Starfield is what happens when hard sci-fi meets classic Bethesda games

A screenshot from Starfield trailer
(Image credit: Bethesda)

After a few months of silence, Bethesda dropped a video of an interview with studio director Todd Howard. In it, he answers a number of questions about Starfield

One of the enduring topics of conversation was just how ‘hard sci-fi’ Starfield will be. Apparently, Starfield will be more grounded in real science than other games, but not so much that it ruins a player’s enjoyment. For example, ships won’t run out of fuel, avoiding the “you die in space cold" conundrum. 

A screenshot from Starfield trailer

(Image credit: Bethesda)

For the uninitiated, hard sci-fi is science-fiction that's rooted firmly in the confines of our current understanding of science. A series like The Expanse has elements of this. In hard sci-fi, the likes of gravity and g-forces can play havoc with the human body as you travel from one planet to another at great speed. Starfield won’t lean too hard into that complexity. But its ships and setting indicate how humans made it out of Earth’s gravity well and into the stars. 

That’s a major change in tone from other games Bethesda has developed. But Starfield will still possess traits from its Elder Scrolls and Fallout lineage. 

For example, Howard noted how the game will have 252,953 different dialogue lines in Starfield, compared to the mere 60,000 lines in Skyrim. Expect a lot of close-up conversations with a range of characters, in that “classic Bethesda-style dialogue," but with many more options.

Speaking of which, Starfield will also have a range of selectable character traits. But these characteristics will also come with drawbacks. The "introvert" trait, for example, penalizes endurance when a character is around people, but boosts endurance when they are alone. But if these traits cause problems, Howard noted that following certain quests can remove them. 

This gives me the impression that Starfield will be a seriously evolved take on the open-world RPGs of Bethesda’s past, but with an intriguing new setting. I expect the power of the Xbox Series X and new PC hardware to make this pseudo-hard-sci-fi game feel deeply immersive and absorbing. 

The only problem I have is that Bethesda has no firm release date for Starfield. So far, we know it’s coming in the first half of 2023, but that's about as narrow as the release window gets right now. 

If you need an open-world game to tide you over, I’d suggest Elden Ring, which has really sunk its sharp claws into me. Sci-fi fans could also check out Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.