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By Roland Moore-Colyer published 1 December 21
Starfield: It’s starting to look like Skyrim meets The Expanse
Update: Starfield’s music could be its killer feature — hear it in action.
There’s been a deluge of different sci-fi shows and movies over the past few years. From so-so enterprises like Netflix’s Star Trek Discovery, Another Life and Amazon’s Star Trek Picard, to stellar hits like Denis Villeneuve’s new Dune movie. But the standout sci-fi show for me has to be The Expanse.
Based on the hard sci-fi — whereby gravity and the laws of physics really matter — writing of James S. A. Corey’s (actually the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) Leviathan Wakes. The Expanse series made its debut in 2015 and won a cult fan following, thanks to its gritty realization of what life might be like if humanity managed to travel to the farthest reaches of the Solar System, yet didn't have the more traditional sci-fi tropes of faster-than-light travel or teleporters.
Rather than breeze around in futuristic onesies like the crew of the USS Enterprise, space-faring folks in The Expanse are clad in magnetic boots to stop them floating around in weightlessness. And when a spaceship like The Expanse’s hero craft, the Rocinante, engages its Epstein drive, the crew is injected with a cocktail of drugs shot into them to negate some of the dangerous effects of high-G "burns."
While this hits home the grim realities of space travel, it makes for interesting ship designs and maneuvers, as well as a deep plot of intrigue based around different factions fighting for status, resources, power and survival across the solar system. Yet, there’s also an alien element that feels seriously mysterious and otherworldly, that other sci-fi properties have, arguably, failed to convey.
As such, I’m a huge fan of the series, which is why I’m excited that Bethesda's Starfield has a whiff of The Expanse about it.
While The Expanse could make for a great game setting, I don't foresee any developers getting the licenses to do so, especially as the upcoming season of The Expanse will be its last. But going by Bethesda’s new Into the Starfield: The Endless Pursuit video, we might get a heady swirl of Skyrim exploration mixed in with a realistic sci-fi setting, which tickles my gaming fancy.
While the new video mostly features Bethesda boss Todd Howard and fellow developers discussing how they are approaching Starfield in terms of it being similar to Skyrim in scope, but grounded in more realism, a few new screenshots/artwork were showcased.
Take the screenshot below; it shows off an interior of what appears to be a spaceship. Rather than it being slathered in holographic displays and hissing sliding doors, it looks brutally functional.
Webbing is used to hold things in place, not some buzzing force field. And the walls are stuffed with details such as storage units, showing how in space, nobody has space to waste. I love the Normandy as a ship to explore in between mission in Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but this shot suggests there'll be masses of things to pour over in Starfield’s ships.
Flip over to the exterior and the below shot of a spaceship doesn't show of a sleek saucer or sharply angled craft, but rather one that could have been conceivable cooked up by both NASA and the ship designers of The Expanse.
It looks like function over form has been employed here, showing that spaceships need to be engineered to handle the rigors of space, not simply look cool when slipping between gas giants.
Again, this looks like a ship I would spend ages staring at in-game, sucking in all the details.
And in someway’s, that’s very much what I did with Skyrim. Only rather than pour over paneling and piping, I was drawn to the clusters of books, pots, goblets and other gubbins in the halls of various Jarls.
Another similarity to Skyrim can be seen in this final fresh screenshot above, in which a ship is framed against a sunset.
Skyrim has many a captivating sunset; it looked stunning back in 2011 and still rather good today. And I lost hours simply positioning my character's gaze so that I could then snap the perfect screenshot of a land bathed in the ruddy orange of a sinking sun.
And thanks to Amazon taking over The Expanse’s production and stopping it from being caned by SyFy, it also has some stunning visual flair and the odd captivating sunset; it’s space battles look epic too (opens in new tab) .
In short, Starfield may, and I stress may as we’ve not seen any proper game footage, be a heady mix of Expanse-inspired hard sci-fi and Skyrim exploration. If this is the case then, Nov. 22 of 2022 is set to be a very good time for me and fellow sci-fi fans; well, providing they can find an Xbox Series X restock.
Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.
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