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Starfield platforms, release date, and how it compares to Skyrim

Starfield splash art

Bethesda Game Studios and Xbox are both betting big on the space opera RPG Starfield and fans will likely want to know its genre, gameplay details, and platforms before committing to a purchase.

While fans might still be clamoring for details on Fallout 5 and The Elder Scrolls 6, they’re going to have to wait. Rather than a post-apocalyptic United States or the magical continent of Tamriel, Bethesda takes fans to space for its latest action RPG. The publisher and Microsoft found themselves in an awkward position after Xbox-exclusive horror shooter Redfall flopped, making Starfield a high-stakes affair. The game was highly successful at launch but whether the game qualifies as a “win” for the companies won’t be known for years.

For players though, there’s likely something fun to be found. Here is how to get started in Starfield, where it can be played, and some important tips for getting the ball rolling in a fresh playthrough.

What genre is Starfield?

Starfield is an action RPG in the same vein as Fallout or The Elder Scrolls. Though it has fast-paced gunplay reminiscent of a first-person shooter, the game has all the trimmings of a Bethesda RPG.

Faster movement through the world, a better third-person camera than previous Bethesda games, and automatic rifles make Starfield look more similar to a multiplayer shooter like Valorant than a single-player RPG like Fallout. However, once players see the interactions with NPCs, skill trees, and other elements of the game, the similarities between Starfield and past Bethesda games become more apparent.

Is Starfield like Skyrim or Fallout?

Starfield is quite similar to Skyrim both in terms of its gameplay and presentation. The game has a greater emphasis on exploration than The Elder Scrolls or Fallout but is still cut from the same cloth as past Bethesda RPGs. The newer Creation Engine 2 features plenty of innovations and improvements relative to past Bethesda titles but fans of Skyrim and Fallout won’t be lost with the mechanics of Starfield, though.

Given its sci-fi setting, Fallout fans will likely get acclimated more quickly than Skyrim or Oblivion diehards. The game emphasizes combat with guns rather than melee weapons and magic, but even those who exclusively played The Elder Scrolls games should get the hang of things quickly.

The game is more like Skyrim than Fallout in some regards, though. While it’s easy to see the guns and associate Starfield with Fallout, the story progression and sidequests make for a more The Elder Scrolls-like experience. 

“We decided we really want to make sure that you can play through all the faction lines independently of each other. We really want the stories to be a little more personal. You’re influencing the direction of where this faction is going to go,” quest designer Will Shen said before the game’s launch.

The storylines of Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas were both largely defined by factions warring over the same territory, with the player having to pick a side. The forces at play in Starfield are more similar to the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood of The Elder Scrolls, who typically have stories that run parallel from each other outside the player’s involvement.

Is Starfield bigger than Skyrim?

Starfield is significantly larger than Skyrim in terms of how much area there is to explore. There are over 1,000 worlds to visit and Starfield allows players to land anywhere on a planet and trek across its entire surface. This offers hundreds of hours of gameplay for those who want to simply enjoy the game’s universe, though this likely isn’t for everyone.

starfield empty planet
This is not boring, Bethesda says.

Developers openly acknowledged that many of the worlds in Starfield are devoid of content and are effectively a waste of time. They paradoxically note that this isn’t boring, however.

These struggles left fans frustrated with Bethesda’s take on procedurally generated environments. It also drew comparisons to No Man’s Sky, another spacefaring sandbox game that initially struggled with retaining players’ attention.

Is Starfield a rip-off of No Man’s Sky?

Starfield has many similarities to No Man’s Sky in terms of its exploration and setting, but has a greater emphasis on combat and narrative. Fans have both lovingly and derisively labeled the game as “No Man’s Skyrim” and there’s good reason for that.

Visiting a planet, setting up a base camp, harvesting resources, and crafting equipment with them is the central focus of No Man’s Sky. All of those gameplay elements return in Starfield, but the RPG elements, story, and character progression make it quite different.

The area where Starfield falls short of No Man’s Sky is the seamless integration of ships into the experience. In No Man’s Sky, players fly their ship from space to other planets, and land on the surface themselves. Starfield’s navigation is more disjointed by comparison, with players not having that full control of their ship.

Is Starfield free?

Starfield is available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers, but is not free on Steam. It is playable on both Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Though Starfield will be available for free to Xbox Game Pass subscribers, don’t mistake it for a free-to-play game. While Bethesda fans are still grappling with the memories of the wildly unpopular The Elder Scrolls: Blades, everyone can look forward to a full-fledged game.

Is Starfield available on PC?

Starfield is available on Xbox Series X/S and PC. Xbox players are able to either purchase Starfield or play it through an Xbox Game Pass subscription to Xbox Game Pass.

On PC, Starfield is available on Xbox Game Pass as well as on Steam. There is no integration between Xbox Game Pass and Steam, so PC players will have to either commit to a subscription or purchase the game in full.

Is Starfield better on Xbox or PC?

Starfield on PC is the best overall experience, thanks to the presence of mods as well as the inherent modularity of a PC.

