Just three months. That’s all you’ll need to wait until you can clamber into your cockpit and launch into Starfield’s black beyond. But once you make it to the stars, what, exactly, will you be able to do? That’s the question Bethesda’s recent Starfield Direct aimed to answer – to pull back the curtain on a game hoping to be remembered as much more than just Skyrim in space. And boy, it showed a lot.
Starfield looks gargantuan in scale. The Direct gave glimpses of character creation, world generation, ship construction, exploration, factions, and a whole lot more. But we already had a hunch most of that was in there. What really sold us were the weird surprises – the oddities and unusual options that’ll be open to us as we carve our personal constellation into the galaxy’s history. Here are 7 most unexpected things we learned from the Starfield Direct.
1. You can live your true life as a sandwich thief
The most important thing we learned from the Starfield Direct was that Bethesda’s employees are just as unhinged as we are. None more so than producer Jamie Mallory. When she wasn’t unveiling her platypus-shaped ship, she was detailing her penchant for culinary piracy. Want to spend your spacer life raiding other ships solely to steal their entire crew’s haul of sandwiches? Starfield will enable you. It won’t even judge you,
2. It’s a sci-fi genre mashup
We knew Starfield was going to be being. Even if we spent just an hour on each planet, that’s already more than 1000 hours of playtime. What we weren’t prepared for was the breadth of styles to go along with them. The Starfield Direct revealed many of the places and people we’ll be interacting with, and they covered a vast spectrum of sci-fi tropes.
We saw frontier exploration crews, spacer punks, creepy religious cults, cybperpunk streets, pleasure cities of vice and sin, luxurious upper-class cruise ships, and yes, space cowboys too, wide-brimmed hats and all. It’s a ridiculous amalgamation of archetypes, and we can’t wait to find our place in each of them.
3. It’ll let you mind control alien life
Starfield’s skill trees look immensely entertaining. Instead of navigating a sprawling web of linked powers, it looks like we’ll pick between several effects in five different categories: Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Security. Each skill comes with four ranks you can rise through by completing challenges, making them even more powerful.
There are your standard and practical (read: boring) options like lockpicking and boosting your health, sure. We’re here for the funky functions – and it looks like Starfield will give us plenty. One of the best teased briefly in the showcase was Xenosociology which – according to Environment artist Nadia Haschart – lets you “mind control aliens” that you encounter.
The effect is accompanied by an unsettling puppet symbol, implying that the animal in question is far from happy about the effect. Not sure how to feel about that one, but we’re already committed. Will it help us navigate the corporate web of a mega city? Probably not. But we’ll struggle to care when leading an alien bug army on an assault of a pirate compound.
4. We’re going to punch anything and everything in the face
Another brilliant skill shown off was Neurostrikes, unlocked late in the Physical category. What will this let you, an advanced and skilled interstellar pilot do? Punch everyone in the face. Forget energy rifles and space-age shotguns, it’s time for some futuristic fisticuffs. After all, we don’t need guns when our uppercuts can send goons soaring into a low-grav sky.
5. You’ll probably spend as long designing a ship as flying it
You can slap a name on the side of a ship, but is it truly yours if you didn’t personally cobble together every part? Starfield will allow our inner space nerd and interior designer get groovy as we piece together rooms for both form and function.
We’ve been playing an awful lot of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom recently, honing our makeshift design skills. By the time Starfield rolls around, we might even by ready to put together something that doesn’t burst into flame after four seconds in the air. Heck, they might even manage to look stylish.
Want a ship shaped like a giant snake? Absolutely doable, provided you don’t mind the half hour trek from head to tail. The practicality tradeoff will be worth it to imagine how terrified pirates will be seeing a bright green serpent tearing out of the sky toward their base.
6. That glassy-eyed Bethesda NPC stare remains
Starfield looks light years ahead of Bethesda’s older outings on almost every front. Almost. For the developer, one constant that seems as inescapable as the speed of light in a vacuum is NPCs staring directly into your soul during conversations.
Awkwardly animated dialogue has been a staple of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series for as long as we can remember. With Stafield entering the Bethesda cosmos as a new IP, our hopes were high that it would buck the uncanny valley trend. But alas, amid the mind-expanding showcase of custom-made platypus ships and myriad worlds to explore them in, we still got to see several NPCs sustaining an uncomfortable degree of eye contact as they patiently waited for dialogue choices to arrive.
It’s as if Bethesda accidentally discovered NVidia’s new Eye Contact tech decades in advance and haven’t been able to switch it off since. Maybe for the Elder Scrolls 6, hey?
7. Alien powers are coming
As if the Starfield Direct didn’t give us enough to think about, the broadcast closed with a tease of alien powers the player will (presumably) gain access to. We see what looks like some kind of zero-g stasis, but that’s almost certainly not the only superhuman feat we’ll access. Fingers crossed that they amount to far more than just fus-roh-dah-in space.
You can check out the full Starfield Direct below (starting at 1:04:50):
Starfield launches September 6, 2023 for PC and Xbox Series X/S.