During the Xbox Bethesda Showcase, nothing held my attention more than our first look at the Starfield character creator. In the upcoming spacefaring adventure, Bethesda promises that you can “create any character you want”, and such a prospect speaks directly to my RPG-loving heart. I’ve always felt that being able to customize and personalize a protagonist of your very own makes the experience of diving into a virtual world that much more immersive. In past ‘Into the Starfield’ updates, Bethesda put a lot of emphasis on us being able to tell a story of our own, and as Todd Howard went on to highlight at the close of the recent Xbox and Bethesda event, that “starts with character creation”.
In what Howard claimed is going to be Bethesda Game Studios’ “most flexible” character creator yet, we got to see a host of different options that will be available to us to make our own adventurer in space. It’s fantastic to see lots of choices to personalize the look of our character, but my excitement grew tenfold when I saw that we’ll be able to choose our backgrounds and traits in Starfield as well.
There’s a clear variety of Starfield backgrounds on offer with set starting skills, as well as optional traits that will give you unique advantages and disadvantages in the game – these features will ultimately work to flesh out our characters and add some additional personality. While we didn’t get to see the ins and outs of every different background in this first look at the Starfield character creator, I already know that I’m going to sink a considerable amount of time into it as I try to shape my character and story.
Just because Starfield has 1000 planets doesn’t mean it’ll have 1000 planets worth of content
Backgrounds and traits are certainly not unique to Starfield, but I’m more than happy to see them included to bring a little bit of added depth to character creation. Some of my all-time favorite RPGs start off with you choosing a background to give some context to the past experiences of the protagonist, and I’ve always loved this aspect of the genre – it allows me to get a feel for the character I’m becoming before I’ve even really started.
Dragon Age: Origins is a great example, since you choose your own race and origin and then the opening of the game will play out differently depending on the character you’ve created. When it comes to creating your profile in Mass Effect, there’s also a similar feature where you can select from three different pre-service history records that paint a picture of Shepard’s life before they joined the Alliance military. This choice also added to the sense of immersion and role-playing since your service history is referenced in different scenarios throughout the main campaign.
In Starfield, the backgrounds appear to highlight past experiences and areas of interest or expertise. This is then reflected in the starting skills you have, which give you special bonuses, perks, or buffs. One example shown during the gameplay segment was a Diplomat. “The wars are over. Peace now reigns the settled systems,” the background description begins. “But only because there are those quietly fighting to keep it. Because of you, agreements were signed, words were heeded… lives were spared.” Should you choose to have the Diplomat as your past history, you’ll be a capable speaker with skills such as Persuasion that gives you an increased chance of success in “speech challenges”, Diplomacy which allows you to force a lower level enemy NPC to stop fighting for a while, and Bargaining which bags you a discount when buying items and a higher percentage of earnings when you sell. An NPC even remarks on this particular background during the gameplay, which may suggest that this aspect of our character might influence how others view us.
Starfield traits, on the other hand, add some additional personality and flavor to the mix with some rather quirky advantages and disadvantages. ‘Kid Stuff’, for example, is a trait that means your parents are alive and you can even go and visit them, but you send 10% of any earnings you make directly to them. Being an introvert stood out to me personally because of the mention of companions – you’ll have more endurance while adventuring alone, and less when you have human companions by your side. While we didn’t get to see Extrovert, it may well apply in the opposite way. There are even some rather unusual traits like Serpents Embrace where you’re said to have been raised worshiping “the great Serpent”, and as such, you need to grav jump frequently. We’ll no doubt get more context in the future, but this early look does give a solid sense of how much depth Bethesda is providing for those who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to truly role-play in this universe. .
The traits immediately brought to mind Fallout: New Vegas. Developer Obsidian Entertainment included a number of different options that also worked in much the same way, with optional traits that altered certain aspects of your character and gave you different advantages or disadvantages. Four Eyes is one example that comes to mind, which increases your perception as long as you’re always wearing glasses. It was always fun to have the option to add certain traits to your character build if you were looking to add an additional challenge or play in a certain way to make the most of any particular advantages they offer. For me, they also add to the role-playing aspect of an RPG, since they bring an extra bit of character to a protagonist you’ve created.
There’s been a lot of discussions this week around the size and scope of Bethesda’s new RPG. Starfield fans are divided on whether having 1,000 planets is a good thing, others are contemplating how involved space exploration will be after Howard confirmed we can’t freely roam the universe, and some are still just trying to wrap their head around the No Man’s Sky comparisons. I do share similar concerns about just how big it’s promising to be, but I’m excited to see how characters will develop in this world Bethesda has created – both in terms of the skills we can upgrade, and the choices we make along the way. There’s a lot to talk and think about in Starfield, but right now I can’t help but imagine all of the time I’m going to sink into that character creator.
Check out our roundup of all of the most exciting Starfield gameplay features shown during the showcase.