Starfield is designed to keep the surface of planets and the space between them separate, but it is possible to fly directly to another planet — if you have the time and patience.
Earlier this year, Bethesda Game Studios boss Todd Howard confirmed to IGN that Starfield doesn’t let you fly seamlessly from space to planet, insisting “that’s really just not that important to the player” to justify the engineering work involved.
“People have asked, ‘Can you fly the ship straight down to the planet?’ No. We decided early in the project that the on-surface is one reality, and then when you’re in space it’s another reality,” Howard said.
“If you try to really spend a lot of time engineering the in-between, like that segue, you’re just spending a lot of time [on something] that’s really just not that important to the player,” Howard reasoned. “So let’s make sure it’s awesome when you’re on the surface and awesome when you’re in space, and those realities look and play as good as they can be.”
The upshot is Starfield is more of a Mass Effect than a No Man’s Sky when it comes to space exploration, but that didn’t stop streamer and Sony Santa Monica writer Alanah Pearce testing Starfield’s space limits.
During a weekend stream on Twitch, Pearce set course for Pluto, pointing her ship directly at Starfield’s virtual version of the dwarf planet. “I’m leaving my ship running while I sleep to see if I eventually collide with Pluto in some way, for science,” Pearce said in a post on X. Pluto was chosen because of its slow orbit, making it a relatively stable point in space to aim at. Still, Pluto moved about enough that Pearce had to course correct every 30 minutes or so, setting a timer to wake up.
Seven – yes, seven – hours later, Pluto loomed over the horizon. What happened next was an anticlimax. As Pluto neared its pixelated form presented itself. “I can’t believe I’m about to touch Pluto,” Pearce said. But there is no realistic representation of Pluto to be found travelling in this way. Pluto, it seems, is nothing more than a blocky, grey picture in space, and Pearce eventually travelled straight through it. There is no forced landing animation. It’s all an illusion. “I don’t know what to do,” Pearce said, nonplussed.
Starfield Review Screenshots
So, what have we learned about the way Starfield works? The game’s space travel is not restricted to small skyboxes or zones you can’t leave, which means you are able to fly to a planet in a semi-realistic representation of distance in space. But once you get to a planet, Starfield breaks down a bit, letting you get close to an object that represents a planets, but is not a planet. What’s next? In a follow-up post on X, Pearce wondered whether you can fly between systems. Anyone got a spare 100 hours?
Wesley is the UK News Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or confidentially at email@example.com.