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What is Starfield about? Story explained

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Starfield is an epic game in every sense of the word, from scale, to spectacle, to story. Typical of a Bethesda title, the game offers a rich world to delve into, packed with feuding factions and ancient mysteries, which often unravel differently based on your choices as a player. But just what is Starfield about, at its core? What are the central story beats and core conflicts you’ll be dealing with as you grav drive your way through its scattered systems? This article will explain it all.

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Starfield’s story, explained

Part 1 – Background setup

Before we get to the events of the game proper, we should establish the background history of the world Starfield takes place in. Starfield is set in a futuristic version of our own universe, where in the year 2100 humanity began living in space, developing grav drive technology that allowed for extremely fast space travel. Around 2150, the Earth’s magnetosphere began to weaken, forcing everyone to flee into space before the planet was destroyed by solar radiation. For this purpose, the United Colonies, one of the major factions in the Starfield world, was formed.

After successfully transporting the population of Earth into the stars, the United Colonies established the Centauris Proclamation: a formal framework that allowed humans to establish new settlements and factions on other planets. Many factions were formed as a result of this proclamation, but most notable among them were the Freestar Collective, a libertarian faction focused on individual rights, and House Va’Ruun, a religious sect who believed that the Great Serpent would one day return and wipe out any non-believers in a rapture-like event.

What Is Starfield About Story Explained Body 1

Image: Bethesda Softworks

Growing tensions between the different factions in the galaxy inevitably led to conflict. The United Colonies and the Freestar Collective became locked in the Colony War: a war which, due to the use of ground troops, warships, and local wildlife, came to be the most brutal war in humanity’s history. House Va’Ruun also began the Serpent’s Crusade, a major war in which they attempted to spread their religion by force among all the other factions of the Settled Systems.

Both of these conflicts eventually ran their course, and the galaxy settled into an uneasy peace. In the years that followed, many new factions, including UC Vanguard and Constellation, were formed. Time passed, and life went on as it is wont to do. In the year 2330, the events of Starfield begin.

Part 2 – Main story

The player enters the turbulent world of Starfield as a humble miner: a new recruit for the Argos Extractors company. As they carry out their mundane work they stumble upon a powerful artifact, which draws the attention of the Crimson Fleet, the galaxy’s largest space pirate faction. After fighting them off and protecting the artifact the player is taken to meet with Constellation, an organization dedicated to exploring the galaxy and uncovering its myriad mysteries. They turn over the artifact, and are recruited into a quest to hunt down others of its like: a quest that will, ultimately, define the majority of Starfield’s story.

After a few successful missions, and a few artifacts claimed, the player visits the city of Neon with Walter Stroud, in search of another artifact. During the mission, they’re attacked by a mysterious character known as a ‘Starborn’, who attempts to take the artifact from you. The player escapes, but upon reporting their encounter to Constellation they discover that even they don’t know anything about this enigmatic foe.

What Is Starfield About Story Explained Body 3

Image: Bethesda Softworks

The Starborn continue to attack the player as they hunt down more artifacts, culminating in a Starborn known as The Hunter commandeering known as The Eye, a Constellation star station, and attempting to take the artifacts back by force. The ensuing mission results in the death of a Constellation crew member, but in the process The Hunter accidentally lets slip some clues as to the function of the artifacts, specifically the words ‘Armillary’ and ‘Unity.’

The player then goes on a pilgrimage to speak to members of the three major religious groups in the galaxy, The House of Enlightenment, The Sanctum Universum, and House Va’Ruun, in the hopes of learning the secrets of Unity. This search leads the player to Hyla 2, where they encounter The Hunter again, this time accompanied by another Starborn called The Emissary. The pair are revealed to be alternate universe versions of the crew member who died previously, and Keeper Aquilas, who sent you out on your pilgrimage in the first place. They reveal that they became Starborn by entering the Unity in their own universes, and that in order to reach the Unity you need to assemble the Armillary using all of the artifacts.

What Is Starfield About Story Explained Body 2

Image: Bethesda Softworks

The player then visits Earth, now a barren wasteland due to the loss of its magnetosphere, in search of another artifact. While there they discover that the grav drive technology that enabled mankind’s rapid interplanetary expansion was fueled by an artifact discovered on Mars, and that the same technology was also responsible for the destruction of the magnetosphere as well. Returning to the stars, the player learns of the differing philosophies The Hunter and The Emissary have when it comes to the artifacts. The Emissary believes that the destruction of Earth was a huge mistake, and seeks to gather the artifacts so they can regulate their use and avoid such catastrophes in future. The Hunter believes it was worth it for the huge expansion it enabled, and seeks the artifacts for his own personal gain. At this point, the player is asked to align themselves with one or the other, or neither.

Regardless of their decision, the player ends up at the Buried Temple, where the final artifact resides. After fighting their way through waves of Starborn, and either The Hunter or the Emissary depending on their choices, they retrieve the final artifact, complete the Armillary, and gain access to the Unity. Here, they meet an alternate universe version of themselves, who offers them the choice of entering the Unity and becoming Starborn, or leaving and returning to their normal universe. Choosing the former will cause the player to enter Starfield’s version of New Game +, while choosing the latter will allow them to live on in their original universe.

And there you have it: a full explanation of what Starfield’s story is about. It’s a rich tale, with a lot of twists and wrinkles we haven’t covered here, and it’s one that’s well worth immersing yourself in if you’re a fan of space epics, Bethesda’s signature style of storytelling, or both.


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Author
Nathan Ball
Nathan Ball is a freelance games writer with a deep love for the medium. Having studied Game Design at the University of Abertay, Dundee, he's always on the lookout for games that push the envelope and try out fresh and exciting design techniques. You can usually find him covering the latest indie gems, but he does dabble in the world of AAA from time to time as well. Nathan has written professionally for various outlets, including TheGamer and the Scottish Games Network. When not writing, he enjoys good books, good TV, and analysing both within an inch of their life.