Could Starfield surprise us twice over?

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda's space RPG Starfield is still a full year away, but a new teaser trailer has offered a key insight into the way the game might be structured.

Game Director Todd Howard, Studio Director Angela Browder and Art Director Matt Carofano all sat down for seven-minute YouTube video to talk about the upcoming game, which is set to release in November 2022 on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC – provided there are no delays to the schedule.

While most of the video is pretty innocuous, with the devs talking in broad strokes about the importance of virtual storytelling, and the "pride" that players can feel at what they achieve in-game, there's also a brief tease from Howard that's worth paying attention to.

Near the end of the video, Howard is describing the awe of "step-out moments" in the Fallout games, where a character emerges into a world that's been irrevocably changed by nuclear war. Few who've played Fallout 3 or Fallout 4 can forget the feeling of leaving their vault for the first time, moving from subterranean bunker to open wasteland, and facing a vast frontier that's yet to be explored.

It's that feeling that Bethesda seeks to recreate in Starfield – but in a blink-and-miss-it moment, Howard says that "Starfield has two step-out moments," adding that he's being intentionally "cryptic."

Two big reveals

While it's not too hard to imagine that initial step-out moment in a Bethesda game – in the case of Starfield, leaving cryostasis or ending a centuries-long journey through space seems likely – that second moment is fascinating, suggesting that the world will open up in a whole new way at some point in the game.

Whereas Fallout 3 let you explode the city of Megaton, cutting off quest lines in the process, Starfield could go one better with a massive divergence event that changes the entire galactic map – or unlocks a whole new one. In a truly sci-fi game like this, who's to stop Bethesda from sticking a black hole in the game that eats up commonly-visited planets, stranding you in another dimension, or transporting you into the future for an unprecedented endgame?

Art Director Matt Carofano says that "A lot of our games are about exploration," adding that space travel is "sort of the ultimate exploration" – and it's thrilling to think about how Bethesda might push the boudries of what's expected.

Carofano is keen to say that Starfield will have a "realistic science-based backing" to it, and calls it a "more grounded game and grounded setting" than the likes of Skyrim. But the developer will have to have some good tricks up its sleeve after the botched launch of Fallout 76 – indeed, many of comments on the YouTube video speak to ongoing resentment over the multiplayer title. 

One sarcastically asks: "Please make it online only like fallout 76 with no mods. Because that's what people really want" – while another says "I think Fallout 76 cost Todd the credibility to get me excited." There are also asides referencing Cyberpunk 2077, a game with such a successful hype cycle that the reality of its poor last-gen console performance hit incredibly hard – and many may now be warier of big-budget games that promise the world.

Given that Starfield won't launch on last-gen consoles, though, we imagine the same issues won't arise.

Yet another commenter says "I doubt i will ever play another Bethesda game, but i want to see what they can do with this setting" – which is at the heart of Starfield's launch. Players are looking to this game to restore Bethesda's reputation, as we're sure the developers are too.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.