Bethesda Game Studios has spoken before about companions in Starfield and how only four (all from Constellation) support full quest lines. However, in a recent Discord Q&A (transcription via Reddit), designer Emil Pagliarulo and design director Will Shen revealed there are more than 20 named characters.
This was in response to a question about how many companions are in the game. All can join your crew, and while the four from Constellation have “the most story and interaction with the player, all of the named characters have their own backgrounds and can follow you around (and carry your stuff),” said Shen.
Pagliarulo added, “When we first began Starfield pre-production, we looked back at our previous games, and realized how popular and effective the companions were. So they were a big priority for us. We really wanted to tie them directly to the main quest. There are some really big moments with them specifically.” He also said the voice cast for companions is “amazing” and there are a “lot of talented actors bringing those characters to life. (same for Constellation in general).”
As for how crew members work in gameplay, it’s confirmed that you don’t have to pay them regularly – a one-time payment is enough. “There’s a lot to do in Starfield, and we wanted to minimize what the player had to constantly keep track of,” said Pagliarulo. Interestingly, that payment is affected by different Traits and can be negotiated over using a speech challenge mini-game.
Crew members all start with perks at specific ranks – someone may be better at handling rifles while someone else excels in Astrodynamics and can increase the range of your grav jump when on board the ship. They won’t level up, but their Skills can stack with yours “when relevant.”
“Some are there for flavor, to highlight the companions’ backgrounds and interests. But you’ll really feel the benefit of the ship- and combat-related ones. Getting a boost to your shields, or seeing your companion laying down fire with a weapon they’re proficient in, are pretty sweet moments.” Of course, if you want to hire “generic crew members” to work at outposts or on your ship, you can do that. Maybe they’ll help you get out of jail or smuggle some Contraband.
Starfield releases on September 6th for Xbox Series X/S and PC, with Premium Edition owners gaining access on September 1st. It recently went gold, with preloads starting on August 17th for console and Windows Store PC owners. Steam users can preload on August 30th.