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Starfield’s main story will be long — but not as long as you might think

Xbox Bethesda
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Last week, we learned that Bethesda’s upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield will have about 1,000 different planets to explore. Luckily, though, it doesn’t seem like you’ll have to visit all of them if you just want to play through the game’s main story. Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda, recently revealed that the game’s main story will take about 30-40 hours to complete. That’s not obscenely long, by RPG standards — but it is longer than the main story modes from both The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4.

Howard spoke with IGN (opens in new tab) after the recent Xbox Games Showcase, and discussed the main story’s length, as well as how the metric probably won’t apply to most players. He said that Starfield’s story campaign “might be in the 30s, maybe 40” in terms of hours played, and added that it has about 20% more story quests than games such as Skyrim and Fallout 4. This math seems to track, as Skyrim and Fallout 4 were somewhere in range of 25-35 hours, if you stuck mostly to the main goals.

On the other hand, Howard doesn’t think that players are necessarily going to shotgun the game from start to finish, stopping for absolutely nothing along the way.

“We’ve learned that people do play our games for a really, really long time,” he told IGN. “They’re still playing Skyrim — not straight for 10 years, but they leave it and they come back and there’s extra content. Certainly we’re going to be doing extra content for this game.”

Skyrim and Fallout 4 both had substantial expansions, so it stands to reason that Bethesda would plan something similar for Starfield. Howard also pointed out that Bethesda games have huge and passionate modding communities, which also keep players coming back for years.

Apart from that, though, Bethesda games aren’t really about the main narrative thread in the same way that many other RPGs are. The focus has always been on exploring the world and making your own story as you go, based on what you discover and what you feel like pursuing. 

Starfield doesn’t seem like it will be any different, particularly since you can potentially explore so many different planets along the way. While we doubt that every single planet will have a whole game’s worth of content on it, we wouldn’t be shocked if Bethesda tried to put something worthwhile on every one, even if it’s just a small quest or trinket.

Starfield will be out next year for PC and Xbox consoles, and Tom’s Guide will have more information on the game as it becomes available.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.