It took a few hours for me to really “get” Starfield, but I’m now in love with Bethesda’s biggest, sprawling-est space RPG. Between my adventures with exploration society Constellation and all of the factions in the Settled Systems vying for my help, there are lots of stories to explore. But narratively, the real star of the show is Starfield’s new game plus mode. Some of its mechanics get in the way, but the way it handles the main plot is worth the hassle.
[Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Starfield’s main quest and its conclusion.]
I spent dozens of hours in my first playthrough running around the Settled Systems, becoming a Freestar Ranger, a UC citizen, and dabbling in piracy as a side gig. I ended up playing a mostly moral character who would break the law a little bit, as a treat. Sure, I’d break into the restricted cargo area to steal some supplies for a lady I met two minutes prior, but I never pulled the trigger on any truly terrible decisions. I stayed well within the “lovable scoundrel” archetype.
At first, I found the main narrative’s Constellation quests to be a side show to the faction questlines for every other major group in the game, such as the United Colonies, Freestar Collective, Ryujin Corporation, or Crimson Fleet. Sure, you get cool space powers for hunting down Artifacts and temples, but it feels like busy work – going to various backwaters and secret temples to complete isolated projects.
No one involved in these Constellation quests has many answers, and Constellation characters just repeat many of the same questions. You’re also harassed by a faction called the Starborn, and they refuse to give you much in the way of solid information. This mystery hangs over the narrative ominously for the rest of the game. Are the Starborn aliens? Angels? Who knows!
You eventually find answers that lead you to Unity, the heart of the universe – and a portal to other universes. This is where new game plus comes in. After you finish the final battles and see how all of your choices played out, you can walk into the light and start all over with a new universe – same story, same locations, but a fresh save. I am now a Starborn myself thanks to this journey, and I can keep my talents, a rad ship, and some cool gear.
In new game plus, I can go to a fresh copy of Constellation’s headquarters, the Lodge, and skip the main quest by choosing a dialogue option that lets me spoil everything to the rest of the society. I could play along and go through the main plot again, but where’s the fun in that when I can roll up on a gaggle of alternate dimension coworkers and casually explain their life’s purpose to them like it’s no big deal? I approve of such a vicious drive-by dunk.
Even funnier, after several repeats of new game plus, you can start to find some unusual alternate realities. As is essentially mandatory with alternate universes, some of these possibilities include evil versions of Constellation members – including an alternate version of you from yet another galaxy.
Narratively, new game plus is a near-complete reset. Not only do I lose my inventory, but all of my outposts, my custom-built ships, my rare loot, and my mission progress are gone. It’s back in the previous galaxy. This new one is untouched, with all of the quests, exploration, and crafting reset to match.
Mechanically, I do feel like new game plus (and plus plus, and plus plus plus…) is a little bit lacking. I had to lose quite a bit of power to go in; the talent points are nice, but I missed my old ship and loot, and my old jankily built outposts. It’s not all bad; you get to keep your fun new Starborn ship, and it’s nice to have all the skills from your first playthrough. Each new game plus also stacks on Starborn bonuses, and I can power up my temple skills significantly by taking trips through the Unity.
The Starborn element is strong, but I wish the 600,000 credits I accumulated had stuck around. It’s also making me hesitant to invest any real time into playing with the game’s building elements. I feel like I’m waiting for the “perfect” run, where I’ll finally be satisfied to settle down. It’d be nice if new game plus was a little more generous with what it let you bring over, so my favorite stabbing element could survive the trip. New game plus also struggles to scale; even on harder difficulties, my talents mean I can stomp the opposition quite easily, including when I’m using the humble Frontier instead of my fancy Starborn ship.
With a lack of formidable battles, it’s up to players to find their own fun challenges in new game plus. Some people might choose to purge the Settled Systems of the Crimson Fleet, whereas others may try to rack up the highest bounty possible and then race to the Unity to escape consequences. These new runs, with the main quest now skippable, capture the space life fantasy so much more than my first playthrough. I feel much more free to explore a space trucker or ruthless pirate fantasy.
We’ll see whether Bethesda ends up tweaking new game plus, and I’m sure the mod community will eventually make some changes, too. For now, I think Starfield handles the multiverse idea quite elegantly by tying it back into new game plus. Mechanically, I wish the jumps brought over a little more from my prior run, but narratively, I’m excited to keep digging into the rest of the game’s facets through a Starborn’s point of view.