An Xbox Series X can’t be upgraded, so any technical issues are much harder to resolve on the console than with a PC. Mods can fix some performance and technical issues that players will face on an average playthrough, on top of adding new content.

The PC version also offers access to the developer console, letting players work around some of the bugs that might pop up during a playthrough. Console games, for whatever reason, still don’t let players use the developer console to manually fix known issues.

What are the PC system requirements for Starfield?

Here are the minimum and recommended system requirements needed for Starfield.

Starfield minimum system requirements:

  • OS: Windows 10 version 21H1 (10.0.19043)
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 2600X, Intel Core i7-6800K
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5700, NVIDIA GeForce 1070 Ti
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Storage: 125 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: SSD Required

Starfield recommended specs:

  • OS: Windows 10/11 with updates
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, Intel i5-10600K
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 125 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: SSD Required

Starfield is a massive game and demands a lot of resources. However, like many of Bethesda’s offerings, many run-of-the-mill gaming PCs can run the game as long as the right settings are chosen.

Despite this, the Xbox exclusivity and issues with Starfield not working on certain graphics cards drummed up controversy. The relative lack of accessibility compared to past Bethesda RPGs left many fans frustrated with the company and Xbox as a whole.

Is Starfield playable on Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck can play Starfield, but suffers from performance issues that make for a sub-optimal experience overall. Though the Steam Deck portable PC has been able to handle a number of major releases, Starfield does not run well on it.

Valve has tailored some major releases to work on the Steam Deck in the past but that might not be possible here. Even with ideal settings for the platform, Starfield suffers from stutters and will see its FPS count drop below 20 on a regular basis.

Starfield is playable on Steam Deck and was one of the most-played games on the platform in the months after its launch, according to Valve. But make no mistake, relative to an actual gaming PC or an Xbox console, the Steam Deck is the worst way to play the game.

Starfield release date details

Starfield came out on September 6, 2023. It was Bethesda Game Studios’ first release since 2020 mobile game The Elder Scrolls: Blades, and its first console title since the critically panned Fallout 76.

The game was originally slated for release on November 11, 2022. The game was then pushed back into the “first half of 2023.” This was pushed back even further, with Bethesda eventually announcing that Starfield would come out in September. Many fans expressed disappointment in the 10-month delay from the initial release date, but the release of Starfield was a major moment for Bethesda Game Studios.

Given Bethesda’s struggles to recapture the magic of Skyrim and Xbox needing an attention-grabbing exclusive to drive Game Pass subscription numbers, all parties needed Starfield to be as polished as possible. Though Bethesda has a history of games being wildly buggy on launch, that was a tall order. Starfield was far from perfect on day one but didn’t have the same volume of game-breaking glitches that were seen in games like Fallout 3.

Did Starfield get good reviews?

Starfield has received generally positive reviews from gaming critics and mixed reviews from fans.

There was strong praise for the game’s scale and gameplay, but so too were the criticisms of its bland storytelling and repetitive nature. Fans critiqued Starfield for everything from its UI to its graphics. Bethesda began actively responding to some of these negative reviews, something that frustrated naysayers even more.

starfield boring explanation from developer
A Bethesda developer responding to a bad review.

There’s also the timeless tradition of Bethesda RPGs being incredibly buggy during the launch period to contend with. Combined with performance issues with the game, and Starfield had a rocky few months after its initial launch. Though some of this likely stemmed from console war homerism, the cries for the release of The Elder Scrolls 6 seemingly grew louder after the game’s launch rather than giving players something else to chew on.

Is Starfield coming out on PS4 or PS5?

Starfield is not coming out on PlayStation 4 or 5, or the Nintendo Switch. It was the first major release from Bethesda Game Studios after parent company Zenimax Studios was acquired by Microsoft in 2020. This led to the controversial move to make Starfield and other future Bethesda games exclusive to Xbox and PC.

Though 2021’s Deathloop and 2022’s Ghostwire: Tokyo were both released on PlayStation 5, things changed in 2023. Hi-Fi Rush was exclusively released on Xbox Series X/S, with Starfield and horror shooter Redfall doing the same. Though there was a grace period between Bethesda’s acquisition by Microsoft and its divorce from PlayStation consoles, those days are over.

Was Starfield a financial success?

Despite being on Game Pass, Starfield topped the sales charts in its debut month of September 2023. This is made even more impressive by the fact that Starfield is locked to Xbox and PC, with PlayStation and Nintendo fans not having access to it.

Those strong initial numbers dipped quickly, however. Starfield’s player count on PC dipped below that of Skyrim by November despite being a 10-year-old game. This doesn’t include any metrics for Xbox consoles, but it was still a surprising downturn given the game’s strong launch.

How many players does Starfield have?

Starfield’s social media accounts immediately announced that Starfield was Bethesda’s biggest game launch of all time

The company stated that the game had over 6 million players the day after the game was released. It’s unclear how many of those players purchased the game and how many had downloaded it through Xbox Game Pass.

