Fans have been engrossed in debates about Starfield’s design ever since Bethesda’s Ashley Cheng and Todd Howard discussed the title’s approach in a recent New York Times interview. Aiming for authenticity, Starfield reflects the vast and generally barren nature of outer space. However, not all players seem satisfied with this particular artistic direction.
The decision to make the game’s 1,000 planets sparse and largely uninhabited is intentional, said Cheng. “The point of the vastness of space is you should feel small,” he explained. Responding to concerns that these planets may be too dull for gamers, he stated, “When the astronauts went to the moon, there was nothing there. They certainly weren’t bored.” This notion was echoed by Todd Howard, who insisted that the large scale of the game aims to evoke a sense of wonder, akin to being a true space explorer.
But despite the noble intentions of capturing the emptiness and majesty of space, some players find that the game’s planets do not feel as untouched as they should. One article’s author, who has spent approximately 18 hours in the game so far, mentioned that the planets feel more akin to traditional Bethesda landscapes, rather than untamed celestial bodies.
In a point of comparison, the author noted that Elite: Dangerous delivers a greater sense of awe when exploring barren planets generated by its Stellar Forge technology. The critique suggests that Starfield’s worlds feel like they are “little, independent slices of any other Bethesda game” that require fast travel instead of immersive walking between them.
The discussion underscores a debate within the gaming community: Should a game aim for absolute realism, even if that reality consists mostly of empty space, or should it favor a more fantastical approach that prioritizes entertainment? As players continue to dive deeper into Starfield’s expansive universe, the discourse around its design philosophy is likely to persist. Whether or not the game strikes the right balance between realism and engagement remains an open question, but one thing is certain: Starfield has certainly succeeded in sparking conversation about what space exploration in gaming should feel like.