionally pick up to three "traits," each of which will have one beneficial and one undesirable effect. I really like the examples we've seen, a few of which are:

  • Introvert: You really need your alone time. You have more endurance when adventuring alone, but less when adventuring with other human companions. (Can't be combined with Extrovert.)
  • Empath: You are deeply connected to the feelings of others. Performing actions your companion likes will result in a temporary increase in combat effectiveness. But, performing actions they don't like will have the precise opposite effect.
  • Dream Home: You own a luxurious, customizable house on a peaceful planet! Unfortunately it comes with a 50,000 credit mortgage with GalBank that has to be paid weekly.
  • Hero Worshiped: You've earned the attention of an annoying "Adoring Fan" who will show up randomly and jabber at you incessantly. On the plus side, he'll give you gifts…
  • 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.

If at some point during your adventure you get tired of your introversion, mortgage payments, Adoring Fan (an Oblivion reference), or one of your other traits, you'll be able to remove them with a little work.

"I love our trait list, it's super fun, but each one obviously comes with some sort of negative as well," Howard said in a video last year. "And we have a way in the game, kind of an activity or quest you can do, to remove that trait, as opposed to, 'I don't like my character, I want to start over.' Each of them are something you can solve that removes the entire trait for the rest of your playthrough." 

How do you get rid of your obligation to support your parents, I wonder?

You can board and steal ships

Starfield ship customization menu

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There's dialogue in space.

Todd Howard

In an interview with IGN last summer, Howard compared Starfield's ship combat to MechWarrior, saying that it's a little faster than that, but not "twitchy," and involves tactical hardware decisions like power management. He also rattled off a list of space adventuring possibilities:

"You can dock with other ships. You can disable them, you can board them. There's actually some quests that involve that. You can steal a ship. There's dialogue in space. There's star stations you can visit. There's smuggling."

Taken out of context, "there's dialogue in space" strikes me as one of the funnier Todd Howard quotes out there. I imagine ships grumbling like Skryim guards as they pass by: "...took a laser to the starboard thruster."

Boarding and stealing ships feels like the current pinnacle of videogame adventuring freedom and fantasy to me—the allure of Sea of Thieves and Star Citizen has a lot to do with the sense that their ships are proper physical objects rather than abstractions whose exteriors and interiors aren't directly connected. So that's an exciting detail to me, although Starfield isn't aiming for Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen-like siminess, so I'd expect docking to be accomplished with a button press and not precarious manual maneuvering.

You can be a filthy snitch

You can side with the pirates or you can report back to your superiors, and be like a space cop type of thing.

Emil Pagliarulo, design director

The "smuggling" Howard mentioned when talking about ships might have to do with Neon, a Starfield "pleasure city" that produces a fish-based drug only legal in Neon itself. Just speculating, but you could presumably make some good money transporting the psychotropic drug off-planet, and you will be able to live a life of crime in Starfield if you want, particularly by joining the Crimson Fleet pirate faction. You can also, according to design director Emil Pagliarulo, be a narc.

"You can side with the pirates or you can report back to your superiors, and be like a space cop type of thing," said Pagliarulo in a 2022 video. "So it lets you be a good person and still play with the bad guys." 

Seems pretty judgmental to call the pirates bad guys! Maybe they're the justifiably aggrieved victims of megacorporation exploitation? Or maybe they are just bad guys. Either way, I'm no rat, but I appreciate the thoroughness indicated by the possibility of a criminal informant playthrough.

Mod support is confirmed

Our plan [is to] have full mod support like our previous games.

Todd Howard

In a 2021 Reddit AMA, Howard said that Bethesda won't be deviating from its usual support for modding: "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."

Howard also said in a video last year that an "update or mod" could hypothetically change how spaceship fuel works, so gameplay mods are a definite yes.

We don't know if Creation Engine 2 mod tools will be available right away—sometimes these things are released in an update after a game's launch—but just having confirmation that Starfield will be moddable is a relief. As important as modding has been to Bethesda games in the past, historical precedent hasn't stopped other developers from abandoning support for one of PC gaming's greatest and most noble traditions. I can't wait to fly around in a ship shaped like Thomas the Tank Engine with my trusty companion, a Chocobo.

You can visit Earth, but something happened to it

In a video last year, lead quest designer Will Shen said that an early quest will take you back to "The Old Neighborhood," our solar system. He didn't give away too much about the state of humanity's cradle, but it sounds like Mars might be our preferred habitat in the region.

"You'll get in contact with the question of what happened to Earth, but also you'll go to Mars, and there's actually a settlement—one of the early settlements that humanity created after they left Earth. It's called Cydonia, and that's a whole city with its own problems and people to meet."

You can let your companions do the talking now and then

Shen also said that you can sometimes ask companions to speak for you: "So you might have a companion with you, and there will be a challenge. Someone will tell you, 'You can't get through here,' and you can actually turn to your companion and say, 'Hey, can you handle this?' And they'll speak on your behalf, and there could be consequences good or bad for what they happen to say."

Ladders will be included… sparingly

Finally, a very important detail about Starfield's ladder density. In that 2021 AMA, someone asked Howard if the ladder in the Starfield trailer can be climbed dynamically, or if it's the type that cuts to a hands-off animation when you hit a key. It's the latter kind of ladder, and we shouldn't expect a lot of them.

"Despite the advent of super-computers and next gen hardware," said Howard, "ladders are our arch-nemesis. It's an animation, and we use [it] sparingly."

Howard did not respond to the question of whether or not he ever considered adding ladders to Skryim, something modders finally accomplished a couple years ago. A modder also added ladders to Fallout 4 last year. Someone will probably mod truly climbable ladders into Starfield sometime around 2032 then, around the time we expect to be writing our first previews of The Elder Scrolls 6. 


Starfield factions: Find a cause to quest for
Starfield cities: See the big spaces in space
Starfield companions: Collect cosmic comrades
Starfield traits: Give your hero some history
Starfield ship customization: Make your spaceship special

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.