Starfield is the next big new game from Bethesda Game Studios, and it’s a pretty big deal because they haven’t made something that isn’t a Fallout game or an Elder Scrolls game in like… ever. So everyone was pretty excited to see what this new space RPG holds at the Xbox & Bethesda Showcase stream this weekend. And, sure enough, we actually got a pretty big eyeful of it.
Now, keep in mind that this game is set in outer space, the vast expanse and wonders of which we cannot ken. You could do any cool, awe-inspiring thing you want with space. Crystal waterfalls that flow backwards into the sky. Aurora borealis-like lights but so low down they whip along at ground level. Deserts of hot-pink dust sprouting deep blue rock spires. Destiny 2 has some cool planets, for example. Imagine my confusion, then, when the footage of Bethesda’s brand new IP made it look like they’ve accidentally done Fallout or Elder Scrolls again.
Listen. Listen.. It was just very funny, okay? All the gravity, the slow tease, the quote from Anatole France: “The wonder is not that the field of stars is so vast, but that man has measured it”, and Todd Howard saying “the mysterious moon of Kreet” before the stream cut to… some grey rocks. Which looked a lot like the grey rocks of the blasted wastelands in Fallout.
This first impression having been made, I couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. There were some weird tentacle plants kind of like the ones in Oblivion. And some Fallout-y metal corridors. Oh, what’s that? Some factions that are thematically similar to the Fallout factions? I giggled quite a lot; it was like Bethesda had done a Morbius and thought the memes about Todd Howard releasing the same game over and over again were sincere.
(Also there was a whole bit about you digging up an artifact and having visions, which obviously just made me think of Mass Effect. That is kind of unfair though, because what other banner RPG in space is Starfield going to be compared to no matter what it does?)
I’m not here to rag on the game, really, because I have no idea what it’s going to be like. There’s some cool stuff in that video, too; I actually really love that not all the animals on alien planets are going to attack you on sight. The character creator looks really cool as well, and if building your ship from loads of different modules actually works and isn’t a mess of bugs then that that’d be great, right? All the streamers already drawing up plans to build a Firefly class transport ship or a Milennium Falcon. Don’t tell me those pieces won’t be in the game, cos they will – or at least something very like them. Nerds wouldn’t be able to resist the chance.
I just think that the presentation’s choice to lead with perhaps the most boring planet Bethesda had in their aresenal, the one that looked most like what we already expect from them, was pretty funny in the circumstances. Because also the alternative – that, in fact, it isn’t the most boring planet in the game – isn’t as hilarious. At the end of the video Howard says that you can land on and explore the planets in Starfield wherever on the surface you want, and that there are over a thousand of them. In a brief montage of other planet vistas there were some more interesting ones – some different coloured rocks, some big crystals, a few palm trees. It’s not like each one of those thousand planets is going to be meticulously authored by a team – at least, I hope they’re not.
So being honest, watching that video, and listening to the dark voice of experience that lurks in your brain… How many of those 1000 planets do you reckon are mostly grey rocks?