Starfield release date, gameplay and everything we know

Starfield is a brand new open-world RPG from Bethesda Game Studios. It looks set to usher in a new era for the acclaimed team, with an updated engine and truly next-gen features. So far, we’ve seen a couple of trailers, as well as a gameplay deep dive which really opened things up.

While the recent gameplay showcase did give us our best look at Starfield yet, highlighting it’s ‘Nasa-Punk’ visual style in the process, there’s still a fair bit that’s being held back for release. In fact, you’ll notice that in terms of gameplay, there’s only really been a handful of planets and systems shown off, with no solid indication as to the game’s story or plot thus far. Then there’s the question of the exact release date, which is up in the air at the time of writing.

As launch day nears, Bethesda is sure to release more and more details on Starfield. As they do, you’ll find this page updated with everything you need to know. For now, there’s the Starfield release date window, a look at gameplay, and a collection of trailers for you to watch. 

Starfield: cut to the chase

  • What is it? A Bethesda RPG set in outer space
  • What can I play it on? PC and Xbox Series X|S
  • When can I play it? First half of 2023 (exact date TBC)

Starfield: Release date and platforms

Starfield launches for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC sometime in the first half of 2023, after Bethesda announced a delay for the game.

As for when in the first half of 2023 the game might release, some small print spotted at the bottom of an Xbox Game Pass subscription plan page has suggested it could be “early 2023”. 

Further to that, Kingscast (opens in new tab) host, KingFanMan, has theorized it could be March 2023. According to him, Bethesda has only delayed three games before and that while “all three games were supposed to come out in the fall” like Starfield, “all three games came out in March the next year.” We’ll have to wait for something official from Bethesda before we can be certain.

Originally, at E3 2021, Bethesda announced Starfield would release on November 11, 2022. In an interview with the Washington Post (opens in new tab), Todd Howard said the studio was “confident in the date”, but the delay, Bethesda has said, is to ensure that players “receive the best, most polished” version of it.

When Starfield does release, it’ll be an Xbox console exclusive, with the E3 2021 trailer explicitly confirming this, ruling out a PS5 release. It won’t be on Xbox One either, Bethesda’s moving on from Microsoft’s last-gen console. With Microsoft now owners of developer Bethesda, this could be indicative of the future of titles like The Elder Scrolls 6 and Fallout 5 going forward.

Starfield: Gameplay

During 2022’s Xbox and Bethesda Showcase, we got our first in-depth look at Starfield’s gameplay. Starting with customization, we’re playing a fully customizable protagonist. Changeable skin tone, head shapes, hair, hair color, eyes, and body details, Bethesda’s giving us the usual options here, alongside ‘Background’ and ‘Traits’.

Backgrounds offer three starting skills each. For example, picking ‘Dueling’ awards 10% extra melee damage, while ‘Gastronomy’ lets you create unique food and drinks, alongside researching further recipes. Meanwhile, Traits can shape your personality, so if you choose the ‘Extrovert’ trait for example, you’ll have more endurance when travelling with companions, and less when alone. Unsurprisingly, this can’t be mixed with the ‘Introvert’ trait, which does the opposite.

This presentation also gave us our first real look at ship customization too, which we know is modular. You can piece entire sections together, swapping out core components like cockpits, engines, and more, and it seems that there’s no need to individually craft those parts. It looks like we’ll buy these from individual vendors across different locations. 

Shortly after the presentation, Bethesda confirmed more on its Twitter (opens in new tab) account. Revealing that Starfield uses a first-person perspective for dialogue, our character also won’t be voiced, which may prove welcome news. For the unaware, a voiced protagonist was first attempted by Bethesda in Fallout 4, which faced widespread criticism. Unsurprisingly then, this change has been (mostly) well received. 

In a previous Reddit AMA (opens in new tab), Todd Howard said he was “Really excited about what the team has done with character creation”, explaining that it includes “choosing background, skills, etc. You also can pick your pronoun (he, she, they) and we’ve recorded all the relevant dialogue to support that choice.”

Exploration and gunplay
During this showcase, we went to the rocky moon of Kreet as part of an early mission, and Kreet’s one of Starfield’s many different explorable locations. Notably, this demo also confirmed we can play Starfild in first-person and third-person during gameplay, showing off both during this demo.

During this reveal, we got a look at examining local wildwilfe, mining resources, and crucially, combat. Finding an abandoned research facility, we soon discover it’s been taken over by a pirate group known as the Crimson Fleet, and it’s down to us to clear them out.

It’s only a brief look, so we didn’t learn a huge amount, but it revealed a few details about gunplay. Offering a choice of sub-machine guns, pistols and shotguns, this segment ends with a jetpack-assisted jump over a chasm, as the protagonist clears out the last remaining foes.

