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Why labelling Starfield as ‘No Man’s Skyrim’ is all wrong, and how it aspires to be a much different gaming experience

They may both be open-world space RPG’s, but Starfield looks to be no No Man’s Sky.

After the exciting principle reveal of Starfield at the Microsoft/Bethesda showcase last weekend (Sunday June 12th), there has been a revived interest in Bethesda’s newest game release once again. Now due for release in early 2023, revealed footage of official gameplay at the event has finally revealed key details about the game Bethesda had previously been keeping very close to their chest. However, a reddit user has referenced the similarities between features of the unveiled gameplay and another popular space themed game No Man’s Sky. The popularity of this thread has led to an admittedly witty nickname, ‘No Man’s Skyrim’.

Although some key features of both games do clearly share some similarities with each other; those believing Starfield to be a repeat to what has already been done previously are maybe missing the finer details of the game. Here is our interpretation of what will make Starfield a unique space game experience.

No Man's Sky vs No Man's Skyrim

Why is Starfield being called ‘No Man’s Skyrim’?

Obviously the main attraction of this nickname is mostly humorous because of some clever wordplay. However let’s talk through how the games admittedly do seem similar to begin with.

Firstly, simply… Starfield is set in space

Any open-world space explorer released these days would likely be compared to No Man’s Sky. Starfield simply being released subsequently is enough in itself to draw comparisons. Bethesda have been developing the game for at least 7 years now. Meaning many of the ideas and themes are likely to cross naturally. In the same way that Star Wars and Star Trek individually are very different franchises, and yet they both contain space travel and alien life forms. No one fan of either however would likely suggest these movie franchises are the same. And it is the same for No Man’s Sky vs Starfield.

Starfield will employ some of the latest technology in-game development. Both games can only exist now due to progression in technology which allows such expansive space genres to be possible. Therefore each being released within a few years of each other, both with comparable playable characteristics, doesn’t seem surprising. Mashing one popular space franchise with the anticipated release of another was always likely to happen.

Many fans still expect Skyrim in space

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim being one of Bethesda’s best performing releases (and considered by many as a popular classic), is to many fans, Bethesda’s most recognized identity. Pitching Starfield as a space version of Skyrim therefore is a likely preconception for people the most familiar with the Elder Scrolls franchise…. And prompting more the ‘No Man’s Skyrim’ moniker.

There are many elements which likely overlap with the two Bethesda games. Character creation for example. The recent showcase previewed a glimpse of what seemed very similar to Skyrim’s lock-picking interface. Both involve open world exploration. And a likely rich storyline involving the backstory of many interactive NPCs. Very much similar to Skyrim in a number of ways. Some are also making many references to some of Skyrim’s famous lore. Asking will the planet of Nirn be making an appearance for example; including the continent of Tamriel?

Starfield lockpicking similar to Skyrim UI
Starfield lock-picking seems familiar…
(Image Credits: Bethesda ‘Starfield gameplay’)

However many similarities Starfield shares with Skyrim, there will likely be a great many differences too. Starfield has been built on an entirely new game engine, a successor to Bethesda’s previous engine now named the Creation Engine 2. We are likely to see a bunch of new functionality and feel to the game mixed in with some previous and improved features from other Bethesda releases. Not to mention that the difference in genre encourages Starfield to include game attributes that would not appear in its other franchises.

Shots of mineral mining felt very familiar for NMS veterans

Any gamer who spent a fair amount of time on No Man’s Sky won’t forget collecting resources constantly with your mining beam any time soon. A central focus of the game, almost no objectives could be complete without mining resources first. Wether it was oxygen for your suit, fuel for your ship, or materials for building and crafting. Every aspect of the game was touched by mining related activities.

Therefore the site of a mining laser in the recent Starfield gameplay teaser felt all too familiar. The brief clip previewed the player aiming some sort of a gun at a rock within a cave. (see the side-by-side comparison below) The HUD identifying the mineral as iron; even labelling its atomic symbol beside it. Other identifiers displayed included evidence of a scanner to locate local resources. Including a percentage count of fauna and flora within scanning range. The similarities between the two games are almost unbelievable, and it makes the No Man’s Skyrim reference all the clearer. This obviously will be an element of both games that could be very much alike.

Starfield vs No Man's Sky mining simulation
No Man’s Sky vs Starfield’s mining simulation
(Image Credits: No Man’s Sky gameplay; Bethesda ‘Starfield gameplay’)

The sheer size of the universe Starfield will inhabit

Todd Howard revealed as part of the Bethesda showcase, that Starfield will include over one-thousand planets in more than one-hundred systems as part of Starfield’s explorable universe. The exploration experience has been described as vast; with little limitations. Players will be able to explore every inch of any available planet. It is estimated that Starfield’s map size could be 10,000,000 times larger than Fallout 76. Which is already four times the size of Skyrim.

Playable areas within open-world games have been growing bigger and more complex year by year. No Man’s Sky was one of the most recent attempts to create a space explorer which was vaster than ever seen before. With an estimated 18 quintillion unique planets for players to visit. It is a game which truly challenged the scope of an explorable universe. Starfield’s 1,000 planets may not be anywhere near in volume by direct comparison. But its ambition to grow compared to the scope of previous Bethesda games, still shows a similar ambition to No Man’s Sky nevertheless.

