- Starfield and Star Wars: Outlaws are among the few games with a high focus on space exploration and traversal.
- The two games are bringing a creative space sandbox to explore, endless voids of space with meaningful content, and countless planets mixing a scripted and procedural generation approach.
- The concepts look extremely promising and if executed with perfection, are sure to gather even more hype and inspire future titles.
2023 looks to be an enormous year for gaming, with many excellent upcoming titles. Among these are two massive space exploration games ready to boost the genre. First is Starfield, Bethesda’s next major undertaking. From the creative developers of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout comes an RPG of unreal proportions, taking you on a journey across the endless reaches of space.
Next is Star Wars: Outlaws, another epic addition to the games of one of the most beloved franchises. The game is Ubisoft‘s attempt at a creative open world aiming to provide fans the freedom to explore this beautiful setting. It seems to bring unique gameplay mechanics and a solid world design. Because of that, the game’s reveal during the Xbox showcase effectively stole the show despite it being filled with exciting announcements.
Few Sci-fi Games Feature True Space Exploration
Space exploration has always been a fascinating concept. Space is a great mystery to us. A high degree of uncertainty is associated with even what we know. And the unbelievably vast expanse could hold things beyond our imaginations. This raises enormous curiosity to discover as much as possible, which also aligns perfectly with the human desire of seeking the unknown. Precisely why Starfield and Star Wars: Outlaws are so hyped.
Since we can’t just go out, hop in a spaceship and go adventuring, games became the perfect medium to fulfill the fantasy of exploring different planets. Thus, space and sci-fi genres found solid ground in gaming medium and have been considerably popular. Still, most games possessing a sci-fi setting are generally focused on designing unique planets to immerse the players, not space traversal.
Instead of being a true sandbox, space games are generally non-linear worlds on an alien planet and allow travel among them. Multiple examples can be provided for this concept. First, take a look at Mass Effect, BioWare’s massive sci-fi RPG series, whose hints can be seen in Starfield too. The games have multiple different planets to explore with RPG elements and dialogue-driven encounters but are more story and combat focused.
Similarly, Ratchet and Clank is an excellent example of a creative space setting. With its unique animated-style graphics, the loveable duo and a bunch of interesting characters, many unique planets, and the straight-up hilarious weapons to make a mockery of your foes, the series is loads of fun. The latest entry – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is making its way to PC and could also pave the way for more ports.
As Star Wars: Outlaws is in the discussion, it’s imperative to mention the prior entries, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Survivor. Fallen Order was a surprise hit from EA, bringing excellent souls-like combat, iconic enemies from the franchise, a meaningful story, and good exploration mechanics. Survivor took the formula to perfection with iconic locations albeit restricted, and an intense action focus.
Just beat Jedi Survivor.
I’ve played a couple of great games this year but this one is my GOTY so far.
I couldn’t stop playing and the story is so good. I love Respawn. I love Star Wars. And I love BD-1. pic.twitter.com/1pnK83Vom9
— Kate — taking photos of Spider-Man (@kaytanaa) May 14, 2023
Though fabulous space games with exciting worlds to explore, they are fairly restricted to their standard progression. The focus is to further the plot while hunting for supplies and collectibles in a unique world. However, it’s not like we are completely devoid of games with space traversal. The foremost example is No Man’s Sky.
After a troubled launch, No Man’s Sky remained infested with problems for quite some time before making a complete comeback. The game is one of the few space sandboxes that allow seamless traversal from planets to space. You can freely explore the massive but distinct planets to discover secrets, scavenge resources to upgrade your ship, and then take up to the vast space which can be freely traversed in range of the planet.
FTL travel allows movements between different systems, and after regaining control you can freely drive your spaceship through the planet’s atmosphere and manually land it, truly an exquisite experience. No Man’s Sky is one of the few RPGs that provide the true space exploration experience, and it was also the first to be compared to Starfield upon its reveal.
Similarly, certain other games feature vast expanses of space in their full glory. These include EVE online, an MMORPG comprising a whopping 7800 systems, and a full-on space life simulator with more than 20 years of runtime now. Moreover, Star Citizen is still in its beta phases and is a multiplayer RPG with a political approach and increased focus on space battles. And now we have Starfield and Star Wars: Outlaws ready to bring quality content to the genre.
