Starfield already has a lot of features planned, but fans want an iconic survival game more than anything else.
After the huge success of Fallout 4’s survival mode and Fallout New Vegas’s extreme mode, Starfield fans may have thought that Bethesda would add it to their long-awaited space-faring epic right away. But even though Todd Howard has said that survival mode might be added later in the game’s life, it seems clear that Sarfield won’t be able to use it at launch.
Survival mode can give players new (and completely optional) tasks, rewards, and magically immersive moments to enjoy if it is put into place with care and thought. Survival mode might not be everyone’s thing, but it’s still a choice, and many Bethesda fans have said that Starfield wouldn’t be as fun without it. There are many good reasons for this.
Another Type Of Treasure
Open-world games like those made by Bethesda usually have a lot of food and drinks spread out across their maps. But when they see that, say, a sandwich only refills 1 HP, most players will just toss them away and move on to look for more valuable items. Every good game designer knows that players won’t do much if they don’t get anything out of it. On the other hand, giving too many rewards can make players feel like they won nothing, which can be just as bad for their drive.
In survival mode, a simple water bottle is just as useful as a first-aid kit. Cheese wheels or apples can be turned into valuable items, but that doesn’t take away from the excitement of finding prizes like the Legendary Demon-Slaying Frying Pan or the Mirthril-Laced Oven Mitts of 10% Laser Deflection. In other words, the Starfieldloot table can grow, but the normal dopamine hits won’t lose their power.
Inventory Audit: Less Is More
It’s a pain to be bound or to have so much junk in your trunk that your legs suddenly sink into the ground. It’s also a pain to have to sort through an inventory menu full of useless junk. When given almost unlimited inventory space, most gamers get sticky fingers and a permanent hoarding problem, grabbing everything that isn’t nailed down mindlessly. But bags and pockets can only be so big, even on worlds with low gravity.
Health potions, skill boosters, sweet rolls, and dragon scales usually sit at the bottom of a player’s pack until the final boss dies and the titles roll. Survival mode’s limited slots would make sure that players not only enjoy the few things they can carry, but also make hard (and sometimes painful) choices about what to take and what to leave behind.
Slow Travel: The Journey, Not The Destination
Not every survival mode disables fast travel, but in many of them, you can’t load into a place you’ve already been to or haven’t been to before. Not every gamer has time to walk all the way across the map to finish a silly little quest, especially if they have to pick up their kids.
But for some, the magic is broken when they remember that fast travel is just a button press away. All of a sudden, the beauty of the planets and the size of the universe are gone. Since Starfield is set in the endless expanse and survival mode is completely optional, why not give those who like the idea of getting lost in a huge, unfathomably big universe their unchanging open space?
A More Rewarding Reason To Craft
Just as Bethesda gave all of Fallout 4’s random junk items a purpose through settlement building, adding survival recipes to crafting benches gives players more reasons to do things they might have otherwise skipped, especially if it helps them deal with hunger, thirst, or the weather in the long run.
Players will start to think of making benches and cooking stations as valuable resources, just like consumables, and will be glad to find them all over the place. As long as crafting is fun on its own, it can be used as a break from normal game play and add more variety to games that last a long time.
Base-Building: More Than A Place To Hang A Laser Rifle
Most people weren’t surprised when Bethesda announced a base-building feature, since their last few games have focused more on immersive, “make-your-own-fun” action. In most games, bases are used to store guns, trophies, and loot. In survival mode, however, these player-built outposts have a much more important role.
Without the need to restock on goods and rest, settlements don’t add much value to Backrooms Game for the player, who would see them at best as a novelty and at worst as a waste of time. With basic needs turned on, it makes sense to mess around in build mode. A short break from all the nail-biting action adds another ring to the gameplay loop and gives players a chance to get their energy back for blazing new trails and looking for loot.
Against The Wild: Conquering Nature
Even though a lot of people like walking simulators, it’s easy to see why most game makers add health bars and bad guys. Even trips through the most beautiful places in real life can become boring without a little risk. Out in the Milky Way galaxy, there are ice planets, lava worlds, and acid planes, so why not in Starfield?
The natural world can be just as challenging as any of the nameless, bloody psychopaths who wander the universe aimlessly, generally with 12 shotgun shells, two lockpicks, and a death wish. It should be as exciting as sneaking up on a group of wandering cannibals to go to one more moon and risk running out of critical supplies. Having to deal with different things would keep the task interesting and might encourage the player to keep a variety of armor and consumables for different situations.
Dynamic Difficulty Curves
In survival mode, long-term injuries aren’t just there to be realistic. They are new ways to tell stories. The main character getting better is a common plot point in other types of stories, so why not in video games? Wounds can also act as a natural difficulty curve for players who are in too many fights too often, making things harder in places where healing items would make things easy.
In action-packed, cover-to-cover shooters, a long time to heal would be annoying, but taking time to heal would help remember players of the weight of what they’ve done by risking death. Bethesda games are known for being “long burn” experiences, and since part of the fun of a survival mode run is seeing how long a single playthrough can last, this seems like a match made in heaven.
Immersion & The Comforts Of Home
Most players probably only go to two places in town: the weapon store (to sell their piles of loot) and the vendor who sells healing things. All of that changes in Survival mode. Food stores and restaurants stop being just places to eat. After a near-death experience in the icy wastes, the simple act of getting a hot meal and warming up by the fire can bring players back to a state of pure awareness.
Outposts are really bright spots in the long night. Bars become more than just places to get quests or finish them. From now on, the sight of an inn or shelter has a warm, personal feel that sticks with most, if not all, survival fans. And when a game’s images are as beautiful as they are in Starfield, taking a moment to smell the roses (or look up at the planets and stars, as the case may be) can’t be that bad. Bethesda is known for making games that give players time to relax and think, so why not do the same for a game that takes place in space?
On September 6, 2023, PC and Xbox Series X/S users will be able to play Starfield.