How big is Starfield, anyway?

How big is Starfield? - a person in a spacesuit on an alien world looks up at a star and nearby ringed planet
(Image credit: Bethesda)

How big is Starfield? Well, there's no doubt Starfield is Bethesda Game Studios' most ambitious game ever in terms of scope, and we've all heard that "there's 1000 planets in Starfield" bit trumpeted over and over. 

But between EVE Online, No Man's Sky, and Elite: Dangerous, simply having an absurd number of planets isn't that impressive by itself. Starfield isn't even close to first place on that metric alone. How big are those planets? How much is there to do down there? How many of them are even worth visiting? And how does Starfield compare to the size of other Bethesda RPGs?

Here's everything we know so far about how big Starfield is.

How many planets are there in Starfield, really?

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To put that 1,000 number in context, we're talking about somewhere around 100 star systems, some of which won't be reachable until you replace or upgrade your starting ship, which gives us an average of 10 planets each. Howard also estimated that around 10 percent of them support life, though that could mean anything from alien monsters to simply lots of cool and wacky space trees. That leaves something like 900 of them that are cold, dead rocks—granted, some of those may feature far-flung outposts belonging to one of the many human factions.

Most of these planets will feature procedurally-generated surfaces that are created by an algorithm when you land, so the version of it in your game will be different from your friends' or your future playthroughs. But there are a smaller number of planets that have major, handcrafted cities on them. We know of four so far:

  • Jemison, in the Alpha Centauri system, which has the main capital city for all of humanity's spacefaring civilization, New Atlantis. 
  • Mars, in the Sol System, which has Cydonia, a massive mining and industrial outpost that was one of humanity's first colonies. 
  • Volii Alpha, which has the cyberpunk-esque city of Neon, a hive of scum and villainy controlled by powerful corporations 
  • Akila, which contains Akila City, home of the Space Cowboy-flavored Freestar Collective.

How big is a planet in Starfield?

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Let me tell you, this has been a difficult question to get a straight answer to. It seems like, from everything we've been shown and told so far, that we will not be able to explore the entire surface of a planet. 

Based on Todd Howard's comments, it sounds like we will land at a specific location on any given planet and Starfield will generate a roughly "Skyrim-sized" chunk of the surface for us to explore. That's still pretty huge, of course. 1,000 Skyrims is probably more than any of us could explore in a lifetime. What happens when you get to the edge of this area? Can you land at multiple places on the same planet to create multiple Skyrims in different biomes? 

Well, friends, I cannot seem to get anyone to answer this. And believe me, I've tried. Bethesda Game Studios seems torn between managing our expectations and also not saying anything that might kill the hype. I guess we'll just have to find out for ourselves.

How big would Starfield be if it were a book?

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Bethesda has boasted that Starfield features over 250,000 lines of dialogue. For comparison, Skyrim had about 60,000 and Fallout 4 had 110,000. So it's more than double the amount of spoken words of their previous largest game ever. 

Studying screenshots, it seems like a "line" of dialogue in Starfield is somewhere around 10 to 20 words. So splitting the difference, that's something like 3.8 million words. That's roughly six-and-a-half times the length of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.

How long will it take to finish Starfield?

Back in 2022, Todd Howard told IGN that Starfield's main quest will take players about 30-40 hours to complete. That makes it roughly 20% longer than Skyrim's main quest, which takes players typically between 15-30 hours to finish.

That's not the most useful information when it comes to a big open world game with side-quests, faction quests, exploration, crafting, because you can sink hundreds of hours into those activities and still feel like you're not quite finished. But until Starfield launches, we really won't know just how big Bethesda's space game really is.

With contributions from