No Man’s Skyrim isn’t fitting for Starfield’s reality

Starfield is likely to have much more to offer than people have initially anticipated. For instance, the shot of the planet ‘Jemison’ hints at game elements yet to be discussed by Bethesda officially. The survey of the planet contain dimensions including “type”, “gravity”, “water”. If these classes of planet exist, does it mean there may be some planets which are not necessarily rock based? Maybe a gas type instead. Could gravity be considerably different across the planets and systems? Would this mean a player could ‘drift off’ without aid to keep them attached to the surface? Or could the pull of gravity be so strong it could weaken or even kill a player? Would gravity on each planet affect in-game time? And if water is not ‘biological’…. what type of water is it?

Obviously these details are yet to be revealed in full at all. But all of these factors were explored minimally in No Man’s Sky and for some not at all. And they were definitely not explored in Skyrim. So how you can you really compare either of these games at all?

In game shot of Starfield, scanning planet Jemison
Scan of planet ‘Jemison’, in-game footage
(Image Credits: Bethesda ‘Starfield gameplay’)

Bethesda are pro’s at offering high quality roleplaying

Bethesda have been churning out high quality RPG’s for over 25 years now. Creating many admired worlds and fantasies for gamers to experience. It is no surprise that they have allegedly concentrated heavily on Starfield’s narrative and storyline. It’s been no secret that the sheer amount of voice work needed for game dialogue has pushed Bethesda’s boundaries. But promise of a mysterious main quest, various factions and groups including Constellation, the United Colonies, Freestar Collective and the Crimson Fleet, all suggest a wide and engaging narrative throughout the game.

By comparison, No Man’s Sky was limited in that regard. Many players, although enjoying elements of the game, described the storyline as much to be desired. A game like Starfield promises high quality depth and commitment to forming its worlds and purpose, through Bethesda’s heritage alone. Setting it apart from other games of a similar kind.

Ship building will be included

One of the more desirable components to be unfortunately missing from No Man’s Sky was the ability to customise your players ship. Whereas this is the very thing Starfield has promised to deliver; including both exterior and interior design and layout. For any space themed enthusiast who has considered themselves a fan of any space age fantasy… this is possibly the most dominant of abilities include within a space RPG. Who doesn’t want to fully customise the ship they get to fly around the galaxy in?

Off the back of containing small building elements within previous Bethesda releases. Most notably Fallout 4 and the expanded version of that in Fallout 76. Starfield may have a much greater player customization than has been seen previously. Adding to the role-playing concept, what could be more personalized to you and your player than totally customizing the design, look and feel of what the player owns and interacts with along the way. We have been told that there will include the ability to construct bases/outposts in locations of our choosing. Yet this level of customization could include personal items, weapons and companions as well.

Modding could turn Starfield into a whole new game!

Bethesda have encouraged modding for their games since The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which included a downloadable construction kit. Since then, modding can be found for practically all of their game releases; predominately created by amateurs, fans and third parties. Some have even been officially adopted into their future games and releases. It is not surprising that modding for Starfield has already been officially announced. And with so much freedom and space already built into the game, it will be easy for modders to add their own settlements/cities and landscapes for additional game interactivity. This could turn Starfield into a completely different game altogether. And keep Starfield as relevant for years to come with continuing success. Much in the way modding has done for Skyrim…. Maybe some will create a No Man’s Skyrim after all.

NMS was procedurally generated like Starfield…. but Starfield could be more hand-crafted

Although Bethesda have not explained the processes for how Starfield has been developed, considering its growth in amount of content, it is assumed large aspects of the game have been procedurally generated. This isn’t usually problematic, as many Bethesda releases (and all video games themselves these days) use procedurally generated elements to create large environments of the game.

However, No Man’s Sky was almost entirely procedurally generated. This gave the game the impression of massive scale, however also a lot of repetition and ’empty’ space. The hope is that Starfield wont be employing as much of the same for their many worlds. Again committing to Bethesda’s history of design and detail in their games, it is expected that although some aspects of the game could be ‘barren’ and minimal, there will still be much manually developed content for players to interact with. And therefore provide a more personable feel than No Man’s Sky had to offer.

The final thoughts regarding Starfield’s aspirations (is it really a No Man’s Skyrim)

Whether you are a skeptic or not, I think there is plenty of evidence from what we’ve seen so far that Starfield will be more than a joker’s ‘No Man’s Skyrim’. A game which shows Bethesda’s clear progression since Skyrim’s release over 10 years ago. And a game with potentially more depth and narrative than No Man’s Sky, even if it doesn’t quite meets its potential of scale.

Sure there will be familiar elements from Bethesda’s other franchises. The format could mirror The Elder Scrolls. The combat will likely show a similarity to Fallout. But Bethesda have spent a long time working on this new title. And from what they have shown so far, have not only thought very carefully about the elements to include to make Starfield a great space explorer worthy of the genre. But a great standalone game in its own right as well.

Written for www.starfieldguide.com. Starfield Guide is a fan run unofficial guide site about Bethesda’s game Starfield. You can tweet us @GuideStarfield, or you can follow our official Facebook, Instagram and YouTube Channel.

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Are you expecting a No Man’s Skyrim? Are you hyped instead to see what Starfield will truly have to offer? – Let us know in the comments below.

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