Although the marketing campaign for Bethesda’s Starfield, their next RPG behemoth, has been massive and methodical since it was first revealed two years ago, it’s also been a bit difficult to wait for the game, mainly because of how fun and expansive it looks. In less than three months we’ll be playing it, so we’ve put together everything we know about Starfield. From its basic premise to the gameplay opportunities you can expect, it’s all here.
First of all, if you’re a fan of Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, then you’re in luck. While this is the first new IP the company has unveiled in over two decades, Bethesda Game Studios boss Todd Howard has openly stated that it’s basically Skyrim in space, meaning existing fans should gel pretty well with the studio’s next big RPG. Howard has also revealed that Bethesda has wanted to make a full-blown sci-fi game of this nature since at least the ‘90s, so Starfield has been a long time coming.
Before we blast off into the unknown, you might want to check out other sci-fi angles in gaming with our lists of the best space exploration, space colonization, and space horror games that can keep you busy for a while. Likewise, there are plenty of exciting sci-fi video games based on IPs well worth checking out, and we’ve got you covered with our ranked lists of the finest Alien, Warhammer 40K, Marvel, DC, and Star Wars games of all time.
Starfield release date
Starfield now has a solid release date, with Microsoft and Bethesda revealing earlier this year that it will launch on September 6, 2023.
Initially, Starfield was slated for release on November 11, 2022 (or cleverly 11/11/22 if you like it neat). However, in May 2022, Microsoft and Bethesda officially announced the launch of Starfield had been pushed back to the first half of 2023. That release window was bumped again to February 8, 2023. Eventually, Bethesda released an update video on Twitter announcing the final delay to the back half of 2023:
One step closer to answering humanity's greatest mystery. pic.twitter.com/by1rvHI8ZvMarch 8, 2023
Starfield platforms: Is Starfield an Xbox exclusive?
Following the $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda, Starfield is exclusive to systems affiliated with Microsoft, meaning that you can play it either on PC or a current-gen Xbox console (Series X/S).
Unfortunately, PS5 owners are out of luck this time around. And if you’re one of those people who asks, “Is it coming to Switch?” about every game ever released in the history of the universe, we’re here to report that no, it is not. Sorry!
To make the deal even sweeter for PC and Xbox owners, Starfield will be available to download for free via Game Pass on day one, or via xCloud on devices that support Microsoft’s cloud-based service, including Xbox One.
At time of writing, Bethesda has unveiled many different trailers for Starfield. You can easily access all of them through a curated Starfield playlist on the official Bethesda YouTube channel, although we’re going to briefly break down everything to give you a better idea of which specific trailers you should check out for yourself.
The announcement teaser came out on June 11, 2018, and mostly just served as a “Yes, this game exists!” kind of thing. “Also, space!” There’s not a whole lot of other stuff to get your hands dirty with here. Watch it below:
Almost three years to the day later, on June 13, 2021, a proper teaser trailer gave Starfield the fun 11/11/22 launch date that ultimately didn’t pan out. It was a more evocative preview that played up the wonder of space exploration. Check it out here:
A documentary-like, three-part series titled ‘Into the Starfield’ later took us behind the scenes at Bethesda to see the long and in-depth process that went into the creation of this huge video game. You can find all episodes, as well as other minor updates, on the playlist we mentioned before.
The first big gameplay reveal happened on June 12, 2022, giving us a lengthy look at the game’s core systems, many explorable planets, and narrative ambitions. Watch the entire thing here:
After delaying the game one more time to September 6, 2023, we waited patiently for a big Starfield showcase that happened during the big Xbox Games Showcase in June. It started with a meaty gameplay trailer and later wowed everyone with a 45-minute deep dive that told us everything we needed to know about Starfield. You can find both previews below:
Starfield plot & setting
Starfield, as you may have guessed, is set in space – more specifically, on the Settled Systems. This is where humanity is at home in the cosmos, comprising multiple planets that will be traversable as part of the game’s vast story, secondary quests, and free roam exploration.
It all takes place during the 24th century, focusing on two core factions not at war anymore but with plenty of tension between them. We already know about some of these planets, too – New Atlantis is home to the United Colonies faction, while the Freestar Collective reside in Akila City.
Aside from those two main factions, there are also a bunch of smaller, more roguish alliances floating about. These include corpos, pirates, religiously fundamentalist kind-of-cultists, and more – you get the gist. Starfield is set to place enormous emphasis on the disparity between its factions, many of whom will shape the trajectory of your story via their disputes with one another.
Meanwhile, the third planet we’ve seen, Neon, speaks to how hard we can expect the actual science-fiction to be. We think you should watch the video linked above to see what we mean for yourself, but if you need convincing, it’s pretty Huxley-esque in that it’s home to a special kind of hallucinogenic fish. Soma, but it’s mackerel. Brilliant.
Oh, and did we mention your robot companion? We did? Okay, but we’re still going to mention it again on account of the fact it’s a robot companion. You’ll probably have access to lots of other followers too, but Vasco is basically a mix of Dogmeat and Mister Handy – what more could you want from the technological prowess of 2330?
It’s also worth noting that as of Xbox and Bethesda’s June showcase, we know that the player assumes the role of a customizable character member of Constellation, an organization of space explorers that is a shadow of its former glory. Its members are dedicated to answering the eternal question of “What’s out there?” and come across pieces of an alien artifact. In 2330, the main character is invited to join Constellation and aid organization leader Sarah Morgan in locating more artifacts that are part of a larger device.
