Forget the galaxy, Starfield’s best moments take place close to home

From exploring the ruins of Earth to the iconic Moon landing, Starfield’s best open-world moments come from the familiar locales rather than the alien ones.

Starfield Earth landmarks history: Barrett looking ahead with images of the Mars Opportunity rover on the left, and Cape Canaveral on the right, overlaid with an image of an old map.

Despite its vast galaxy to explore, packed with fantastical planets populated with funky-looking (and often hostile) alien creatures and space-faring humans sailing the interstellar seas, I found Starfield to be rather lacking in evocative exploration. That was until I decided to head closer to home, where I found countless moments steeped in our history; as haunting as they are humbling. From forgotten landmarks to abandoned machinery, visiting historic locations in Starfield gave me a newfound appreciation for this Xbox exclusive.

With that said, it is rather ironic that Starfield and its 1,000 planets and their alien life are relatively mundane, with my interest turning much more in favor of the handful of remarkably intriguing planets in our own solar system, particularly Earth, the Moon, and Mars. Only when I dug deep into these familiar locations did I truly understand the appeal of this Xbox RPG – one of the best Xbox exclusives, in fact.

After spending countless hours ticking off the Starfield factions quests and setting up the best builds, I was almost ready to put the controller down for good. Unlike the highs of Skyrim (and other Bethesda RPGs), I couldn’t quite get immersed in Starfield, what with all the loading screens and lack of truly interesting things to find when traversing the countless sprawling alien planets. Before I called it quits, though, I couldn’t help but become a space tourist for a moment, recalling the museum tour in the UC Vanguard faction quest which mentioned how Earth was abandoned, leading to how the factions of Starfield came to be.

With newfound vigor, I made my way to Earth, expecting to find a The Last of Us-esque dilapidated city. When I set down and emerged from my ship onto the now-toxic soil, I was met, instead, by another barren wasteland. However, instead of turning straight back around and flying away, I walked. This was Earth, after all, even if it was now merely a sea of sand. After trekking seemingly for miles, I found, of all things, the ruins of the Great Pyramids of Giza; evidently, I’d touched down somewhere in Egypt. Having survived an already astonishing 4,500 years for us today, in Starfield, the pyramids have nearly all but crumbled, leaving only the base as a reminder nearly 5,000 years on. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the discovery.

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From here, I went on the hunt for more old-Earth landmarks, finding out that The Shard, the Empire State Building, the Burj Khalifa, and even the NASA Launch Tower at Cape Canaveral are all landmarks dotted around the sand-swamped Earth. That’s not all, heading to Mars, you can say hello to the Opportunity Rover which, despite having been dormant since 2018, has withstood the elements for over 300 years in Starfield’s futuristic setting. Likewise, heading to the Moon, you can visit the monumental Apollo 11 landing site, with the landing gear and the American flag still standing hundreds of years later.

If you’re in the know on the lore, then you’ll know that Earth in Starfield was devastated when the planet’s magnetosphere collapsed, leaving the atmosphere to almost completely dissipate into space. That means the humble limestone, granite, and more of the pyramids (and other Earth landmarks) survived not just thousands of years, but also an unprecedented natural disaster.

These are all feats of human ingenuity in their own right, from mega-structures on home soil to marvellous machinery that set down on other celestial bodies for the first time in human history. Starfield’s sci-fi setting, with ancient ‘alien’ ruins and far-flung planets, should have been riveting, yet visiting these historic human monuments were, by far, the most impactful moments of my playthrough.

While we hold so much pride in these monuments, they have since been all but forgotten by Starfield’s future humanity – with many more fictional feats having surpassed them. Exploring Earth and the various monuments on Mars and the Moon is as humbling as it is haunting in Starfield, with these renowned structures and moments trapped in time – almost lost completely in the rubble and dust. You’d think there would be a museum on the Moon to celebrate our first venture to another celestial body, or that humanity would have recovered the Mars rover given how important these moments and objects are to us today, yet they’re instead left alone. Though these locations aren’t all that big of a deal to Starfield’s future humanity, they’ve still withstood the test of time (and a cataclysmic event, in the case of Earth), giving us a sense of bittersweet pride when uncovering them for ourselves.

Though there are certainly great moments to be found when exploring the wacky wilds of the various, more fictitious and alien-infested planets of Starfield, none have resonated with me quite so much as the trip through our own history. While the game doesn’t make all that big of a deal out of these secret locations, it’s remarkable how effective their inclusion is.

So, hop in your trusty ship and take a trip, of all places, back home. If you’re looking for some of the best Starfield outpost locations, why not try rebuilding Earth? You could even make your own museum next to the Mars Opportunity rover using the Starfield outposts feature, celebrating the iconic rover in one of the best open world games out there.