Despite having a much meatier showing at E3 2021 than its reveal three years ago, very little is known about Starfield, Bethesda’s next massive role-playing game, apart from its November 11, 2022 release on Xbox Series X/S and PC.
Todd Howard and other members of Bethesda Game Studios have been making the rounds to hype the game up as much as possible, so it’s probably worth checking in on what they’re saying for the briefest glimpse at what Starfield might be, even if they’re not ready to talk specifics just yet.
“Well, it’s coming out next year, so there’ll be a lot of time to show actual gameplay, and we’ll do that closer to release, like we usually do,” Howard told Telegraph. “But I will say this: it is a first-person and third-person game, like our other ones. We like that style of gameplay. First-person for us is still our prime way of playing. So you can see the world and touch all those things.”
“It’s also a bit more hardcore of a role-playing game than we’ve done,” Howard added. “It’s got some really great character systems: choosing your background, things like that. We’re going back to some things that we used to do in games long ago that we felt have really let players express the character they want to be. So I think when you see it being played, you would recognize it as something we made.”
Speaking with The Washington Post, Howard and Bethesda Game Studios managing director Ashley Cheng were more succinct, with the former referring to Starfield as “Skyrim in space” and the latter describing it as a “Han Solo simulator” after Star Wars’ popular roguish smuggler.
Starfield, Howard continued, puts players in the role of a new recruit to Constellation, an organization charged with exploring space around 300 years into our future. The main character will start the game with a player-selected background, and further customization to that past will impact the game’s story in as-of-yet undescribed ways. Howard also let slip that a robot named Vasco (after Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama) will aid in the player’s journey as one of many potential robotic companions.
“We struggled at first at finding Starfield’s identity,” Howard told The Washington Post. “We knew the style of game we wanted. But there’s so much science fiction, we didn’t have this existing franchise feel. We had to create that from scratch. What do the spaceships look like? What’s the tech level? What do people believe? What year is it really set in? And now man is living amongst the stars: What does that mean?”
Oh, and yes, there will be lasers. And aliens. And explorable planets. But, again, Howard is tight-lipped when it comes to specifics.
Howard was very open, however, about Starfield being the culmination of decades of both personal and professional anticipation. Bethesda has flirted with the genre for a long time—Howard specifically pointed out its brief ownership of rights to the Traveler tabletop role-playing game and Star Trek properties as indications of where their heads have been at in previous decades—but Starfield is the first time the company is really applying its brand to a space adventure.
“This is going to sound cliche, but I mean it,” Howard said. “When you look up in the sky, there is this drive to know, what is out there? Are we alone? What are the origins of space and time and all of those things? What role does religion play in some of that as well? So, we do get into some big questions. I think a game like [Starfield] is a good place to do that. There are movies and books that have done it as well, but we haven’t seen a game do it in this way. And we’ll see how successful we’ll be.”