Starfield has gone gold, preloads are coming

Sci-fi space game Starfield
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Lest you still be carrying worries about a really last-minute delay, you can now rest easy: Bethesda has announced that its upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield has officially gone gold. To mark the big moment, lead designer Emil Pagliarulo and lead quest designer Will Shen held a Q&A session on the Bethesda Discord.

Going gold—the point at which a game is essentially locked in for release—doesn't have quite the same impact that it used to back in the days before launch-day patches, near-daily hotfixes, and live service. But it's still an important milestone, if only because it signals that yes, this is really happening: There may be bugs ahead (although Bethesda parent Microsoft has said, boldly, that this will be the studio's most bug-free release ever) but at least there won't be any more waiting.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks (Twitter))

As you might expect, conversation on the Starfield Discord channel is flowing fast and furious, and the Q&A session is difficult to pick out of the crowd. It is possible to see it by following a multi-step process to get "Constellation" access on the Discord server, but an easier path forward can be found on the Starfield subreddit, where the session has been posted in its entirety.

The Q&A includes some details about Starfield that haven't previously been revealed. Players will have access to housing in different cities in the game, some available for purchase and others that can be earned as quest rewards, and players caught breaking the law—for instance, getting busted smuggling contraband items—will have the choice of going to jail or paying a fine, or (maybe) blasting their way to freedom if that's how they roll.

Pagliarulo also confirmed that while non-violence is generally an option, a complete pacifist run won't be possible. "We talked about this very early on during pre-production, whether or not we would fully support a 'non-lethal' playthrough," he said. "We realized that, for various reasons, that wasn't totally feasible.

"Now, that being said, there are some good non-lethal options, whether through dialogue or by using a non-lethal weapon. Those can be used in certain situations, honestly a lot of situations, though I couldn't comfortably say you can complete the entire game without any killing whatsoever. The Settled Systems is mostly civilized, but it can be a dangerous place if you’re going off the beaten path. And you're absolutely going off the beaten path!"

Shen noted that a big part of that non-violent approach will be accessible through Starfield's "speech challenge" system, which will give players a chance to talk their way out of fights. "The speech challenge game is added in specific scripted moments, and we try to add one in to most quests where important characters confront you," Shen said.

A few other interesting points:

  • Both real-world and new religions will be present in Starfield, but the focus will be on the three created for the game: Sanctum Universum, The Enlightened, and House Va'ruun.
  • There will be more than 20 named characters who can join your crew, follow you around, and carry your stuff.
  • Crew members will be hired with a one-time payment, and won't require an ongoing salary.
  • Companions won't level up, but they will have a set of perks at specific ranks, which will stack with yours in some instances, providing a boost to things like shields or weapon skills.

Pagliarulo also revealed more about the mechs that have appeared in the background of a few Starfield promotional clips. Bethesda has previously said that there will be no land vehicles in the game, which would seemingly preclude giant fighting robots, but hope dies hard.

The mechs seen in Starfield are left over from the Colony War, he explained. "Both sides, United Colonies and Freestar Collective, had mechs. But the Freestar Collective really mastered them. The United Colonies had mechs, too, but they also relied on the controlled alien beasts from their Xenowarfare division. Both of those were outlawed with the Armistice that ended the Colony War."

Pagliarulo also dropped a not-too-subtle hint that players will have the opportunity to discover an old mech battleground in Starfield, but he shot down any hope that players might find one in working order. "Mechs—not usable, no," he said. "They're in ruins."

Along with the "gone gold" message, Bethesda also confirmed today that Starfield will be preloadable: Preloads for Xbox consoles and the PC version on the Microsoft Store will begin on August 17, while Steam preloading will begin on August 30. Starfield goes into full release on September 6, but springing for the premium edition will get you in on September 1. Specific start times for the preload weren't revealed but no doubt will be soon.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.