Finally, in a separate Bethesda blog post (opens in new tab), it also elaborated on building outputs, which you can do on discovered planets. The publisher’s not sharing too much just yet, though we know we can conduct our own research with previously gathered materials. These resources can then upgrade our character’s gear and notably, that includes modifying weapons. 

Length and mission structure
Thanks to an IGN (opens in new tab) interview with Todd Howard shortly afterwards, we soon learned plenty more. Speaking about Starfield’s length, Howard explains it’ll be 20% bigger than Bethesda’s previous games, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. Estimating you’ll need 30-40 hours for the main story alone, he advised: “This one’s ending up a little bit longer [than our previous games] and we may tune that some still. It’s more quests, so it might be 20% more than our previous ones”.

He’s also clear that despite the large-scale freedom to explore, Starfield still offers a clear ‘golden path’ to follow, for those only interested in the main story. Telling IGN there’s more handcrafted content than Bethesda has ever created in Starfield, Howard confirmed: 

“I should also add that we have done more handcrafting in this game, content-wise, than any game we’ve done. We’re [at] over 200,000 lines of dialogue, so we still do a lot of handcrafting and if people just want to do what they’re used to in our games, and follow a main quest, and do the questlines, you’re gonna see what you’d kind of expect from us. But then you have this whole other part of, ‘Well I’m just going to wander this planet, and it’s going to provide some gameplay, and some random content, and those kinds of things.”

During the showcase, Howard confirmed there’s 1000 fully explorable planets across 100 star systems. In this interview, he then explains you can’t seamlessly go from space down to a planet. “People have asked, ‘Can you fly the ship straight down to the planet?’ No. We decided early in the project that the on-surface is one reality, and then when you’re in space it’s another reality.” As for the why, we’re then told the feature is “really just not that important to the player” to justify the work needed.

Finally, that same interview also touched upon Starfield’s influences. Calling it a unique take on space combat, Howard revealed this approach was partly inspired by FTL and MechWarrior: 

“Your ship has various power systems. [There’s a] little bit of FTL there in terms of putting how much power into three different weapon systems, then your engines, and shields, and the grav drive is what lets you jump, and sort of get out of some situations that you have to put power to. 

“One of the games I love that we sort of look at for pace is MechWarrior, believe it or not. That’s probably a little bit slower, but in terms of systems and power and being able to line things up – it’s a little bit faster than that but you know what I mean as opposed to a twitchy dogfighter. But it’s not just dogfighting, you can dock with other ships, you can disable them, you can dock, you can board it. There’s actually some quests that involve that. You can steal the ship, there’s dialogue in space, there’s star stations you can visit, there’s smuggling. All the things that we would want.” 

He ends on this point by promising we’ll learn more about this aspect of combat at a later date.

Starfield: Story and setting

Starfield promises a grand spacefaring adventure across the vast universe, set 300 years into our future. After a few initial missions, our protagonist gets invited to join Constellation, the last group of space explorers. We’ll be meeting them in the United Colonies’ capital city, New Atlantis, tasked with searching for artifacts across The Settled Systems.

Speaking to IGN (opens in new tab) in a June 2022 interview, Todd Howard revealed New Atlantis will be Bethesda’s biggest city yet. “It has all the services you would expect, and you can work on your ship there, the factions touch that. But that’s also the headquarters for Constellation, which is the faction that you join that is the last group of space explorers – kind of this NASA-meets-Indiana Jones-meets-The League of Extraordinary Gentleman [group].”

Unsurprisingly, there’s rival groups with separate goals, like the Crimson Fleet, who it seems we’ll be frequently clashing with. Previous videos from Bethesda have also confirmed the existence of violent Spacers, ecliptic mercenaries, and fanatical religious zealots of House Va’Ruun. 

This takes place across 1000 fully explorable planets between 100 star systems, and four major cities. Including New Atlantis, we currently know about three of them.  Following a past war with the United Colonies, the Freestar Collective marks the other major faction within The Settled Systems, and both currently maintain an uneasy peace. 

Controlling three star systems, Freestar uses the walled Akila City as its capital, which keeps out “alien predators that are a cross between a wolf and a velociraptor.”  Then we have Neon, a pleasure city created by the Xenofresh Corporation. Having created a unique psychotropic drug, Aurora, it’s now a popular tourist spot.

Starfield: Trailers

Gameplay Reveal
We finally got our first look at Starfield’s gameplay during 2022’s Xbox and Bethesda Showcase, which you can check this out in full below:

The Sound of Adventure
Bethesda has released an April video diving into Starfield’s music and sound design.  In the video, the game’s audio director, Mark Lampert, and composer, Inon Zur, discuss music and its importance for the overall gameplay experience. 