What type of game is Starfield?
This shouldn’t be surprising for existing Bethesda fans, but if you’re a newcomer to the studio’s games and mainly interested in Starfield because of its sci-fi setting, it will be helpful to know that it’s a role-playing game (RPG) that can be played in either first person or third person.
Bethesda RPGs are among the most famous in the world due to their efforts to make their worlds lively and their immersive sim-like elements. Skyrim, the fifth Elder Scrolls title, has been ported to everything short of the Mars Rover, and Fallout is known all over the world for its atompunk setting and quirky humor and satire.
Starfield’s aesthetic was internally dubbed “NASA-punk,” something which certainly shows if you look at the many previews and screenshots out there. This also means the universe, and the many systems and mechanics as a result, will be more grounded than anything in The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Still, the basic DNA from those games has been carried over, especially when it comes to basic movement, combat, and overall structure of the tons of content available.
We’re expecting heavy emphasis on gear, stats, exploration, and so on, all of which will culminate in a highly fluid adventure through space that will be unique to your own personal choices and interests. That’s definitely helped by the fact Todd Howard recently stated that Starfield has the studio’s “most flexible” character customization suite yet.
That’s not to say Starfield won’t be anything like modern Fallout or The Elder Scrolls. In fact, episode two of Into the Starfield specifically mentioned that it will feature a dialogue minigame not unlike those that have become typical of Bethesda’s overarching style. If you’re the kind of person who regularly tries to exploit speech checks in Bethesda games, Starfield appears to be experimenting with the formula in new and intriguing ways – something that’s further compounded by the fact it has over double the amount of dialogue as Skyrim.
While Starfield is certainly comparable to previous Bethesda games — the transition from your ship to a boundless lunar wasteland looks somewhat akin to Fallout’s famous “step out into the world” moments — there are also plenty of new ideas on display here, too. It’s no wonder Todd Howard has explicitly labelled Starfield as Bethesda’s “most ambitious game ever.”
The gameplay demo we saw at last years Xbox and Bethesda’s June showcase starts on Kreet, a moon of Anselon. After touching down with Vasco the robot — again, the Starfield equivalent of Dogmeat — you’re tasked with locating and infiltrating an abandoned research facility that, as it turns out, has been commandeered by a bunch of space pirates. Definitely the kind of objective we’ve come to expect from a typical Bethesda RPG.
Moment-to-moment play is fairly straightforward, too. While Starfield is predominantly a first-person shooter, you also have the option to switch to third-person if you’re more into Mass Effect than Metro. It’s worth noting that combat appears to involve multiple variables outside of just shootybangs. In the trailer, we can clearly see that gravity affects the speed and distance of your jumps, and that you can even dash mid-flight to execute some nifty aerial acrobatics. There are standard pistols, but we also got to see automatic weapons and a snazzy space shotgun. If combat is as fast-paced and fluid as it looks in the Kreet trailer, Bethesda fans will be eating well when Starfield finally drops next year.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bethesda RPG without other role-playing staples like crafting. While you’re exploring planets — which is aided by a compass that also tracks oxygen and carbon dioxide levels — you can survey the area around you to locate minerals and materials, which can then be collected and later used to develop new technologies, weapon mods, and more. We specifically got to see the laser-cutting tool used to extract dense metals like iron. There also appear to be various other minor systems that have become common in both Bethesda games and RPGs at large — for example, Starfield’s take on lockpicking is called “digipicking,” which is obviously a very spacey name. Much galactic! Very cosmos!
Creativity will be encouraged with extensive base-building systems as there’s also a Fallout 4-style emphasis on building outposts, which function as homes away from home on alien planets. These will aid you both in terms of general survival and resource acquisition, and can be operated by teams of NPCs you personally select. You’ll want to make sure you keep your favorite characters’ hands free though, because you’ll probably want them to staff your ship instead.
As in, yes, you can design, build, and fly your own ship in Starfield. Once it’s ready, you can fly offworld to participate in all kinds of spacey shenanigans, including high-octane intergalactic battles. Once you’ve sent your mark to their maker, it’s time to make your way to one of the game’s 1,000 different planets, all of which can be landed upon and explored individually.
And, of course, Starfield will be as moddable (if not more) than Bethesda’s previous releases, so expect this game to be relevant for a very long time. And they called Skyrim never-ending…
Starfield accessories & collector’s edition
Microsoft has also released a limited-edition Xbox controller and headset based on the sleek “NASA-punk” designs seen in Starfield. These peripherals are available now, so you can get prepared ahead of the game’s launch playing whatever you want in style.
Both the Starfield limited edition controller and headset are available through Microsoft’s own online store, but plenty of retailers are selling them as well. Just don’t wait too long if you want to grab them, as Microsoft hasn’t stated how much stock is available and we predict that these will sell out fast.
The crown jewel of the game’s merchandising is the Starfield Constellation Edition, one of the most impressive collector’s editions for a video game we’ve seen in a while. It comes with a digital copy of the game plus the following:
- Starfield Chronomark Watch
- Watch case
- Constellation patch
- Steel book display case
- 5 days of early access to the game
- Shattered Space (first story expansion)
- Constellation skin pack
- Digital soundtrack
- Digital artbook