Starfield is promising huge scale, but I just want memorable stories and adventures

Starfield trailer reveal still cockpit view
(Image credit: Bethesda)

With Starfield, Bethesda is bringing a universe to life that's ambitiously massive in scale. Last year, Todd Howard revealed Starfield will have more than 100 systems and 1000 planets to explore, before later going on to say that even he is surprised by just how big Starfield is

The prospect of exploring a wealth of planets is appealing, but this will mean very little if the universe itself lacks depth. Above all, I want Starfield to give me memorable adventures, characters I can care about, and worlds worth exploring.  

Planetary prospects  


(Image credit: Bethesda)

We've only seen brief glimpses of Starfield so far, with our first short look at space exploration during the Xbox and Bethesda 2022 event. Of course, the forthcoming Starfield Direct could change that, but the proof will be in the pudding. We'll only get a true sense of how big Bethesda's universe is when it lands this September, but from what we know so far, I am actually quite hopeful that Starfield will offer up a fresh adventure that makes all of its ingredients count. 

When the news broke about the many Starfield star systems, fans were divided on whether or not that is actually a good thing. I, like many others, shared similar fears that a lot of planets could mean a lot of empty filler, with worlds that are just there to give the impression of scale rather than offer us anything meaningful. This sense of apprehension may not have been put to rest just yet, but given that Bethesda is no stranger to bringing expansive worlds to life, the studio's ambitious direction could very well pay off and effectively capture the vastness of space. 

Howard touched on the fact that there will be barren, resource-heavy worlds, while others will be home to life, with the possibility of landing anywhere on a planet in any one of the systems. I don't expect every planet to be teeming with life - after all, our own universe is home to many barren worlds - and if done right, the planet variety could really make the universe feel like a diverse one that constantly surprises us. 

But without being able to see examples of different worlds or how space travel works from start to finish, it's understandable that Howard's words raised some qualms about just how vast Starfield promises to be. If the majority of planets feel hollow or empty, this would almost certainly make space exploration fall a bit flat. If there's plenty to see and do, on the other hand, with the chance of encountering characters and stories as we travel, I can easily see myself getting swept up in the stars. Nothing spells adventure quite like discovery, after all.

Space stories 


(Image credit: Bethesda)

What has put my mind at ease, if only a little, is some light lead quest designer Will Shen shed on the procedural aspect of Starfield. Skyrim is famous for its random encounters, which would often take you off the beaten path and lead you to discover smaller stories that helped to flesh out the world of Tamriel. A lot of the time, these instances felt organic in the sense that you would be running off to do something, and then get entirely sidetracked along the way - whether that be because of a talking dog popping up to divert you elsewhere, or because you stumbled upon an injured fellow in front of a cave who needs your aid. 

I've always found that random instances make open worlds like that of Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, feel like living, breathing settings that are ripe for discovery. You never quite know what's around the corner, or beyond the horizon, but you can always bet there are some surprises in store. Over the years, it's become an aspect many love about Bethesda's Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, and Starfield looks set to build on it when it comes to its generous helping of star systems and planets. 

In this video interview from Bethesda, Shen touched on the planets and revealed that Starfield's random encounters will include entire procedural mini-quests. "Now you could say, maybe you're going to an outpost and you actually discover there's a whole group there with a particular problem," Shen says of the procedural tech Bethesda is using. "Whereas before it might be just a person coming up to you on the road, now it's an actual whole location that can be put there." As Shen goes on to say, as you're walking through a planet, you may come across a "dynamically placed settlement that is taking you to a dynamically placed dungeon". 

If planets can lead to smaller mini-quests and encounters in locations we have ourselves discovered, I'm all in. I can already imagine such instances helping to make worlds come alive, and allow us to feel like we're carving out our own stories as we stumble across them. I hope, too, that we get to meet characters that make an impression on us just as we make an impression on them. So much is still unknown about Starfield, and while the scale might be a big sell or off-putting depending on what speaks to you, I have every hope Starfield will capture a sense of wonder and discovery that comes with space exploration, while still offering adventures with depth and heart. 

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Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.