Space is the final frontier, and Starfield wants to communicate that. The environment is cold, hostile and challenging to survive in. Just read or watch The Expanse to get a taste of what spacefaring life might be like when creators swap the fantasy of warp drives for the harsh realities of gravity and inertia.
And as a game that's erring more on the side of hard sci-fi, you could be forgiven for thinking that Starfield might have a lot of semi-realistic elements that could hamper one’s exploration of the outer space.
Bethesda’s director and executive producer Todd Howard has clarified that Starfield will have survival elements. However, they won’t result in players needing to carry out tedious slogs collecting resources around planets, or spending ages traveling between planets.
“When you actually play the game, because it’s a game we don’t actually kill you when you fly out in space,” Howard told YouTuber and interviewer Lex Fridman (opens in new tab). “But it has a tone of there's some effort involved and we’ve dialed it back as we’ve been making the game. Whereas we used to [let players] run out of fuel; you’d jump and get stranded, which on paper is a great moment when you get stranded and you’ve got to press this beacon and you don’t know who’s going to come.
“Turns out that just stops your game. We’ve found you’ll be playing the game and ‘I ran out of fuel, OK, I guess I’ll just wander these planets trying to mine for fuel so I can get back to what I was doing. It’s just, you know, it’s a fun killer.”
That's not to say that Starfield won't be challenging, or that you’ll be able to wander planets and travel space in a carefree manner. Howard noted that you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment, such as equipping the right space suit to provide certain buffs against environmental challenges.
This is all interesting stuff, as previous Bethesda open-world games have felt rather easy to traverse, beyond the odd dangerous enemy or a vertiginous drop — looking at you Skyrim. But with so many open-world games now available, from Assassin's Creed Valhalla to Breath of the Wild to Elden Ring, Starfield will need some extra elements to stand out.
Making exploration is challenging enough to be rewarding while avoiding tedious irritations can be a tricky line to thread. But all the noises coming out of Bethesda are pretty positive for Starfield, which we should finally get a chance to play next year. Still, there's no solid release date, so to tide you over, check out the games to play while you wait for Starfield.