What is Starfield's story about?

Starfield Artifact Temple rings.
(Image credit: Windows Central)

If you've been paying attention to all the Starfield information we've been granted from things like the Starfield Direct and interviews with Bethesda Director Todd Howard, then you know that this space travel game is a big one. But if you're like me, then the real meat of any game that keeps you playing is the plot. Admittedly, we've been shown a ton of Starfield mechanics over the last few months, but the studio has been pretty tight-lipped about the game's main story. 

I'll start off by explaining the Starfield's basic premise in a spoiler-free way, but then will follow that up with some big spoilers. So be careful to only read what you want to on this page. I've clearly marked the spoiler section to make it easier to avoid. 

Starfield story: The plot and premise

Starfield: The members of Constellation gather in the The Lodge where they store their Artifacts. (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Players start Starfield by playing as a brand-new miner who is being shown the ropes at a facility they've just been hired at. After being given a laser tool called a Cutter, they are tasked with going into a cave and cutting a strange object out of a rock. Upon doing so, the player's character places their hand on the object, which causes them to see a strange vision in which music and dreamy space-themed visuals are shown. 

Shortly thereafter, the player's character awakes and finds out they got knocked out by the strange object. After their co-workers make sure they are OK, a man named Barrett lands his spaceship outside the mine and the player's character is introduced to him. It turns out Barrett has also touched one of these strange objects known as an Artifact and is part of a group of explorers known as Constellation, a faction who seeks to discover more about these Artifacts. For some strange reason, Barrett gives you his ship, the Frontier, free of charge and asks you to meet his friends located within a building known as The Lodge on the planet New Atlantis. 

Barrett introduces himself near the mining facility. (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

The player then travels to The Lodge and gets introduced to the other members of Constellation including Sarah Morgan, Matteo Khatri, Noel, Walter Stroud, Sam Coe, and a robot named Vasco. The members of Constellation have gathered only one strange Artifact, but when you add yours to theirs, it floats in the air and joins to the previously discovered one. 

From here, it's up to you and your Constellation companions to seek out additional Artifacts and try to figure out what they are. As you explore space, you can also take on whatever missions you want. You're helped in this endeavor by Vladimir Sall, a member of Constellation who works on The Eye, a space station that can detect anomalies on distant planets. His information can point you toward additional Artifacts. The mysteries surrounding these objects will unfold as you continue forward in the main storyline and will help you see what makes Starfield one of the best Xbox games and best PC games out there.

Starfield Standard Edition

Starfield Standard Edition

The Standard Edition of Starfield costs $70, and only includes the base game. Note that if desired, you can upgrade the game with the Premium Edition Upgrade later.

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Starfield Premium Edition

Starfield Premium Edition

The Premium Edition of Starfield costs $100 and includes the base game, along with five days of Early Access, access to the Shattered Space Story Expansion (when it releases), a Constellation Skin Pack, and access to a Starfield Digital Art Book and its Official Soundtrack.

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Starfield Premium Edition Upgrade

Starfield Premium Edition Upgrade

This $35 upgrade is exclusive to Xbox and the Microsoft Store, and requires the base game. It gives Early Access like the regular Premium Edition does, and also includes the rest of its benefits. Physical versions include a Steelbook Case and a Constellation Patch.

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Starfield Constellation Edition

Starfield Constellation Edition

The $300 Constellation Edition is very pricey, but it's perfect for Starfield superfans. It nets you everything from the Premium Edition (including Early Access!) along with a limited edition Chronomark Watch, Steelbook Case, Constellation Patch, and a Credit Stick item that has a code for Starfield laser-etched on it.

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Does Starfield have a good plot?

Starfield provides several different places to explore. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Starfield does not do a good job selling its plot early on. Even with previous Bethesda games, there was more intrigue at first. With The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, you wake up to find you're a prisoner being taken somewhere, and you have strange powers making players want to go out and learn more about their character and the world they live in. With Fallout 4, you and your family escape a nuclear blast by going into cryogenic stasis in a fallout shelter, but then someone kills your spouse and steals your child, so you want to find out why he was taken and what happened to him. In comparison, Starfield's opening is very boring. 

Personally, my encounter with the first Artifact was mildly interesting, but there was no real pull to get me curious about what it might be or what it might do. It wasn't until several hours later when pursuing the main Constellation storyline that things finally picked up for me. Then things got pretty crazy and I found myself compelled to discover more. It would have made more sense to lay the groundwork for the main antagonist and their attached conflict earlier in the game, but as it is, it's a slow burn before the Starfield story really takes off.

So, if the Starfield plot hasn't clicked for you yet, give it a bit more time. Keep playing the main Constellation storyline for several hours, and then the story will pick up in an extreme way. 

Starfield SPOILERS

Starfield: Walking toward a distant Artifact Temple. (Image credit: Windows Central)

If you don't want to have the Starfield plot spoiled for you, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. However, if you don't mind having some big plot points ruined for you, then continue reading. 

Eventually, after you have uncovered a few Artifacts, you'll be contacted by a Starborn, an antagonist in an advanced spaceship. They claim that they want the Artifacts you've gathered, or they will cause some serious damage with their advanced technology. The members of Constellation are torn as to whether this is an advanced alien lifeform or simply a human with powerful technology.

You can avoid this enemy at first, but eventually, the plot requires that you face a Starborn in person and see just how powerful they are. As the player discovers with a fight against a Starborn known as The Hunter, this individual is very dangerous. Your bullets hardly do anything to them, and they can easily heal back to full health when needed.

EXTREME SPOILERS AHEAD

This is your last warning. If you don't want anything big spoiled, do not read any further.

During a questline entitled High Price to Pay, the Hunter attacks both The Eye and then The Lodge one after the other. Players must decide which location to run to, and by extension which companions to provide aid to. Regardless of what you do, one of your companions will die at this point. Everyone will be alive at whatever location you decide to defend, but someone will lose their life at the other location. After this emotional moment, Constellation buckles down and prepares to continue their Artifact collecting in your fallen comrade's memory. 

After that, the player goes on a quest to learn more about "Unity," the phrase used by the Starborn. This leads the player to the Scorpius spaceship hovering in a distant solar system. Boarding this ship allows the player to meet two Starborn, The Emissary who threatened you in your ship and The Hunter who killed your Constellation friend. 

They explain that they are opposing forces, as well as multiverse variants of characters you've previously met. Both are after the Artifacts (or rather the Armillary that the Artifacts create when assembled) because, in addition to making themselves more powerful, the Armillary allows them to enter Unity and explore other multiverses. However, these two Starborn disagree in fundamental beliefs. The Emissary believes that the Artifacts are dangerous and can lead to bad people becoming powerful, and thus must be regulated by a select group of people. Meanwhile, The Hunter says those who are capable should be able to gather the Artifacts, rather than having some group control the power.

They then send the player off on a mission to the Earth's moon in order for the player to learn for themselves and determine which Starborn's belief they agree with. From there, the player will need to make several biggish decisions based on what they believe.

What dreams may come

For many of us, a game's plotline is one of the main thing that gets us to come back playing day after day. Starfield doesn't immediately do much to pull you into its story, but if you have patience and stick with it for a few hours, the game eventually gets very interesting. You'll have some tough decisions to make, and then you'll have to deal with the consequences of your actions. 

If the plot isn't appealing to you, stick with it. I promise that it eventually picks up in a very interesting way, even though there's no real pull to keep going at first. 

Rebecca Spear
Editor and Reviewer

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's editors and reviewers with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of articles with everything from editorials, reviews, previews, features, previews, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).