Forget Character Customisation, I’m Going All In On Starfield’s Ship Builder
If Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, Starfield is the game that ships a thousand planets. Whether you think that’s an exciting thing or a worrying thing ultimately doesn’t matter – we’re all going to play the new Bethesda game. What does matter, however, is how you explore them. And I’m going to do it in style.
Character creators are great. Well, some are. TheGamer’s editor-in-chief Stacey Henley believes that the Boss Factory in Saints Row is the best one yet, but it needs to be backed up by the gameplay. I’m excited to make some weirdo in Starfield so I can look at their back for a hundred hours and recoil when I remember how horrific I made their face in every cutscene. But what’s more exciting than that is the ship customisation that Todd Howard showed off at the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase.
There are modules and engines and coolers and thrusters and cockpits and paint jobs and all manner of bits that I don’t know what they do other than look cool. But that’s the best part, they look so cool. The first thing you notice watching the short clip of custom shipbuilding is the sheer number of options. There are all sorts of different shaped and sized parts that you can attach to your spacecraft. Some have obvious functions – the engines and cockpits for starters – whereas others could be anything. The little double-bubble attachment? I’d guess fuel storage, but I couldn’t be sure. Whatever it’s for, it looks cool, so I’m having it on my ship.
The next thing I noticed about the ship customiser? How snappy it was. There was something about the animations in the gameplay that felt off to me; the spacecraft didn’t shudder on impact when it landed on the planet’s surface, the guns didn’t look like they had any kick or meaningful recoil. Everything was weightless, and not just because they were on a moon. That wasn’t the case in the shipbuilder.
As parts were rotated and snapped onto the base chassis, it looked quick, easy, and satisfying. The modular parts seem to only attach to certain sections of the base ship; enough sections that it feels like you can customise anything, but few enough that you’re not spending minutes trying to slot an engine into the perfect position.
The different customisations also impact your ship’s performance, as they should. Attach multiple engines, and you probably go faster. A bigger generator might buff your shields at the expense of your maneuverability, and strapping a big old laser cannon on top will triple your firepower – but at what cost? As excited as I am to build the coolest looking starship since the Millennium Falcon, I also can’t wait to get down to tinkering with the specifics in order to coax the ultimate performance out of my interstellar ride.
Then there’s the customiser itself. I love the fact that your ship is presented on a blueprint, as if you’re drawing up plans for the changes you want to make. You have your accountant on one shoulder and your engineer on the other. “You can’t afford an engine that size,” your subconscious accountant says. “How am I meant to decouple the fuel supply from the generator?” says the engineer. Shut up, nerds. This is my ship and I want it to look bloody cool. You wouldn’t tell Han Solo what he could and couldn’t put on the Falcon, so stay outta my way.
As you can probably tell, the shipbuilding aspect of Starfield has got me more in the mood to roleplay than any other element of the game. Exploring will be fun if the environments get more exciting than those shown in the trailer, but I’m the captain of my ship, and that ship will look stunning. Pirate? Maybe. Captain? Certainly.
Starfield may launch millions of ships to 1,000 planets as gamers take to the skies in search of adventure in 2023, but I’ll be damned if any look cooler than mine. Hand me the wrench, I’ve got an engine to tune.
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