A hot potato: Can you walk to that distant mountain range in Starfield (masthead)? If recent leaked footage is legit, maybe not. The most ambitious and highly anticipated project of 2023, Starfield, is coming under fire as being far less than what Bethesda said it would be. Fans came unglued after gameplay footage and screenshots leaked showing out-of-bounds warnings when exploring on foot.
A few people got their hands on advanced copies of Starfield and began leaking screenshots and footage alleging the game is not as open and explorable as Bethesda has led us to believe. Of course, as the internet is known to do, social media went full-on torches and pitchforks, bad-mouthing the studio before having a chance to play the game.
It started with a Chinese player posting a video to a forum showing their starship flying against an invisible wall, or at the very least, flying to a waypoint very slowly. There is nothing too damning about the clip. Even No Man’s Sky makes you warp to other star systems, and if you travel too far in one direction with your pulse engines, you hit an invisible limit. However, the video sparked responses from others claiming that the travel limits are not restricted to space flight.
One Redditor posted 10 minutes of walking in one direction (above) condensed into a one-minute time-lapse that showed the game throwing up popup messages, warning:
Open the map to explore another region, or return to your ship.
Bethesda was quick to take down the video with a copyright strike, but not before others reposted it. Early players reported similar instances and posted screenshots to X (formerly Twitter). As the user below points out, the boundary message clearly states that you can continue exploring the planet by loading into a different region.
You guys probably already saw this screenshot flying around & people saying “You cant explore planets, bethesda lied!”. Guys, There is nothing stopping you from exploring the planet. It just may be a loading screen or you may have to land at the next spot (a short loading or… pic.twitter.com/Qq161IZ9Dl
– Darrius Fears (@TheRealDfea) August 26, 2023
Reviewers also said that people crying about being “unable to explore planets” and Bethesda lying are blowing things out of proportion.
“This is actually not entirely accurate,” tweeted Windows Central Managing Editor Jez Corden regarding the uproar. He could not elaborate further due to Starfield’s review embargo, but if anybody should have a more informed opinion, it would be a legitimate reviewer.
However, it does fly in the face of Bethesda’s hype train. Even at the highest levels, Bethesda has been shoveling coal about the game’s vast scope and potential for endless exploration. As late as last week, Pete Hines responded to a question on X from a player asking if he could explore the entire planet after landing on it.
“Yup, if you want,” Hines replied. “Walk on, brave explorer.”
Yup, if you want.
Walk on, brave explorer.
– Pete Hines (@DCDeacon) August 22, 2023
While Hine’s answer is technically true, it is not accurate in the spirit of the question. The player was not asking if he could explore the entire planet after after multiple load instances, he meant just getting out of his ship and wandering around. The head of publishing even nodded to this assumption by adding “walk on, brave explorer.” The comment further confounds the issue, implying that you can walk however far you wish, which doesn’t appear to be the case.
Perhaps Hines was unaware of the walking distance limitation. However, considering he said that on August 22, this seems unlikely. Of course, being completely transparent about it would have flushed out just as many internet trolls condemning Bethesda for not ever mentioning it before now, and they would not be entirely out of line in doing so.
Starting with Todd Howard, Bethesda has heavily pumped Starfield enthusiasm with claims of a massive galaxy with over 1,000 fully explorable planets, which is entirely accurate, albeit less than fully transparent. To its credit Bethesda did show that planets are segmented into landing zones, meaning exploration of a planet will be broken into a series of load screens as you land in each LZ.
No Man’s Sky doesn’t have such a problem. Players can seamlessly circumnavigate a planet if they have the time and patience. So, will Starfield be a massive letdown on launch? Maybe, but not for these reasons. Nitpicking a 10-minute walking limitation seems petty. We’ll have to see for ourselves when Starfield reaches Earth on September 6.