Everything we learned from the Starfield Direct

From story and ship customization to combat and romance, let's break down that Starfield Direct.

Xbox Game Studios

The Xbox Games Showcase was followed by the Starfield Direct, which gave us an in-depth look at what Bethesda Game Studios is cooking up for its highly-anticipated RPG. It featured a swath of new information about the game, so let’s talk about everything we learned from the Starfield Direct.

Character creation and abilities

A list of character backgrounds in Starfield's character creator.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

Starfield’s character creator features a plethora of options (body, face, hair, etc.) to fine tune your character’s physical appearance, but the Background and Traits will truly define who you are. The background you select will give you three starting skills, which will apply to various narrative and combat situations.

For example, a character with the Hero Worshiped Trait is frequently approached by an adoring fan. While they may be annoying, you can hire this fan and add them to your ship’s crew. Periodically, they’ll give you gifts. A player with the Serpent’s Embrace trait is stopped near an asteroid field by a group of hostels, but because they’re of the same religion, the group lets them pass without any conflict. Bethesda emphasized that players will never know when certain Backgrounds, Traits, and Skills will come in handy.

Ship customization and crew management

A ship-building screenshot in Starfield.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

The developers dove further into Starfield’s ship customization. You can build your ship from the ground-up, placing and designing everything from the cockpit and cargo holds to the weapons, engine, and landing gear. You can also purchase ships from ship technicians, customizing them to your liking. You can alter their color and move around their parts to give them distinct looks. One developer shared that she made all her ships look like animals, including a platypus and a spider. Whether you want a small, fast build for combat and bounty hunting, or a massive freighter for cargo-hauling and smuggling, Starfield sports a range of options.

Interior ship customization allows you to add areas for crafting, storage, weapon display, and more. There are living quarters, mess halls, cargo holds, and control rooms.

While you’re free to roam space and fly around manually, you can also jump from system to system. However, you’ll need to perform upgrades on your ship in order to jump larger distances. While docked on a planet, your ship serves as a permanent fast-travel point.

You can hire a crew to help operate your ship. These can be members of Constellation, who all have their own unique backgrounds and skills that will aid you in your endeavors. Additional crew members can be hired at space ports, or discovered on various planets. In the crew menu, players can assign their crew members to different ships and outposts. Some members of your crew will have their own side stories and missions that can be done at your leisure.

Crew members can also be taken out into the field and serve as a companion on missions. We see players taking a robotic companion with them on a mission, and the robot actually says the player’s name (Captain Howard, in this instance).

Ship combat and piracy

A ship docked below an enemy ship in space.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

When you’re fighting in space, you’ll have to manage Starfield’s power allocation system in order for your ship to perform at its highest efficiency. For example, a ship may have a total of 14 power. That power can be divided between lasers, ballistics, missiles, energy, grav drives, and shields. Depending on what you emphasize, your ship will be prepared for a number of potential scenarios.

When you destroy a hostile ship, you can hit a button to quickly loot it of any valuables as you fly by. You can also dock your ship and board the enemy vessel, rummaging through every single piece of loot inside, and getting up close and personal with surviving members of its crew. Once you take control of an enemy ship—it’s yours—and you can take it to a port and add it to your fleet.

Not everyone in space is immediately hostile. There are battleships to dock on and explore, cruise ships filled with the galaxy’s wealthiest, and random ships to trade with.


A staple of Bethesda RPGs, in Starfield, you will be able to build relationships with NPCs that eventually blossom into romance. During the Direct, we see a cutscene of a player character confessing his love to one of his companions.

Planet-scanning and Outposts

A planet's resources listed after being scanned.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

When you scan a planet, you’ll get a read of all its conditions and available resources, giving you an idea of what to expect before you land. These resources will be necessary for crafting and performing upgrades on your ship and weapons. While there are a handful of hand-designed planets in Stafield, a lot of them will be procedurally generated as players explore the galaxy.

You’re free to create an Outpost nearly anywhere you’d like on the planets you discover. This can be done from a top-down isometric builder POV, or in first-person. Assigned crew members will remain at the Outpost and farm resources and materials from nearby wildlife and plants. Outposts can also be outfitted with Research Laboratories, where you can uncover new craftables in Pharmacology, Food & Drink, Outpost Development, Equipment, and Weaponry.

New cities

The city of Neon in Starfield.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

We already knew about New Atlantis, Starfield’s largest city and home to Constellation, a space exploration group that players will join as part of the main story, but this showcase gave us a glimpse at some of the other cities and towns we’ll discover during our travels. This includes Akila City, capital of the Free Star Collective. There is also Neon, a flashy town described as a fishing city turned pleasure destination. Other notable locations include Red Mile and The Key, home to some of Starfield’s dangerous factions.

Combat and weapon customization

An SMG in the weapon's menu.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

Starfield’s combat primarily revolves around the use of firearms and explosives, but Bethesda showed off the system’s death during an extended gameplay look. Whether it be a pistol, rifle, submachine gun, or rocket launcher, weapons can be outfitted with unique attachments (suppressor, explosive rounds, large magazines, etc.) that alter rate of fire, damage, and damage type. You can even opt for a melee build, using your fists to deliver devastating blows that send enemies flying.

Jetpacks and planet gravity

A player flying with a jetpack.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

Every planet in Starfield has a unique gravity level; some will feel so floaty that you feel like you’re flying, while others will be much more grounded. Luckily, the jetpack will allow you to temporarily boost through the sky and/or strafe around during combat.

DLC story expansion

A graphic of pre-order bonuses for Starfield.

Source: Xbox Game Studios

In a graphic detailing all of Starfield’s flashy pre-order bonuses, it was revealed that the game will be receiving at least one story expansion post-launch. It’s called Shattered Space, and will be granted at no additional charge to players who purchase the Constellation Edition or Premium Edition of Starfield.

That’s everything we learned from the Starfield Direct. The game is set to launch on September 6, 2023, for Xbox Series X/S and PC. For everything that was revealed during the 2023 Xbox Games Showcase, Shacknews has all the details.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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