Zur describes music as the “fourth dimension. It is the emotional dimension” while Lampert says, “the main theme sets the tone for everything else we do.” The video is interspersed with more new concept art to give insight into the visual inspirations for the music.

Meet Starfield’s first companion: Vasco
Bethesda has introduced Starfield’s first companion in a brief new video. Called Vasco, this companion is Constellation’s expeditionary robot who has been refurbished by the space exploration organization “to meet the requirements” of its mission. 

According to Lead Artist, Istvan Pely, Vasco is a “utilitarian, heavy industrial machine well-suited to the rigors of space travel.” Vasco’s primary role is, apparently, “peaceful” as, while he does have defensive capabilities, he’s especially well-suited to travelling across rough terrain while loaded up with items that are useful for “extended overland journeys.” See him for yourself below:

Made for Wanderers
In the second episode of the “Into the Starfield” series, members of the Bethesda development team discuss the ways in which they’re hoping to immerse players in a realistic game world. They touch on a range of topics, from NPC and companion interaction, to the game’s factions and the choices players will have in relation to them.

The Endless Pursuit
In this behind the scenes video Game Director Todd Howard, Studio Director Angela Browder and Art Director Matt Carofano discuss Bethesda’s vision of the future with Starfield. 

Howard discusses “step-out moments” in the Fallout games, where a character emerges into a world that’s been irrevocably changed by nuclear war, and cryptically says that Starfield will have “two step-out moments”. Carofano, meanwhile, reveals that Starfield will have a “realistic science-based backing” and calls it a “more grounded game and grounded setting” than the likes of Skyrim.

The backstory
In October 2021, Bethesda released a video giving an overview of Starfield’s overall setting, known as ‘The Settled Systems’. 

Narrated by Bethesda Game Studios Design Director Emil Pagliarulo, the video explains that Starfield will transport players to the Settled Systems in the year 2330. The Settled Systems are located in “a relatively small pocket of the Milky Way, in an area that extends outward from our Solar System for approximately 50 light-years.” 

It also gives some details on the game’s two largest factions, the United Colonies and the Freestar Collective. Both engaged in a “bloody colony war” before the game begins but have developed an unsteady peace. 

Location teasers
In August 2021, Bethesda revealed three brief videos which give an overview of cities that will feature in Starfield. The three locations are pretty distinct, comprising the metropolitan capital of the United Colonies, New Atlantis; the freedom-driven capital of the Freestar Collective, Akila; and the vice-drenched pleasure city, Neon. 

Each video (all below) gives a description of the locations and a look at some of the concept art, offering a good sense of the overall atmosphere you can expect. 

Teaser trailer
The first proper Starfield trailer was revealed at E3 2021, showing off Bethesda’s more realistic approach to sci-fi than the likes of Outer Worlds or No Man’s Sky:

We’re shown a very NASA-like astronaut exploring the rocky surface of a Moon-like location, complete with a blue-sky atmosphere, preparing for take-off. We’re shown drones, a cool mech-like buddy robot, and the promise of uncovering the “key to unlocking everything.”

Into the Starfield
E3 2021 also brought a more behind-the-scenes style video for Starfield called Into the Starfield. In this clip that’s just under 2 minutes, Bethesda gives an overview of Starfield and what it’s aiming to achieve with the game.

Announcement teaser
Other than that, we previously saw our first glimpse of the game during E3 2018 where we got little more than a title, a setting and a glimpse of an unnamed planet, a floating satellite or space station, and some sort of… glowing wormhole?

Check out the teaser trailer below:

Starfield: News and rumors

Missing from QuakeCon lineup
Bethesda has confirmed that there will be no brand new Starfield gameplay shown at Gamescom and it looks like fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for QuakeCon either. The schedule for the August Bethesda event (opens in new tab) has been revealed and while it features Redfall, Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online, Starfield is noticeably absent. 

Ship customization
Speaking during Xbox Games Showcase Extended, Bethesda’s Pete Hines touched a bit more on Starfield’s ship customization feature.

“Every ship is customizable to the Nth degree and not just cosmetically,” Hines explained. “It goes much deeper than that in terms of what shields you have, what kind of weapons you have, what kind of ship are you building, what do you want it to be good at, what trade-offs are you willing to make or not. And the other part of it is that you have to figure out ‘how am I going to do this?’, ‘where do I get the resources to build this stuff?’, ‘what kind of skills do I need to level up to improve my ship beyond what I could do without those skills?’ It’s a lot of choices. You get to decide that…all of those things are part of the fun of deciding how much you want to interact with this and how do you want to interact with this.”

Pete Hines addresses delays
During the Xbox Games Extended showcase, Bethesda’s Pete Hines addressed the delays to both Starfield and Redfall, saying that these delays were to allow the teams to “fully realize” the games.

