A lot of eager gamers got their wish as long-awaited space RPG Starfield finally showed off some gameplay footage today at the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase. And it wasn’t some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it teaser, it was nearly 15 solid minutes of gameplay, with some interjections by Todd Howard and a few cinematic montages.
So… how does it look? Well, to my eyes it looks like Fallout in space, frankly, though there’s also a sprinkle of No Man’s Sky and yes, even the expected touch of Skyrim. That’s pretty much fine with me. I like Fallout and Skyrim, I like No Man’s Sky, I like picking locks, outer space, and robot companions, so I’d say it looks pretty good… but more than a bit familiar.
The trailer begins with the player landing on a rocky yet semi-swampy moon called Kreet which orbits a planet named Anselon. Vasco, the companion robot, exits the ship and the player begins scanning alien flora and fauna, with a readout showing how many other plants and animals there are to scan on that planet—which will sound extremely familiar to No Man’s Sky players.
We see some small, scuttling critters followed by considerably larger ones that instantly reminded me of Fallout’s mirelurks—giant mutated crabby things. On the plus side, the giant alien crabs don’t actually attack but scuttle away, so it looks like not every alien lifeform will want to scissor you in two, which feels refreshing in a Bethesda game. There’s also some scanning and mining for iron with a laser, again, reminiscent of No Man’s Sky (though plenty of futuristic survival games do this too).
Scanning a ship brings up a radio transmission from Vasco (who I assume is still minding your ship) informing you of the ship-owner’s faction: in this case, pirates. There’s combat inside a research facility that doesn’t look terribly unlike a Fallout vault, so much so that I was actually expecting the player to enter VATS. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point, the player gets access to a similar time-slowing, limb-targeting system in Starfield.)
There’s a silly-yet-futuristic version of Bethesda’s lockpicking game as the player opens a weapon case to retrieve a gun, and while it’s not shown in the trailer there are lots of tables, desks, cabinets, and boxes in the lab, so I imagine Fallout’s junk-gathering system will play a role. There is, after all, lots and lots of crafting to be done. Jetpacks (both worn by the player and enemies) come into play, along with an enemy dropship that sort of reminds me of the Vertibirds from Fallout.
The combat looks… fine. The clip is from early in the game, so I’m hoping there will eventually be more exciting weapons than space-pistol and space-rifle.
There’s a visit to the city of New Atlantis to join a guild of space explorers, where it’s revealed that after digging up some sort of artifact, you’ve had visions (aka space magic, because, let’s face it, you’re the space-Dragonborn and the most important person in the universe), and the guild is determined to discover the truth behind these ancient relics scattered around the galaxy (main quest confirmed). Several other factions, like a peace-keeping group and a bandit gang, are also introduced.
Again, it all feels extremely, extremely Fallout-y. Maybe that’s okay. At this rate, we’ll never see Fallout 5.
The character creator looks pretty nice, and there are starting skills that give you bonuses: 10% more damage for melee weapons, 10% more pistol damage, persuasion for speech challenges, security for easier lock-hacking, which along with the skill trees shown all feels a bit like Fallout’s SPECIAL system. There are also New Vegas-style traits which are optional, because they come with a bonus and a drawback.
With one trait health and endurance are increased while in space but reduced while on a planet. Or you can begin with a starter home but you’ll also be deeply in debt (which sounds quite realistic).
Crafting is naturally a part of Starfield, because it’s a part of almost every game these days. You’ll be able to use resources to research new tech tier levels in your lab and build weapon mods. And as Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 have settlements, you’ll be able to build multiple outposts on different planets in Starfield, hire NPCs to work there, and use your outposts to generate resources. There’s no sign of Preston Garvey in space, however. Yet.
Rather than cobbling together suits of power armor, in Starfield you can build your own damn spaceships, customize their looks and layouts in a special build menu, and populate them with NPC crew members, which honestly looks like the most fun part of the game to me. And, as we also learned, you can actually fly them into space, engage in ship-to-ship combat, and use them to visit planets.
And those planets number over a thousand in Starfield’s 100+ star system. That’s a little shy of No Man’s Sky’s 18 quintillion planets, yes, but it’s still quite a lot and I can only assume, apart from the established cities you’ll find on them, that they’re procedurally generated. Some will be barren, some will have life, but you’ll be able to land your ship anywhere you want, pop the hatch, and start walking around. Will the alien lifeforms be procedural too? Will it be fun walking around on those planets outside of the hand-made cities and places of interest? I’m not sold on that yet: none of the planets shown looked particularly fascinating.
I’m not exactly blown away by Starfield’s gameplay trailer. We didn’t get any sort of feel for characters you meet—I would have loved to see a single, unbroken conversation with an NPC instead of the combat segments—or what the planets will have to keep us occupied beyond gathering resources and shooting alien critters. Spaceship building definitely looks fun, though, and the brief look at the sci-fi cities and towns makes me eager to wander through them and get up to no good.
Fallout in space has some appeal, and a while ago I wrote that I’m glad it’s coming out before The Elder Scrolls 6. But while Starfield definitely has my interest, I can’t say the gameplay trailer really captured my imagination.