Starfield and Star Wars: Outlaws Could Be The Prime Space Adventures
Although games with extensive space travel and exploration focus do exist, they are in limited numbers and not widely recognized. If the topic of discussion is sci-fi and space-setting games, surely a lot of names will pop up. But discuss gigantic space sandboxes and many gamers will only be able to name a handful of titles. Therefore, I believe these upcoming big releases are sure to turn the genre around and define its future.
When Bethesda first revealed the setting and concept of Starfield, it felt like an enormous undertaking. A rich RPG with complete freedom to traverse the endless void and 100 different systems and 1000 planets – it was all so unreal. The formula would require extreme dedication and perfect execution since a world of this scale could also end up a total mess. Moreover, it’s also the perfect opportunity to clear Bethesda’s repute of buggy releases.
The extensive Starfield Direct managed to clear up many of the concerns, as the game is shaping up to be a treat. First of all, Starfield’s immense freedom is reflected in your character and personal belongings. Sure the character creation is extremely detailed, but the true perfection is the ability to customize your home – the spaceship. With control over the tiniest of details, you can even create crazy monstrosities and wacky combos if you so desire.
Next, we have two different types of planets. The important locations and hubs are creatively designed concerning the story and feature original, scripted locations you’ll frequently visit. But for the majority of uncharted planets, the game procedurally generates rich worlds filled with exotic creatures and resources as you select them and effectively randomizes the generation to ensure each voyage feels distinct.
Although there is no seamless planet-to-space travel, its absence can be compensated with refined world design. The “space” and the “planet” will be treated as two distinct worlds, so instead of spending resources on connecting them, they can be used to polish and enrich these separate worlds with loads to discover. And all this is just a few of the enormous details Starfield is packing. It’s going to be one hell of an adventure if done right.
Not just Starfield, we also have Star Wars: Outlaws to look forward to. When it was first revealed, I admit I was a lot skeptical since it is an open-world game for Ubisoft. Ubisoft’s monotonous open-world formula comprising similar tasks and checklists with no originality was a cause of concern. However, it seems Stars Wars: Outlaws is staying far away from that formula and could be Ubisoft’s redemption.
Instead of superficial checklists and tasks, the open world seems a lot more in-depth and meaningful now. In addition, you’re given the freedom to approach a scenario however you like, and your dialogues and interactions have a considerable effect on how the game plays out. This conditional and consequential open-world design is a breath of fresh air and I think it has the potential to be one of Ubisoft’s best works.
Alongside a more impactful open world comes the freedom to delve into this highly beloved fantasy world and explore its corners. The game has a strong focus on exploration, as you can seamlessly travel from planet to space, and even the seemingly empty voids have a lot to discover. You can travel around as an outlaw, interact with iconic characters on their homeworlds, and have intense dogfights in your spaceship.
Both Starfield and Star Wars: Outlaws seem to be taking space exploration to the next level. You are presented with a gigantic sci-fi world and given extensive control. Explore the far reaches of the galaxy, visit different star systems and planets, interact with the habitants or scavenge for resources, and take your spaceship to battle your adversaries in the endless void – it all seems like a grand journey filled with excitement.
Space Exploration Has A Bright Future
Starfield is a massive sandbox set in an original setting, aiming to provide the freedom to explore, craft, and create your personalized playstyle. On the other hand, Star Wars: Outlaws is connected to the gigantic franchise and is more leaned towards an accurate recreation and exploration of this sci-fi setting. Although both games are fundamentally different in concepts, it’s undeniable that they’re bringing novelty to how space traversal is depicted.
As mentioned earlier, we have no shortage of games utilizing the space setting, but the way these two upcoming titles are handling this approach is something that’s both extremely diverse and also requires considerable care. With the promise of such vast adventures comes the risk that it might turn out to be a repetitive experience with a little amount of original content. That is the last thing fans would want and might hurt the reception.
Instead of individual secluded worlds and just the ability to explore these pre-determined paths, the new approach leaves a lot in the hands of the player. You can visit distinct planets with unique biomes, or just take your spaceship to cruise around in space. Interact with the many inhabitants, accept cross-planetary quests, form friendly or conflicting relationships, and see the outcomes of your decisions unravel in front of you.
All these concepts sound extremely pleasing on paper, all that remains is to see how these games handle the execution. If it all fits perfectly together, they will surely garner a ton more hype and following, and this idea can inspire the creation of a lot more future titles focused on depicting space as a creative and fun sandbox rather than just a background setting for the main adventure.
Starfield arrives for Xbox Series X|S and PC on September 6, 2023. And Star Wars: Outlaws releases in 2024 for the same lot.
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