Starfield: Space Survival or Fantasy Sci-Fi?

Will Bethesda’s Starfield focus more on space survival than fantasy sci-fi?

Picture landing on a desolate planet in the confinements of a rocket ship, kitted out with an arsenal of weaponry and defenses, ready to venture out and try to make it back alive with valuable resources. It’s a concept gamers dream of but with developers unable to satisfy that itch—failing to produce an expectational space survival game.

Space survival games are ambitious projects to work on, trying to find the sweet spot of meeting modern expectations in graphics & gameplay while breaking the mold of world design by creating an explorable galactic space in a video game. Sadly, we can’t even freely explore space in real life, let alone virtually!

Star Citizen is a prime example of the demand for a space survival game. Becoming the highest publicly funded project on Kickstarter, raising over $400 million! However, the space survival game’s development has gone through many setbacks, missing its initial release date in 2014 with no future release dates set in stone yet.

History has left gamers with a bitter taste for space survival, and the disaster that was the space survival game, No Man’s Sky, left people in complete dismay. Still, a wince of hope was sparked back in 2018 when Bethesda, a reputable and triple-A publisher, announced their next IP to be a new RPG… set in space.

Starfield Concept Art - Biome Exploration
Starfield Concept Art Courtesy of Bethesda

Does Bethesda create survival games?

While the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchise creator is known for their fantasy RPGs full of fictional concepts, that doesn’t mean Bethesda games are not immersive or realistic as survival games.

In fact, Bethesda has grown an affinity with survival elements, incorporating them into all of their recent RPGs. After every video game release since Skyrim, Bethesda RPGs have become increasingly survival-based, which comes from fans’ requests.

The history of Bethesda dabbling into the survival genre began when players would modify Bethesda RPGs such as Skyrim and Fallout 3 with survival elements. Website for downloadable mods would have the top 10 pages dominated by survival mods. These included basic survival elements such as drinking, eating, and sleeping to boost stats and not die, along with advanced survival elements such as dying from frostbite or requiring a balanced diet to optimize stats.

Fallout 4 is when Bethesda first included a survival mode and base-building system in an RPG. Then Fallout 76 made basic survival elements an essential part of the core game, where the base building was now necessary to farm and store food & water to survive while crafting an arsenal of home defenses and weaponry to protect your living means.

What makes Starfield a space survival game?

Starfield Concept Art
Starfield Concept Art Courtesy of Bethesda

The slither of leaks & announcements on Starfield also indicate that Bethesda will take it up a notch with the inclusion of survival elements, and the biggest clue starts with the game’s concept.

Concept

Confirmed in an interview with game director Todd Howard, Starfield is a complete departure from fantasy with a world grounded in reality. The E3 trailer of Starfield captures an astronaut entering a rocket ship and flipping switches at a console—it’s a familiar sight to behold if you’ve observed NASA or SpaceX rocket launches.

In the trailer, a voiceover plays, that quotes,

“We’ve come to the beginning of humanity’s final journey.”

It’s all so close to home, the idea of frontier colonialism setting our telescopes not in front of us but above. The story of Starfield is a tangible reality of our own in the near future, with billionaire space tourism just around the corner and the announcement of a space hotel to be open in 2025

Starfield will have us exploring a solar system known as ‘The Settled System’ that exists within our Milky Way galaxy and that humans have now inhabited.

Starfield takes place decades after the Colony War, where factions fought over power of The Settled System. Tensions still exist between the factions, with another war around the corner. There is also a group known as the Constellations that uncover the mysteries of the galaxy. So as expected with Bethesda RPGs, you should be able to ally with any of the aforementioned groups.

Technology

Starfield Concept Art
Starfield Concept Art Courtesy of Bethesda

Since Starfield positions itself as less of an alternative reality to our own like the Fallout universe, and more like a projected future after Elon Musk has his way, then you can expect world logic and technology to be more relatable & realistic than other sci-fi games.

Todd Howard has confirmed that he traveled to a SpaceX facility for a research project for Starfield, hoping to bring ‘authenticity’ to the game.

An authentic part of space settlement included in Starfield is robotics and base building. It’s confirmed there will be a robot companion named Vasco, who has been shown to collect resources/items and store them in its inventory. This news firmly indicates base building will be present in Starfield, given that robots were used in Fallout 76 to aid in the base building process by collecting resources/items.

Base building is an essential part of any modern survival game; you can’t have realistic survival without managing your supplies and a place of retreat. It’s like playing the classic survival game Minecraft for the first time, you’re not going to survive a full night without building a house, and this formula of tension and suspense has continued throughout the survival genre.

Space flight?

To truly be a space survival game, there has to be an element of open-world flight. Most games touted as offering ‘space exploration’ always have you thrown into loading screens going from point A to B and are immersion killers, such as games like Destiny 2, The Outer Worlds, and Guardians of The Galaxy.

It’s not fully confirmed if you will be flying between planets with no loading screens. In July 2022, Microsoft & Bethesda will be hosting a conference that will hopefully reveal the answer to this question. However, there is some promising and concerning news revolving space exploration.

Starfield Concept Art
Starfield Concept Art Courtesy of Bethesda

Firstly, Starfield will be the first game built on Creation Engine 2. The decision to use this game engine was that the previous game engine could not handle making a game of this magnitude and even struggled with Bethesda’s previous RPG, Fallout 76, which had many performance issues at launch.

Creation Engine 2 should be well optimized for current-gen consoles that have the power to eliminate loading screens altogether. Still, not much is known about Creation Engine 2 and whether it’s on par with Epic Game’s Unreal Engine 5

Todd Howard said ‘the new technology that is Creation Engine 2’ gives Bethesda the power to take exploration to the next level, and exploration has played a crucial role in Bethesda RPGs. In April 2022, an alleged dev posted leaks about Starfield in a forum with the site admin and reputable gaming journalist Jason Schreier, validating the individual’s identity.

The alleged dev broke down that Starfield was basically chewing more than it can swallow when it comes to developing content in the game. Explaining that the game is taking longer to get finished and optimized than expected due to how much content they want to fill in Starfield. This is somewhat concerning since the devs have made a risky move using a game engine that hasn’t been used before. Now, only time will tell if it can meet their expectations for the completed game.

Finally, the alleged dev confirmed that space flight will be available for players to take advantage of, but with one caveat, space flight ‘isn’t fun.’ So the likelihood of Starfield being a space survival game is high, but what’s become more questionable is whether Bethesda can get it right?

Final thoughts on Starfield’s future direction

The most significant criticism swung at Bethesda for their recent games is twofold: a lack of content or issues with performance. Let’s hope we get a space survival game from the Bethesda that revolutionized RPGs by introducing the gaming world to the greats like the Fallout and Elder Scrolls universes.

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About Digital Ghost

Dg is the founder and co-owner of Corrosion Hour, a niche gaming community established in 2016 focusing on the survival game RUST. He is an active and contributing member of numerous other RUST communities. As a community leader and server owner for over 15 years, he spends much of his time researching and writing guides about survival games, covering topics such as server administration, game mechanics, and community growth.

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