Starfield: A New Era for Bethesda RPGs
With the arrival of Starfield, Bethesda's next big thing, we're getting a new era of the beloved RPG game. The studio has learned from Fallout 4's failures, and its next game aims to evolve the stalwart Bethesda formula. One of its more fascinating design decisions is to take away the concept of a spoken protagonist.
When Fallout 4 came out, the voiced protagonist was polarising. Some people loved it, others thought it was a change for the worse. It limited your role-playing experience, and some of the best moments in the series are when you're free to imagine the words coming from your own mouth.
With Starfield, that's exactly what you're getting. Bethesda's next big game lets you be yourself, the person that you actually are, and it's not voicing your character.
"The thing about a voiced protagonist is it can be polarising," Starfield lead designer Emil Pagliarulo says. "Some people love it, and it's a feature that can really enhance the storytelling and the character depth. But it's not for everybody.
"For us, we really felt like it was the only way to let you truly be the person you want to be."
Already, Starfield boasts over 200,000 lines of spoken dialogue without any input from you, the silent protagonist. That's just the initial playthrough. Every time you start a new game in Starfield, the dialogue is different, and your choices are different. Bethesda is aiming for it to be a "forever game" like Skyrim, with endless possibilities for exploration and adventure.
That's not to say that Starfield is a lonely experience – far from it. You can have up to four companions, who all have their own personalities and traits, and who all react to your dialogue and actions. Your companions can even pursue romantic relationships with each other, which is a first for a Bethesda game.
Conversations in Starfield play a significant role in progressing through quests and interacting with the game world. Bethesda wants every conversation to be "seamless," and it's designed the conversations to play a key role in how you move through the quests in the game.
"We're getting to the point with our games where we can start to rely on the player's imagination," Pagliarulo says. "The player is going to rely on their own imagination to fill in the gaps, and we don't have to do as much work to show [things] to you."
If you're not a fan of yourself, then, Starfield might not be for you. But if you are, then Starfield is shaping up to be a very exciting space adventure indeed.