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Starfield: Everything we know about Bethesda's next RPG

Starfield - A person in a space suit looks out from inside a starship
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Starfield is Bethesda's first original RPG in 25 years, and it's set in the grounded and realistic space of the 24th century. Almost three years after it was announced, we're getting a slow trickle of details about the game and when you can expect to play it. We've gathered all of the information we could find about Starfield below, including trailers, video updates, interviews, and concept art. 

Starfield has ben delayed into 2023, right after we'd started to feel reassured by the routine videos from Bethesda leading into the summer. Despite the delay to next year, we'll continue collecting information about Starfield's factions, characters, and space flight right here. Here's everything we know so far about Bethesda's next RPG.

What is the release date?

What is the Starfield release date?

Starfield is launching in the first half of 2023. Its original release date was planned for November 11, 2022. Bethesda announced the delay in May 2022, saying that "The teams at Arkane Austin (Redfall) and Bethesda Game Studios (Starfield) have incredible ambitions for their games, and we want to ensure that you receive the best, most polished versions of them."

Will Starfield be at the Xbox & Bethesda showcase?

We’re practically guaranteed to see Starfield at Microsoft’s definitely-not-E3 showcase stream in June. And it’s a safe bet that we’ll finally get our eyes on some gameplay as consolation prize for the game’s delay into 2023. That's a safe bet, right? Right? Bethesda?

If you want to see for yourself whether Todd Howard finally shows us his spaceships, you can watch the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on Sunday, June 12th, at 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern. It’ll be streamed on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. Don't miss the rest of the shows in our not-so-E3 schedule either.

Watch the Starfield trailers

Here's the official Starfield trailer from E3 2021

You can watch the Starfield E3 trailer above. It's a cinematic showing an astronaut climbing into a spaceship while a robot tromps around on the surface. We get a nice look at the ship while a voice over says "What you've found is the key to unlocking... everything," and "We've come to the beginning of humanity's final journey." The pilot sits at a console, flips a bunch of switches, and the trailer ends with rockets firing and the ship about to take off.

You can also watch the first episode of a new series on Starfield from Bethesda called Into the Starfield below, which breaks down their inspirations, shows off new concept art (including some gorgeous animated ones), and talks about the game. There's also a second episode available, which talks about factions and shows off some dialogue.

There's Starfield concept art a'plenty

We're still short on in-game screenshots and clips, but Bethesda has been including tons of concept art for Starfield in its videos to give us an idea what kinds of places we'll be visiting.

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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Starfield concept art

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What are Starfield's setting and gameplay like?

Starfield has exploration at its heart

Bethesda showed a little bit more of its hand on Starfield with a recent extended video that had game director Todd Howard, studio director Angela Browder, and art director Matt Carofano chatting about inspirations for the upcoming space RPG. 

"A lot of our games are about exploration, and that's the ultimate exploration, is what's out there? What's past Earth?" said Carofano. "Whereas Skyrim is sort of an epic fantasy, this is a more grounded game and a more grounded setting about exploration..."

Howard had similar things to say when talking about the impact of exploration and the setting of Bethesda games of the past.

"We always have that 'step out' moment into the world, so to say," Howard says. "The technology has changed. We've all changed. So our expectations when loading up a game, like, 'Okay, I'm going to step out and there's going to be this moment.' Us being able to do that and have it feel new every generation, every game, is something that is really special about what we do."

"I like to say that Starfield has two 'step out' moments. That's cryptic."

What we know about the major Starfield locations

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

One of the recent trailers breaks down the region of space known as the 'Settled Systems', a 50 light year radius around our own solar system where humanity has spread out. It's divided up between two major factions—the United Colonies and the Freestar Collective—who are at an uneasy peace after a recent war. It also touches on some of the other threats the player might face: "Ecliptic mercenaries, pirates of the Crimson Fleet, violent Spacers, or even the fanatical religious zealots of House Va'Ruun."

In the short videos called "Location Insights", design director Emil Pagliarulo introduced some of the settlements you'll be visiting in Starfield. Each video is less than a minute long and is just Pagliarulo giving a quick summary over some concept art, so they're not much to go on. That said, one of them does seem interesting. Neon was originally built as a fishing platform on an aquatic world, but was retooled as a pleasure city by its owner, the Xenofresh corporation, when they discovered an alien fish with valuable psychotropic qualities. This literal dopefish is now only legal on Neon.

The other videos introduce New Atlantis, the capital of the United Colonies, and Akila City, the capital of the Freestar Collective, which is walled to keep out "alien predators that are a cross between a wolf and a velociraptor."

Starfield also has factions

Space is a dangerous place, so it's no surprise that the Settled Systems will have any number of groups angling to meet their own ends. We don't know anything about Starfield's main story yet, but there are definitely going to be factions at play in the world like other major Bethesda RPGs. We don't know much yet, but we have heard the names and brief descriptions of a few groups that we may meet or hear about along the way:

  • United Colonies: "the future space republic, idealized."
  • Freestar Collective: "space western fantasy, people out there on the frontier."
  • Ryujin Industries: A mega-corp, one of the possible starting factions.
  • Crimson Fleet: A group of pirates that you can either join or betray.
  • House Va'Ruun: A group of fanatical religious zealots.

You have a robot companion called Vasco

(Image credit: Bethesda)

In a recent video Bethesda showed off Vasco for the first time. This expeditionary robot for constellation will presumably be Starfield's default companion, similar to Dogmeat in Fallout 4. Originally built by Lunar Robotics, Vasco was refurbished to handle the rigors of expeditionary space travel, and while he still has some weapons, it sounds like he's more of a workhorse, with storage capacity and a variety of gear to aid you in exploration.

