Starfield has twice as much dialog as Skyrim

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda's sci-fi RPG Starfield promises to be a big, sprawling sci-fi romp—"like Skyrim in space," creative director Todd Howard said earlier this year. But it definitely won't be all action. Howard told an audience at the Tokyo Game Show earlier today (via Nibellion on Twitter) that the game will contain more than 150,000 lines of dialog.

By way of comparison, that's more lines of chit-chat than Fallout 4, and more than double the verbosity of Skyrim:

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Word and line counts are sometimes held up as a quantifier of depth and complexity in "serious" RPGs. The same year that Bethesda boasted about Skyrim's 60,000 lines, for instance, BioWare trumpeted Mass Effect 3 as having 40,000 lines of dialog, double the amount of the first game. A year later, Beamdog co-founder Trent Oster said Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition has "close to a million words of dialog," which is different than lines but still an awful lot of talk. Somewhat more recently, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had a script of 450,000 words, Obsidian's Tyranny claimed more than 600,000, and Disco Elysium's narrator alone had to talk his way through 350,000 words.

Not everyone buys into the "more is better" attitude to word counts in videogames. Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software, who knows a thing or two about storytelling in RPGs, was critical—harshly at times, but mostly on-point—of that approach in a couple of 2017 blog posts. 

"The ultimate goal of writing in a game: Have it be good enough that getting past the gameplay to reach the writing is your goal," he wrote in one. "Your writing should be the REWARD. If your writing is something the player has to slog through to get to the game play, there is too much writing."

(Vogel also took particular issue with Pillars of Eternity in a separate post, which led to a thoughtful and largely aligned response from designer and director Josh Sawyer.) 

Still, in a very general sense Howard's statement indicates that Starfield is going to be big, and that's what hopeful Bethesda fans—myself included—really want: A gigantic open world (or galaxy) to explore, one hopefully interesting enough to keep us engaged for, oh, a couple hundred hours or so. That's a fair ask, right?

Starfield is scheduled to launch on November 11, 2022. In case you hadn't heard, it will have a pleasure dome where you can get super-high on alien fish.

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.