As of November 2023, Starfield has an average active player count of over 24,000 on Steam. Starfield’s player count peaked on Steam at 330,597 immediately after launch. While this was a strong number, the game’s last peak concurrent player count above 100,000 on Steam came on October 7. After two months, the game steadily averaged below 30,000 users on the platform. For the sake of comparison, fellow AAA RPG Baldur’s Gate 3 peaked higher and maintained an average player count above 100,000 well past this mark despite launching more than a month prior.

Does Starfield have DLC or expansions?

Starfield will be getting a DLC expansion in 2024 entitled Shattered Space.

Director Todd Howard confirmed the title would have DLC at some point after release, and fans won’t have to wait particularly long. Starfield: Shattered Space will come out in 2024.

The game launched with add-ons, but they’re mostly cosmetics and digital extras from the Premium and Constellation Editions. Howard wants to focus on story-based expansion packs and hopes to use this model for a long time with Starfield.

Starting with The Elder Scrolls Morrowind, each major Bethesda Game Studios release has included multiple DLC expansions. Shattered Space will likely be the first of several.

Does Starfield have multiplayer?

Starfield has no multiplayer component whatsoever

Howard emphasized the single-player experience in interviews before the game’s launch. However, just because there’s no official multiplayer support doesn’t mean modders aren’t working on it. 

Starfield still shares much of its DNA with Skyrim and Fallout. Both games have had fan-made multiplayer mods before, albeit with some rough edges. With Starfield’s grander scope, it would be a difficult undertaking.

One of the creators of the Skyrim Together co-op multiplayer mod started work on a Starfield multiplayer mod but nixed its development. He released his work on the mod to that point and invited others to take it up, but it’s unknown whether someone will finish the job.

Can you fly ships in Starfield?

Starfield allows players to fly their ships in space, but takes control away once they approach the atmosphere. All landing is done automatically and ships cannot be flown across the surface.

starfield ship

Though this experience is limited compared to what players can enjoy in games like No Man’s Sky, there’s still plenty to enjoy when it comes to shipbuilding. Players have the ability to create and customize a ship and recruit staff to operate it, with the ability to build city-sized space stations by the end of the game.

Starfield also has ship combat. Players can get their fill of dogfights in space, navigating their way through bullet-hell situations as both a do-gooder and a pirate.

Where can I find the best Starfield mods?

The best Starfield mods can be found where every Bethesda RPG gets its best mods; The Nexus

Simply sort by popularity to see the best mods that the Starfield modding community has to offer. Mod Organizer 2 is highly recommended for players, as it provides a much easier way to organize mods, especially for massive Bethesda titles.

In 2024, Starfield will add the Creations system that was first introduced in Skyrim. This offers an official mod store in the game client where players can purchase mods using tokens that are purchased with real-life money. The Creations store offers mods that are meant to avoid compatibility issues with each other and the primary game, but carry a price tag. with them.

What are the best Starfield mods?

Currently, the five most popular mods for Starfield are:

Unsurprisingly, the most popular mods tends to be practical quality-of-life improvements. More ambitious story and companion mods will likely follow later in the game’s lifespan.

Can you explore an entire planet in Starfield?

Players will be able to land on and explore entire planets in Starfield. This stands apart from many other similar games, which typically have strict limitations on how much of a planet can be explored.

While games like Mass Effect 2 allowed players to either visit a small portion of a planet or harvest resources from orbit, that’s not the case in Starfield. Starfield will have 1,000 planets that can be visited and explored from pole to pole.

This makes Starfield a game that can be played almost forever. The sole drawback is that Bethesda took a realistic approach to this. In the same way that landing on Mars in real life would greet astronauts with nothing but endless stretches of dust, many planets in the game have nothing to offer but emptiness.

What is the best place to sell contraband in Starfield?

The best place to sell contraband in Starfield is a seedy space station known as The Den.

In Starfield, contraband means anything that’s illegal to own, trade, or sell in a given location. Of course, that makes it quite the lucrative way to earn some extra income in-game.

It is located in the Wolf System and is under the protection of the United Colonies. Selling contraband in The Den is best because the player is not scanned nor investigated for smuggling. There are other locations where contraband can be sold, but The Den is the safest and easiest place to do so.

Who is the best Starfield companion?

Sam Coe, Sarah Morgan, and Simeon Bankowski stand as the best companions in Starfield.

As with most RPGs, the definitive best depends on your playstyle. That said, two of the first companions the player meets, Sam Coe and Sarah Morgan, are good all-rounders to have for the crew. They have reliable skills in battles and spacecrafts, making them helpful at all times.

For combat enthusiasts, handing a sniper rifle to Simeon Bankowski is also a great way to clear enemy positions. For players who take a more aggressive approach to Starfield, Simeon provides a greater and more noticeable impact.

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Written by Steven Rondina

Steven Rondina has been playing video games since he was a toddler and appreciates every genre out there. He has earned the platinum trophy in every Soulsborne game, is regularly Master Ball-ranked on the competitive Pokemon ladder, and has spent thousands of hours missing shots on Dust 2.

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