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Starfield: Everything you need to know about Bethesda's space odyssey

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Starfield is an ambitious new experience from Bethesda Game Studios, the developer responsible for Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – you know, two of the best RPG games of all-time. While the studio's previous efforts have been pretty grounded affairs, typically set across a single, continuous landscape, Starfield is set to be bigger and bolder than anything we've seen from Bethesda before. It's a sprawling sci-game game where you can build your own astronaut, climb into your own customizable spaceship, and then go off and explore the frontiers of space. It's wild. 

We recently received our first look at Starfield in action, and now we know a hell of a lot about what is certainly one of the most anticipated upcoming Xbox Series X games ahead of its release in 2023. So if you're looking for details on how this game will play, how large its explorable space will be, how flexible the character creation, customization, and crafting elements will be, and so much then you'll want to keep reading. This is everything we know so far on Starfield.

Starfield release date

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Microsoft Gaming has confirmed that the Starfield release date is set for the first half of 2023. The new RPG was originally scheduled to release on November 11, 2022, although a Starfield delay was announced back in May. At the time, developer Bethesda said that the Starfield release date had been moved as it wants to achieve its "incredible ambitions" for the game, explaining that it wants us to "receive the best, most polished version" of the experience.

Starfield platforms

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Starfield is set to launch as an Xbox Series X console exclusive, and Bethesda has also confirmed that the RPG will launch on PC. This is a result of Microsoft's $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media in 2021 – a deal which included Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6 creator Bethesda Game Studios. As with all games released by the Xbox Games Studio collective, Starfield will be available for both direct purchase and via Xbox Game Pass / PC Game Pass from the day of its release. 

Is Starfield on PS4 or PS5?

While Starfield was announced before the Microsoft Gaming acquisition of Bethesda, the game will still be an Xbox platform exclusive. This means that a Starfield PS4 and PS5 release is out of the question. Todd Howard, Bethesda's creative director, has said that the ability to focus on a smaller number of platforms will "make for a better product". Good news for Xbox owners, but it does mean that PlayStation owners will not be able to experience Starfield. 

Starfield reveal trailer

While Starfield was teased at Bethesda's E3 2018 press conference – a mood piece, more than anything else – we had to wait until the Microsoft and Bethesda Games Showcase 2021 for the Starfield reveal trailer. In the two-minute teaser, we received first details on the story, the world, and a sense of what the new Creation Engine 2 could deliver. You can watch the Starfield reveal trailer above, or read our comprehensive Starfield trailer breakdown from E3 2021

Starfield gameplay trailer

As part of the Microsoft and Bethesda Games Showcase 2022, Bethesda debuted the first Starfield gameplay trailer. In this sprawling 15-minute presentation, Bethesda creative director Todd Howard walked the world through key elements such as combat, exploration, story, character customization, and so much more. The Starfield gameplay reveal served as a fantastic introduction to the wide-open universe Bethesda is building here. You can watch the Starfield gameplay trailer above. 

Starfield setting

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The Starfield setting is one of Bethesda's most ambitious. While the studio is no stranger to building massive, open-ended explorable worlds through the likes of Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, Starfield is set across the cosmos itself. 'The Settled Systems', as it's known in-game, is an area that extends outward from our Solar System by approximately 50 light years. As for how much of this setting we'll be able to freely explore, Bethesda has confirmed that Starfield will have more than 100 systems and 1000 planets.  

Starfield story

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The core Starfield story is very much a closely-guarded secret, although Bethesda has given out a few details. We know that Starfield takes place in 2330, 20 years after two of the largest factions in The Settled Systems – the United Colonies and Freestar Collective – engaged in a bloody Colony War for territorial control. You'll assume the role of a member of Constellation, an organization of space explorers trying to navigate what remains of the aftermath – where you go, and who you choose to side with from there is up to you. Additionally, Bethesda has confirmed that the Starfield main quest will be 20% bigger than Skyrim and Fallout 4

Starfield gameplay

(Image credit: Bethesda)

While the Starfield gameplay appears to be drawing heavily from other popular science-fiction games like Elite Dangerous and No Man's Sky, at its heart it is still a Bethesda RPG. If you've played any of the studio's Fallout or The Elder Scrolls games you'll know what that means: wide open spaces and settlements to explore, progression systems that reward you for investing time in the elements of the game that you enjoy, and an overall structure that leverages choice and consequence. 

Starfield will also include gameplay elements that are new to Bethesda games, such as flying ships in outer space, as well as a more considered focus on resource management, crafting and base building, and real-time combat with firearms. Like Bethesda's previous RPGs, you'll be able to switch between a first- and third-person perspective at will. For a more detailed breakdown of how Starfield will play, you'll want to read our comprehensive breakdown of the 10 Starfield gameplay features that prove it'll be worth the wait. 

Starfield ship customization

(Image credit: Bethesda)

One of the most exciting new features in Starfield is the ability to clamber into a spaceship and explore outer space. You'll be able to pilot your ship freely within systems and engage in ship-to-ship combat, which are two elements of the Starfield experience that Bethesda is keen to dial into. Starfield ship customization has been confirmed, giving you the capacity to modify every aspect of your vessel. From what we've seen of it so far, it appears that ships are modular, allowing you to modify all elements of their design – from the visual placement of the engines and cockpit, to more considered choices such as how power splits between weapons, shields, and your light-speed travel capabilities. 

