Starfield, just like any Bethesda RPG, will certainly have a wide scope when it comes to player choice and morality. That’s a given. For every noble cause in games like Skyrim and Fallout 4, there are just as many sinister, cruel, and back-stabbing options too, and it would be an enormous surprise to not see that kind of range in Starfield.
However, settings like medieval kingdoms and post-apocalyptic wastelands lend themselves quite naturally to desperation, coldheartedness, and remorseless violence. So what about the depths of outer space? How evil can we truly be when the Starfield release date arrives later this year?
In Bethesda’s past work, you’ve been able to do some fairly messed up stuff. From emotionally wicked acts like extortion or betrayal, to cannibalism, to nuking entire settlements. Players also love a good old bloodthirsty playthrough where anyone that stands in your way will be on the receiving end of a battleaxe or bullet. There’s always been an abundance of ways to be evil.
While some of the Starfield planets are likely rife with bad actors and opportunities for you to be one as well, I have been wondering if the more exploratory, secrets-of-the-universe vibe we’ve been shown so far means we can’t be quite as brutal and heinous as we can be in Bethesda’s past work. Of course, even if it were to release as some E-rated, family-friendly jaunt through the solar system, some evil Starfield mods would probably sort that out fairly swiftly. But for the sake of this article, I’m talking about vanilla Starfield, and if Bethesda (not the modding community) will let me become the Darth Vader of its vast galaxy.
Let’s start with what we already know. Unless there’s some major plot twist, the most traditionally evil of the Starfield factions is probably the Crimson Fleet, which is essentially a group of space pirates. It’s been confirmed that you can join them as a member, so you’re probably going to get up to some unpleasantries with your pirate buddies if you side with them. Stealing, hijacking, some light murdering, that sort of thing.
Some of Starfield’s other factions also have potential for some sinister shenanigans. The two biggest groups, the Freestar Collective and the United Colonies, were previously at war with each other, so we might get dragged into a match of evil-deed-tennis between them. Also, the megacorp Ryujin Industries is in the game as a faction, and a megacorp doesn’t become a megacorp by playing fair.
However, Starfield’s lead quest designer Will Shen has said in a past developer diary that faction quest lines can be played “independently of each other”, claiming that things will operate a bit more like Skyrim than Fallout 4 where you could get locked out of a faction’s questline if you joined their rival.
This makes me a little concerned. While Shen does say that you’ll have plenty of influence over each faction’s story line, having them separated and (seemingly) not massively dependent or reactionary to one another, that probably takes a lot of truly evil things off the table. I want the option to wipe out factions altogether, not to just sit back and watch diplomacy take its course.
In the same dev diary though, Shen does say that at some stages in Starfield, you’ll decide if someone lives or dies – you don’t need me to explain why there’s potential for evilness there. But is that alone going to make you the galaxy’s most feared villain? Probably not.
When I was talking about wanting to be the Darth Vader of Starfield, I wasn’t merely making a space-themed joke – this Redditor is clearly on my wavelength. Can you build some Death Star-esque super weapon and go about blowing up some of Starfield’s many planets? I’m sure key hubs and larger planets would be safe from this, but please Bethesda, let me blow up a planet. Even just a small one. Please. Fallout 3’s Mothership Zeta DLC lets you fire a somewhat less powerful death ray at Earth, so I’m going to feel robbed if I can’t do this in an actual space game.
I’m sure there will be lots of the usual Bethesda evilness by way of its trademark dialogue and looting systems – betrayal, withholding information, extortion, theft, and the like. But in a setting as vast as space, there are so many more opportunities to make this the most evil Bethesda game yet. While I am incredibly excited for the exploration side of Starfield, I am equally curious to see if it will become a barrier to expanding on our player’s morality (or immorality, in this case).
Yes, someone will probably mod that Death Star I want into the game quicker than you can say ‘Todd, give me a space laser’, but in a game of Starfield’s scale, I’d love to see Bethesda itself push player agency to its limits.