Excited for Starfield? You need to watch Prospect tonight

Promotional image for Prospect of someone with a helmet on standing in front of the camera looking forward at a planet that’s quite close
(Image credit: Amazon)

The Starfield showcase this Sunday (June 11) promises to give us a big look at the “NASA-punk” sci-fi game for Xbox Series X, Series S and Windows PCs. 

At the moment, we don’t know a vast amount about Starfield, other than some core elements like planet exploration, base building, space combat and a story based around various factions and the discovery of alien artifacts. 

While it looks like Starfield will lean more into the hard sci-fi style of The Expanse, rather than the more high science fiction of Star Trek, I’m still left speculating at how the ‘world’ of Starfield will take shape. But I do hope it has drawn upon the same vein as Prospect, a low-budget but excellent sci-fi movie.

That’s because Prospect is a master of understated world building, something I hope Starfield nails as a wholly new IP from Bethesda. 

Prospect offers excellent lo-fi sci-fi

In broad strokes, Prospect’s plot centers around harvesting alien gems from a green planet where the air appears to be choked with toxic “dust.” We join the perspective of father and daughter duo, Damon and Cee (played by Jay Duplass and Sophie Thatcher respectively). 

We are introduced to them on their small ship connected to a bigger long-haul station/ship that’s doing one final loop of the planet before the “slingback” — from my sci-fi knowledge I take that to mean using a planet's gravitational pull to help the ship gather speed on a return journey.

(L to R) Pedro Pascal as Ezra and Sophie Thatcher as Cee in space suits in Prospect

(Image credit: IMDb)

What makes Prospect intriguing is none of this is made explicitly clear. English is used, but there are phrases and names that appear to be both technical and specific to whatever region of human-occupied galaxy Prospect takes place in. Words referencing certain types of ships, weapons, tools, events are all given without a mass of exposition.

How to watch Prospect

In the US: Free on Amazon Prime Video and Kanopy
In Canada: Buy/rent on Amazon
In the UK: Watch on Prime Video, Rakuten TV, Pluto TV

So you need to listen and infer some of the details by absorbing the context the conversations and announcements take place in. That's environmental storytelling that’s not light years away from what Elden Ring gave us.

The stakes are already firmly raised, given it’s established that this is the last run on the green planet the prospectors will have, and if they miss the pickup they get standard. That provides a  simmering tension throughout the movie. 

The use of tight shots for woods, ship interiors and a few areas of long grass, means Prospect keeps the action both intimate and intense. This plants you in the eyes of the people just trying to get by in an unforgiving galaxy, where your way home is to get paid. And you can't risk getting stuck in the inky black of outer space.

And while Bethesda may have coined the term NASA-punk with Starfield, the interior of Damon and Cee’s ship has a similar vibe. It’s all hatches, straps and packs holding supplies, with analogue buttons and switches

This tight framing also lets us get a keen sense of the low-fi, sci-fi of Prospect. The compact ship feels claustrophobic like I imagine the interior of a Saturn V must be. And while Bethesda may have coined the term NASA-punk via Starfield, the interior of Damon and Cee’s ship has a similar vibe. It’s all hatches, straps and packs holding supplies, with analogue buttons and switches instead of holographic screens and AIs. 

You could easily see this type of tech being used on a present-day NASA rocket, if it was transported to a different solar system/galaxy where longhaul space travel is a realistic prospect. Even the wireless headphones Cee uses are pretty similar to those you can get today, perhaps with a little more of an analogue art-deco feel (anyone who’s played Prey might be familiar with that aesthetic). 

Less is more

By eschewing a lot of CGI — likely as much due to budget restraints as stylistic choice — the small details of Prospect bubble to the surface, letting viewers get a sense of the place Cee and Damon occupy. And this also means the acting and character building can shine through as well.

Thatcher’s Cee at first seems like a slightly detached and callow teenager without much choice but to accompany her father on his prospecting. But as the plot unfolds, we see that Cee is a far more capable and tough person than first meets the eye. Similarly, Damon has a good dose of lost soul energy mixed in with a slight whiff of failed ambitions, but we soon see that he’s got a more determined streak with a dose of mercenary when called upon.

An image of Pedro Pascal as Ezra in Prospect, with someone pointing a gun to his helmeted-head

(Image credit: Gunpowder & Sky / DUST)

Current darling of the acting world, Pedro Pascal also has a starring role as Ezra, a enigmatic character who is both antagonist and savior at the same time. I felt Pascal was having a great time here, sporting an accent that’s a few more steps into the Deep South than his portrayal of Texan Joel in The Last of Us, with verboseness that’s rather scene-stealing.

While I had to rewind a few scenes to put together bits of dialogue, I found Prospect’s whole approach to character and world building to be very compelling. Ultimately, the overall story isn’t anything incredible, but the way it invokes a Wild West frontier feeling in a hard sci-fi setting is great and lingers on my mind.

Outlook: Let's hope Starfield is as compelling

All of that is exactly what I’m hoping for from Starfield

Sure, the game may have a few more CGI bells and whistles. But I’m crossing my fingers and toes that Bethesda makes sure the characters, quests and feel of Starfield are engrossing and detailed, rather than simply give players a big ‘open world’ to explore. There are more than enough games with vast maps to uncover, the challenge is to make them compelling enough to sink 100-plus hours into.

I’d suggest watching Prospect on one of our picks for the best OLED TVs to get a real feel for the color palette of the movie that can reveal some of its details.

More from Tom's Guide

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. 

  • Qiksco
    This article needs proofreading. Pedro Pascal stars in this movie not Damon and there's multiple errors throughout, so it's almost like this article was written without actually watching the movie or having any concerns with the genre this article was written about.
  • Juspar
    Forget Star Field, have you looked at Icarus? No one paying attention to game culture could reasonably use Prospect as an analogy for another game.