These long summer videogame presentations almost always end with a "one more thing." and then some kind of final reveal. At the 45-minute Starfield Direct today, Todd Howard's "one more thing" was... space-magic.
That's right. After all the talk about Starfield being "NASA Punk" and "grounded in realism," we see the protagonist walk into a room full of enemies, slowly raise one hand like Darth Vader, and instakill everyone.
Sure, you can claim it's really alien technology, or biotics, or psionics, or whatever pseudoscientific term can explain someone holding up their hand and killing a room full of people. But it's magic. Space magic! It's a dragon shout, only it's coming from an astronaut's hand instead of a Nord's mouth.
And honestly... while I am a little disappointed to see there's gonna be magic in Starfield, a lot of science fiction has magic. In Star Wars you've got the Force. In Mass Effect you have biotics. In Dune, Paul has prophetic dreams. It's like no one is really content to get onto a spaceship or visit an alien planet without taking a little something from the fantasy genre along for the ride.
As for how much magic is in Starfield, we don't know yet, but I'm wondering if every time you find and touch an alien artifact (they are described in a scene from Starfield Direct as "a set" that were "built by an intelligence outside the settled systems") you gain a new power.
Which is pretty much how dragon shouts work in Skyrim. Find a dragon rune, learn a new shout. In Starfield, it might mean find an artifact, get a new power. That means by the end of the game we might be straight-up space wizards. Which isn't quite what I'm looking for in a sci-fi game.
I'm not even sure what the magic spell in the trailer is. It looks like telekinesis, because everyone (except the Starfieldborn) begins floating around the room. But it's also clear everyone is dead, or at least immobilized, because they immediately stop shooting. Maybe it's acts like an EMP that disables weapons and simulated gravity, but you think they'd still be thrashing around instead of floating peacefully.
Whatever it is, it kills everyone in sight and it's activated by holding out your hand. That's not science. It's magic, baby. I pretty much got my fill of that in Skyrim, but it looks like there's more to come in Starfield.