Starfield crafting and research

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda has confirmed that the Starfield crafting and research systems are a huge part of the game. Not only will you be able to unlock mods and gear for your explorer – including the ability to improve your favorite weapons and your space suit – but you'll also be able to heavily invest in outpost expansions. At its most basic level, Starfield will allow you to run research projects to expand your crafting options – such as improvements to your jetpack, or new mods to your pistol. If you want to dig deeper into this side to the game, you'll be able to utilize base-building systems similar to those seen in Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 to more effectively mine and gather resources – and you can even assign NPCs to work at these outposts to ensure your research projects are completed with maximum efficiency.    

Starfield backgrounds

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Character creation in Starfield is going to be a time sink. That's true of just about every Bethesda game, but the studio is really leaning in this time. One key element of the character creator this time around will be in the Starfield backgrounds and starting skills. Bethesda is really leaning into the role-playing aspect of Starfield, so picking an appropriate backstory that reflects the type of character you want to embody will be key to enhancing your experience – particularly as NPCs may bring up your history or proficiencies in conversation and in key story moments. 

There have been 16 Starfield backstories revealed so far, one of which you'll be able to pick during character creation. These range from 'Chef' (which gives you the Gastronomy skill to craft special food and drink, and gain an additional 30 health points with Wellness) to 'Diplomat' (which gives you starting skills such as increased chance of success on speech challenges with Persuasion, and the ability to force a target NPC below your level to stop fighting for a time with Diplomacy) to 'Pilgrim', 'Bounty Hunter', and beyond. 

Starfield skills

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The Starfield skills system appears to be an amalgamation of the systems found in Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. The Starfield skills are split into multiple tiers, falling under five different categories: Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Tech. Earning XP and investing it in the skills that interest you the most – and best serve the type of character you're building – will only enhance your chosen path. For example, if you like to play at range, you might want to invest in the 'Sniper Certification' in the Combat category, which ensures that scoped weapons are steadier and have less sway. 

Interestingly, Bethesda has teased that there's more to the skill system in Starfield than meets the eye. Creative director Todd Howard has noted that certain categories will see improvements based on your assigned backgrounds and starting skills, and that your chosen skills will improve through consistent use and practice. "You can unlock new skills as you level up, and then you rank those skills up by using them and completing challenges," he said during the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase.

Starfield traits

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During character creation, you'll be able to pick up-to-three unique modifiers that carry both positive and negative effects. We know of 16 Starfield traits so far, and they appear to be optional indulgences that can further enhance the role-playing aspects at the heart of the experience or increase the difficulty of certain aspects to the game. These traits also seemed perfectly placed to increase the replayability factor of Starfield, particularly when combined with other elements such as base building, crafting, and faction alignment. 

Here's an example of how these Traits may impact your Starfield playthrough: 'Kid Stuff' means that you can actually visit your in-game parents at their home, although 10% of all your income will be automatically sent to support them; 'Starter Home' will give you a small house on a peaceful little moon from the outset, but you'll have a 50,000 credit mortgage hanging over you with GalBank; while 'Introvert' will give you greater endurance while adventuring alone and less when out with other humans. We also know that there will be certain Faction and Religion specific Traits which can have various impacts on alignments throughout the core Starfield story. 

Starfield engine

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The Starfield engine is confirmed to be the Creation Engine 2. This game engine was engineered alongside Starfield, and is designed to be the new standard for the studio moving forward. So while games like The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and Fallout 4 all shared the same technology, the Creation Engine 2 has allowed Bethesda to set itself up for further expansion and evolution in this new generation. Creative director Todd Howard has already confirmed that The Elder Scrolls 6 will build on what the company has been able to achieve with Starfield and Creation Engine 2.

Starfield mods

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Bethesda has always supported the community's efforts to modify its games, and that isn't set to change for Starfield. Despite being created atop a new game engine platform, Bethesda has confirmed that Starfield mods will indeed be supported. We have no further details just yet, although creative director Todd Howard said the following in a Reddit AMA: "Our plan is to have full mod support like our previous games. Our modding community has been with us for 20 years. We love what they do and hope to see more make a career out of it."  

Is Starfield multiplayer?

Given the ambitious nature of Bethesda's new creation, you may be wondering whether Starfield is a single-player game or if it has multiplayer support. Right now, it appears that Starfield is a single-player experience, something that creative director Todd Howard spoke to in an interview back in 2020 (opens in new tab). Given the slow iteration of Fallout 76, Bethesda's divisive shared-world Fallout game, it might be for the best that Starfield is a focused single-player experience for the time being. 

Josh West is Features Editor of GamesRadar+. With over 10 years experience in both online and print journalism, Josh has written for a number of gaming, entertainment, music, and tech publications, including 3D Artist, Edge, gamesTM, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. He holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing, has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh plays bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.