In the same video, lead artist Istvan Pely calls Vasco one of the team's "favorite companions". It seemed safe to assume there would be a handful of exploration partners to choose from in Starfield (like in Skyrim or Fallout 4) but now we can count on it for sure.

"Something we really leaned into on this game is how those other characters felt about you," Todd Howard said in one of Bethesda's videos. Companion characters will also comment on your surroundings or things happening around you.

There's a persuasion minigame, but not quite Oblivion's

In its Into the Starfield episode 2, Bethesda gets to talking about a persuasion system in Starfield. That may bring to mind the funny dialogue pie system from Oblivion, which wasn't originally intended as an evolution of Oblivion's system "but there are a couple of beats there," says lead quest designer Will Shen. "You have to think about 'what's my risk here?' We didn't want it to be a system where there's definitely a right thing to say." 

"It feels like you're having a conversation where you're actually trying to persuade somebody of something," Todd Howard adds. "As far as new systems in dialogue, I think it's definitely one of the most successful ones that we've had."

(Image credit: bethesda)

Starfield has more than double Skyrim's dialog 

During the Tokyo Game Show, Howard told the audience that Starfield will launch with a complete Japanese localization and that it has over 150,000 lines of dialog. As Nibellion pointed out on Twitter, that's more than twice as many lines as Skyrim, which had 60,000 of them. It's more than Fallout 4's 111,000 lines of dialog as well. This is going to be one chatty RPG.

Bethesda is taking pages from older hardcore RPGs

In the second episode of the development diary 'Into the Starfield' that released recently, Todd Howard talked about Starfield. Covering a variety of subjects—from different factions to Starfield's dialogue system—he also focused in on the depth of character backstory and creation: "...some things we didn't do [in older games]: the backgrounds, the traits, defining your character, all of those stats". Starfield's aiming for "a lot of the things that older hardcore RPGs, something we used to do, doing those again in a new way."

Starfield's inspirations

The art style was called "NASA-Punk" internally

"Early on in this project when we were trying to establish the overall aesthetic of this game, we sort of coined the term 'NASA-Punk' to describe a sci-fi universe that’'s a little more grounded and relatable," Starfield lead artist Istvan Pely told Xbox Wire. "We wanted a very realistic take. You can draw a line from current-day space technology and extrapolate from there into the future so it's believable and relatable."

It may sound like a silly name, but it caught on with the team as a useful shorthand for Starfield's rough-hewn and gritty depiction of the future. "What's really interesting is how much we all latched onto that concept," said lead animator Rick Vicens. "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 same flow and working with a consistent style."

Starfield is "like Skyrim in space," says Todd Howard

We don't know a whole lot about Starfield's story yet. Speaking to The Washington Post, Todd Howard said Starfield is "like Skyrim in space," and will feature factions, with Constellation, a group of human explorers, being the main one.

"It's like NASA meets Indiana Jones meets the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a group of people that are still searching for answers," Howard said.

"There are a lot of factions in the game but [Constellation is] the main one that you'll become a part of. It’s kind of like Skyrim in terms of the structure of the game, where you're going to be who you want to be, and then there's different factions that you can join, and really carve your own path."

Also like Skyrim and Bethesda's Fallout games, Starfield will be playable both in first and third-person perspectives.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Todd Howard traveled to SpaceX to bring 'authenticity' to Starfield

In the same E3 chat between Howard and Musk mentioned above, Howard said that he toured Musk's company SpaceX for Starfield research and inspiration. It's not clear how this inspiration will manifest, but Howard did mention that Helium 3—a speculative fuel for nuclear fusion—could be the isotope used to fuel Starfield's ships, or at least is something to be debated.

The look of the ship in the trailer shows futuristic yet still recognizable tech. Lots of buttons and switches like the cockpits we have today, as opposed to super-exotic technology we see in games like Mass Effect.

Starfield has been in development for years

Back in 2018 Todd Howard said that the project had moved out of pre-production and was currently in a playable state internally. The teaser shown at E3 2018 was mostly designed to give us a sense of the game's atmosphere. In an interview with The Guardian, Howard says, "We’ve been talking about it for a decade, we started putting things on paper five, six years ago, and active development was from when we finished Fallout 4, so two and a half, three years.”

Even more Starfield details

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Spaceship combat may be on the menu

This is just speculation, but there may be spaceship combat in Starfield. The trailer shows the astronaut's ship console, and on one of the readouts there's a listing for WPNS: Weapons. There are three options beneath it (including MISS, which could be missiles) and the word HOT to indicate the weapons are ready to use. 

There's also a readout for shields (SHLD) and on another monitor there's a readout for power. If we have weapons on the ship, and a way to route power to the shields, that's a pretty good indication there will be spaceship combat—unless this is all just fancy cosmetic stuff.

Starfield is built in Creation Engine 2

The trailer begins with the words "Alpha in-game footage | Creation Engine 2" showing on the screen. Bethesda confirmed that Starfield is the first game to be built in the new engine.

We don't know much about Creation Engine 2, or how much it differs from the engine Bethesda has been using and updating for years for everything from Skyrim to Fallout 76. Since Bethesda's RPGs have been highly moddable, we sure hope Creation Engine 2 continues the tradition.

There's a brief making-of feature you can watch below that shows lots of interesting concept art.

What other tidbits have come down about Starfield?

In November at the Skyrim 10th Anniversary Concert, we got a surprise look and listen at some of the music of Starfield and a bunch of new concept art. It's worth a look at both the relevant part of the concert and new images of Starfield concept art.

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.

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