Microsoft’s bow to the annual flurry of game announcements in early June, streamed on YouTube on Sunday, came with a surprising star: a focus on “games you can play in the next 12 months.” But while the company had a lot to announce for Xbox Game Pass subscribers in 2022, the biggest Xbox console exclusives showing on Sunday seem to skip 2022 altogether.
Bethesda Game Studios tempered fan expectations last month by confirming that both of its biggest previously announced “Xbox console-exclusive” games, starfield and redfall, was postponed to 2023, and now we know both should arrive in June next year. After review starfieldrevealing gameplay on Sunday, we sincerely wonder if that window of time will be enough for Bethesda to finish the game, because starfield looks massive.
At the end of his presentation, Bethesda veteran Todd Howard gestured to a map of one of starfield‘s main galaxies, Alpha Centauri, which appears to include four “major” planets around its sun and another eight or nine moon-like celestial bodies. Then the “galaxy map” zoomed out to reveal six named star systems, along with dots for an extra dozen, and Howard said the full game map “contains over 1,000 planets for you to explore.”
That’s less than the 18 trillion planets you’ll find in 2016’s space exploration game No Man’s Skyand Howard clarifies that many of starfieldThe planets will be “arid” sources of vital resources. So we’re left wondering exactly how many of these planets will be designed with the elaborate cities, fortresses, settlements, and quests suggested in this trailer, especially since Bethesda didn’t provide a size estimate compared to its other major RPG launches (i.e. “50 percent more dialogue than” Skyrim†
But thanks to Sunday’s 15-minute presentation, we can finally imagine how starfield will play. The trailer’s most promising content revolves around players’ ability to both build and operate their own starships. A detailed ship-building interface allows players to screw together ship components, and each part affects variables such as cargo space, hull and shield integrity, number of crew members supported, combat ability, and “gravity jump range,” measured in light-years. This interface includes requirements to balance engine power and “reactor” power requirements, while Howard points out that hiring crews is a key factor in managing your long-haul journeys.
With a built spaceship, players can not only shoot into space, but also compete in interstellar battles. Bethesda Game Studios has never released a game with aerial combat support, so we’ll be curious to play this mode and see how flexible it is in terms of maneuverability and weapon targeting, but at first glance, starfieldThe spaceship battle sure looks cool.
We’re less excited about ground combat in starfield so far though, as it seems to revolve around basic military weapons (pistols, assault rifles, grenades), as opposed to the wild combat technology we’d expect in a 24th century universe that uses things like “gravity warp drives” under the has knee. Still other interface teasing, including a combat-focused skill tree and a weapon crafting interface, suggest that later game starfield weapons can be boosted with upgrades such as massive magazines and “ballistic laser” elements. We appreciate that the skill tree system offers additional rewards when players repeatedly use a skill they’ve unlocked, “ranking” those skills higher to get more damage and other benefits.
Sady, Bethesda’s demo didn’t include a VATS-like system that could emphasize specific equipment tactics or give archetypes of non-combat characters a chance to fight. A look at the game’s character creation system confirms character types such as ‘diplomat’ and ‘chief’, who will arguably fight very differently from ‘bounty hunter’ and ‘ronin’. These “backgrounds” are combined with selectable “traits” that can give players city-specific advantages or special movement skills. Hilariously, Bethesda revealed one trait that makes players stronger… as long as they keep jumping when walking across planetary surfaces. It describes your character’s need to jump as “an addiction.”
Based on a story, it sounds like you starfield character plays a part in the plot by being the first human to discover an “artifact” that “appears to be one of many,” a seeker suggests. This quest begins in the seemingly large hub world of Constellation, and from there you build both your personal skills and an increasingly powerful starship to traverse the galaxy in search of additional artifacts – as you battle warring cross-galaxy factions that have different ideas about what to do with these artifacts. That says nothing about the “visions” artifacts that are apparently produced for people who find them, which will likely show up in the plot somehow.
While some of the worlds are dotted with fantastical beasts and huge, detailed cities, Bethesda Game Studios seems content to keep its chatty characters in a more dated realm of plasticky, dead-eye animations. But hey, if the story and dialogue are up to Bethesda’s usual standards, we can forgive faces that look like they’re at least two console generations behind.