Starfield needs to accept it's better space opera than hard sci-fi

Starfield, however, seeks to appear more rooted in our own reality than Bethesda’s previous offerings - at least judging by the preview material. By simply using the phrase “NASA-punk” to describe the game’s appearance in the Starfield Direct back in June, Bethesda harkens to a kind of realism not usually seen in its games, hinting at a move towards ‘hard sci-fi’. Though the extent to which Starfield could be considered “punk” is debatable, there’s no doubt that the game’s look and feel are meant to conjure the futuristic aspirations of the 60s and 70s. Known as cassette futurism, this sci-fi aesthetic prizes tactile, analog consoles, practical, sturdy shapes, and, almost always, a sense of grounded realism.

For those not in the know, the term hard sci-fi refers to a subgenre of science fiction where, despite the existence of futuristic technology, the machinery and capabilities of scientific advancements are grounded in the same logic and rules in the reality of our present-day. Hard sci-fi is all about cryo-pods, the difficulties of faster-than-light travel, and, more often than not, how fragile human beings can be when you pluck them from the comforts of Earth and put them in the cold dark of space.

ClarkDoom, (edited )

Hard sci-fi is more about how grounded the technology and world are compared to ours. If it’s a few steps away from where we are now, it’s hard sci-fi. If it’s pretty far from where we are it’s soft sci-fi. In The Expanse they have the Epstein drive and eventually protomatter is discovered but basically all the other tech they use is rooted in our current technology - making The Expanse “hard” sci-fi. Star Trek has warp drive, transporters, matter synthesizers, and the science is based on technobabble phrases more than rooting in our current reality - making Star Trek “soft” sci-fi.

These are good videos on the topic:

With that said, how rooted in our current world and tech is starfield? Anyone familiar have details they can share about the technology or if aliens are running around doing basically magic like you’d expect in a “space opera”? The stuff I’ve seen seems more hard sci-fi but I haven’t spent much time with it’s marketing material.


I don’t see why Starfield can’t lean on hard SciFi even when there are some aspects that wouldn’t jive well with reality (odd shaped ships, broken economy). You can tell awesome stories in that sub genre. So why not try it with SF as well?

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