“With all the time that goes into a game, it would be foolish to rush it out the door before it’s ready, Hines said. “I think we have continued to examine how we think about games and making sure that they’re going to meet players’ expectations. Obviously, the last few years have really challenged us from a development standpoint, how we work now largely remotely while a lot of our folks are not back in the office, and that has an impact. I also think we’ve been thinking about things like release dates and when do we give those out and how do we make sure we give one out that we actually hit and don’t have to change later.

“So, it’s not something that we undertake lightly but, at the end of the day, what our fans expect is a high-quality game and we want to do everything we can to give our teams the time to fully realize the games.”.

Aiming for realism and immersion
In a behind-the scenes featurette for Starfield, members of the game’s development team touched on ways that they want to make the game a realistic, immersive experience for players. This starts from the higher level of the game’s overall RPG mechanics, with Todd Howard touching on “the backgrounds, the traits, defining your character, all those stats.” 

It also extends to the NPCs and companions with whom the player will interact throughout the game. Lead Artist, Istvan Pely, said that while Bethesda have “always allowed the player to create really interesting, unique characters”, this time they’ve “definitely, severely leveled up. The tech is based on scanning of real world models, similar to the photogrammetry we do in our landscapes. We’re kind of applying the same thing to our people as well.”  

This realism is part of the immersion, with Pely adding, “it’s not just the appearance of your player and all that, but we want the personal interactions with all NPCs, other characters in the game, to be as impactful as possible. And for that you have to believe these are real people, you’re a real person, and you’re interacting with real people.”

NASA-Punk aesthetic
Bethesda has a particular look in mind when it comes to Starfield and that look is “NASA-Punk”.

As described by the game’s lead artist, Istvan Pely, in a recent Xbox newswire post (opens in new tab), NASA-Punk is a term coined by Starfield’s development team “to describe a sci-fi universe that’s a little more grounded and relatable”. Pely explains the team “wanted a very realistic take,” adding, “You can draw a line from current-day space technology and extrapolate from there into the future so it’s believable and relatable.”

The game’s lead animator, Rick Vicens, explains that the term proved to be incredibly useful when creating an aesthetically consistent world. “What’s really interesting is how much we all latched onto that concept,“ Vicens says. 

”When you said NASA-Punk, the Art team could instantly take those two words and make them work. It was just the perfect term for our art direction and keeping everyone in the same flow and working with a consistent style. For me, it just clicked. At the start of the project, I think that term was critical for us.”

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Some environment concept art
The Starfield Twitter account has been keeping up a steady drip of teases for the game. In December 2021, the account posted two new pieces of concept art which hint at the diversity of settings players will get to experience in the game. 

The first piece of art shows a dense jungle setting, with the tweet promising that “During your travels you’ll discover many unique environments, some lush and abundant with life.”

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The second tweet shows a scene far less “abundant with life”, instead depicting a deep, dark cave where, apparently, there will be things for players to discover. 

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Full mod support
Bethesda Game Studios boss Todd Howard confirmed in a recent Reddit AMA that despite Starfield moving to an all-new engine from the studio’s previous titles, it will offer the same deep mod support as previous titles from the developer.

“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,” said Howard.

‘Better’ without PS5
Bethesda’s executive producer Todd Howard has said that the company can create better games now that it’s developing exclusively for Xbox and PC.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Howard said: “You don’t ever want to leave people out, right? But at the end of the day, your ability to focus and say, this is the game I want to make, these are the platforms I want to make it on, and being able to really lean in on those is going to make for a better product. By focusing on those platforms, you really get to lean in a lot on making it the best it can be for those systems“.

Both third person and first person viewpoints are in Starfield
Whether you like staring down the barrel of a gun, or at your player character’s cool new space threads, Starfield will offer up both first and third person points of view for players to enjoy. “First person for us is still our prime way of playing. So you can see the world and touch all those things,” Todd Howard revealed in an interview with the Telegraph (opens in new tab).

Starfield will have alien races and multiple planets to explore
It may be a more serious approach to space exploration than the likes of No Man’s Sky or Mass Effect, but rest assured – there will be aliens to interact with. In quite what capacity, Bethesda isn’t yet revealing. But with the news that the game will also feature Skyrim style cities and settlements across multiple planets, we’re hoping that we’ll run into a fair few alien habitats, too.

A game engine overhaul
Bethesda (opens in new tab)‘s Todd Howard has revealed that partnering with Microsoft has “led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls 6.“

Speaking at the Develop: Brighton conference (opens in new tab), Howard gave more information on the overhauled Creation Engine, saying it’s been “a significant overhaul,” adding that “It’s taken us longer than we would have liked, but it’s going to power everything we’re doing with Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6. When people see the results, they’ll hopefully be as happy as we are with what’s on the screen and also how we can go about making our games.”