It looks as though Starfield will include that most essential feature of interstellar science fiction: faster-than-light travel.
Briefly shown during the Starfield gameplay footage revealed during the Xbox and Bethesda showcase, and spotted by one observant fan on Reddit, the upcoming sci-fi RPG looks to include hyperspace travel of some kind. At least, enemy ships appear to be able to warp into your vicinity.
At two moments during the gameplay preview, enemy spaceships seemingly appear out of nowhere after a bright white light flashes onto the screen. One of them immediately turns its cannons onto the player’s ship, suggesting these are enemy vessels come to wreak havoc. Watch the clips for yourself below.
enemy_ships_in_the_gameplay_demo_appear_to_be from r/Starfield
A galaxy to explore
Given Starfield’s size, we’d expect FTL travel to appear somewhere in the game. With over 1,000 planets to explore, you’ll need to reach some pretty high velocities if you don’t want to spend all your time traveling.
But a bigger question remains as to how exactly it will play out. This clip seems to show it will be used as an enemy spawning mechanism, perhaps as ships from rival factions jump from other systems to chase you across the void of space.
There are no details yet, however, on how FTL travel will work on the player’s side. Will you be able to engage your hyperdrive at any moment to zoom across the universe as stars whizz past you? Or will it act as Starfield’s fast travel mechanic, as you select a space system to skip to, and face a loading screen while your ship travels through a hyperspace lane?
Lore buffs will also be wondering what Starfield’s semi-scientifically-literate explanation of faster-than-light travel is. Star Trek enveloped its spaceships in spacetime-distorting bubbles; Interstellar used wormholes to explain how ships could take shortcuts across the universe; and Warhammer 40K rips apart reality itself to open a gateway into psychic space hell.
We expect Bethesda has cooked up a more grounded explanation, given Starfield's attempt to present a realistic version of humanity's spacefaring future.
We’ll likely get more details of Starfield’s take on FTL travel in the months closer to its release. If the small print on Xbox Game Pass is anything to go by, that could be early 2023.