When it comes to Bethesda’s spacefaring RPG, the only thing I care about is how wacky the Starfield builds will be. It’s ok if the main story lands a little flat or there aren’t many compelling ways to influence the outcome of side quests. If I can weaponise an addiction to psychotropic fish or barter my way through every encounter without having to equip a weapon then Starfield will be a success in my eyes.
For me and thousands of other Bethesda Game Studios fans, the first few playthroughs are just test runs: get a feel for the range of encounters, explore the skill tree, and note down any cool Starfield weapons, shortcuts, or key decisions for later exploitation. The real game starts several playthroughs later when you have enough ingredients to create a Starfield character build so powerful or bizarre that either its effectiveness or ineffectiveness becomes the goal of the game.
YouTubers and streamers like ‘Mitten Squad‘ and ‘Joov‘ have popularised these extremely limited playthroughs. Thanks to their creativity, we’ve seen BGS builds including ‘toy knife-wielding baby‘, ‘scroll-only Skyrim‘, and a playthrough of Fallout 4 in which you can’t leave the game’s heavily irradiated Glowing Sea region.
Accomplishing these goals can take dozens of hours and hundreds of deaths, and whether you’re watching a streamer attempt it or are trying a build you dreamt up, there will be some very, very boring moments. However, the breakthroughs provide more excitement than any plot beat or discovery in the game itself. For my own 007-inspired Fallout 4 playthrough, learning about a silenced pistol like the Deliverer was a pivotal moment which made exploring the wasteland as a half-cut renegade in a tuxedo possible, whereas before it had been a death wish.
The fact that you can beat Skyrim with a fork – yes, just a regular fork – is a testament to the flexibility of Bethesda’s RPG design. I’m praying that Starfield is full systems and items that expand these experiences like never before. So, how can Starfield shake up the builds and restricted playthroughs experience for long-term Bethesda Game Studios fans?
First off, I want to be a space pirate. Not just an errand boy for the Crimson Fleet but a proper, independent space pirate with an armada and a set of secret outposts dotted around the Settled Systems. I’ll need to build up some whopping bounties with all the Starfield factions, assemble a motley crew of robots and mercenaries, and kit my space farer out with as much anachronistic gear as I can find. That’s a simple one.
Then there’s Aurora, the psychotropic drug made from the fish caught around the pleasure city of Neon. Chem-abusing builds have been a staple of the Fallout series for decades, with several addictive drugs offering bonuses that can help you scrape through combat, speech checks, and even tricky terminals. They come with the risk that you might become addicted and succumb to withdrawal symptoms, though. Balancing the effects of multiple addictions, ensuring you’ve got a steady supply of meds, and knowing which pills to pop and when to make it through each encounter is like a puzzle. Perhaps Aurora hallucinations will offer a fresh challenge for players to navigate – the substance is only legal in Neon, so it must be pretty potent.
How about playing as an alien wrangler? Bethesda has let players fight alongside animals, demons, and beasts before, so I hope we’ll be able to recruit some of the alien critters we find while exploring. Imagine taking a menagerie of exotic pets across the stars, stopping off in every town, stronghold, and space station to show off or pick fights.
An early look at the Starfield traits menu hints at more redundant but addictively challenging build ideas. There’s an Adoring Fan trait that’ll grant you a jabbering follower, so what if we can outfit them with all the best guns and gear in the game and force them to stand as our champion in combat? There are also at least three space religions, so a fully robed zealot playthrough is definitely on the cards.
Of course, all the best build-based playthroughs hinge on gimmick guns, and we have no idea what pointless weaponry Starfield will have. The cutter, a laser cannon used to mine resources, is my first port of call, but it seems a bit too conventional to be the basis of a restricted playthrough. And that’s my only real concern ahead of the new Starfield release date: will it be wacky enough to foster experimental builds? Todd Howard has already said the studio isn’t applying a “hard sci-fi approach” to Starfield, but it has neither Tamriel’s magic nor Fallout’s retrofuturism to make weirdness feel appropriate.
Will playthroughs in which you attempt to beat the game by only shouting at enemies or firing scrap at them with a glorified t-shirt cannon be possible? How about cannibal perks or being able to reverse-pickpocket poisoned apples? Usually, these seemingly trivial gameplay mechanics are what give Bethesda Game Studios titles their longevity. Here’s hoping Starfield will expand the possibilities far beyond anything we’ve seen in The Elder Scrolls or Fallout franchises.