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Starfield’s space combat is taking its cues from a beloved indie game

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(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Bethesda’s upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield is taking inspiration from beloved indie spaceship sim FTL, and its in-game footage has given us a solid understanding of how exactly that plays out.

Inspired by the indie game, Starfield’s space combat will involve redirecting power to the various subsystems of your ship mid-flight. Game director Todd Howard told IGN (opens in new tab) earlier in June that you’ll be shifting power between various modules of your ship to keep its weapons and systems functioning.

“Your ship has various power systems,” Howard said.”[There’s] a little bit of FTL there in terms of putting how much power into three different weapon systems, then your engines, and shields, and the grav drive is what lets you jump and get out of some situations that you have to put power to.”

As spotted on Reddit (opens in new tab), the recent Starfield gameplay preview shown during Summer Game Fest’s Xbox and Bethesda Showcase appears to demonstrate exactly how that power play works in the game. In the cockpit view, a panel on the left-hand side of the screen displays what looks like various ship modules, each with a power gauge.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)Bypass the compressorEngine, shield, and grav drive power are all displayed, alongside three other modules: LAS, BAL, and MSL. Those could be lasers, ballistics, and missiles. It looks as though you’ll shift power between them using the D-pad, and have room to either maximize output to the modules or pump power to them in discrete units.

Power management mechanics have become common across space sims. Elite: Dangerous has a similar control system that lets you prioritize power output to specific ship modules, distributing it around damaged components and power shortages. We’re yet to see whether Starfield will include such a reactive system.

Power management isn’t the only thing Starfield will have in common with FTL. You’ll also be able to board enemy ships, although the process is a little more hands-on than the automated combat of the indie game.

“You can dock with other ships, you can disable them, you can board [them],” Howard said. “There’s actually some quests that involve that. You can steal the ship. There’s dialogue in space, there’s star stations you can visit, there’s smuggling. All the things that we would want.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Howard said Starfield’s space combat has also taken inspiration from robo-fighting game MechWarrior. He said the development team drew from the slower pace of that game when it came to designing power systems and being able to accurately line shots up, rather than drawing inspiration from any  “twitchy dogfighter”.

Howard’s mention of a grav drive is also interesting. We already know Starfield will include faster-than-light travel in some form, but the notion of powering up your ship’s drive suggests you’ll be able to launch into hyperspace mid-combat. You could be cruising at lightspeed whenever you want.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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