Massive open worlds are and always have been Bethesda Game Studios’ bread and butter, but never before has the developer delivered something as massive as what Starfield is planning to be. The studio’s first new IP in two and a half decades will give players the absolute freedom to explore and immerse themselves in an entire galaxy, which, of course, means there will be several key locations scattered throughout the game’s map that we’ll be exploring. Sure, a significant proportion of the over 1,000 planets that Starfield’s open world will boast will be pe procedurally generated environments, but there’s still going to be plenty of massive, sprawling, hand-crafted locations in the Settled Systems that we’ll be visiting. Here, we’re going to talk about the most notable ones that Bethesda Game Studios has talked about and detailed leading up to the game’s release.
Based on what we’ve seen of Starfield so far, it seems safe to assume that we’ll probably spending a great deal of time in the city of New Atlantis. The city, found on the planet Jemison in the Alpha Centauri system, is the capital of the United Colonies, which is the largest and most powerful established government in the Settled Systems, and also traces the most direct line back to Earth itself. New Atlantis, meanwhile, as the capital city of the galaxy’s biggest power, is effectively the cultural and power seat of all of humanity, and serves as a melting pot where you’ll see people from all over the Settled Systems.
Aesthetically, New Atlantis very much has the look of a futuristic sci-fi city, complete with tall, gleaming towers, sleek architecture, and dense crowds. Meanwhile, the United Colonies isn’t the only major faction that’s tied to the city. Constellation is a group of space explorers and adventurers that will be central to the story, and one that players will join early on, and they, too, have their home base – a building known as The Lodge – in New Atlantis. Additionally, the city also features a metro system that players will be able to use to travel to and from different districts.
Crucially, BGS has also said that New Atlantis is by far the biggest city it has ever made- bigger than any city you could find in Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, or Fallout 4.
After the United Colonies, the faction known as the Freestar Collective is the next most powerful and influential group in the Settled Systems, with its capital being Akila City, on the planet Akila, in the Cheyenne system. Bethesda Game Studios has described the Freestar Collective as a loosely formed confederation of three separate star systems, and this less rigid and structured existence of the government is also reflected in its capital.
Akila City is essentially Starfield’s version of a futuristic Wild West town on a distant planet in outer space. The city is surrounded by walls, with the frontier beyond it being home to a deadly alien species known as Ashta, which, according to BGS, is something of a cross between a wolf and a velociraptor. Within the city itself, we can probably expect to be able to live out our space western fantasies, as we engage with a populace that values its freedom and individualism above all else.
Neon is probably one of Starfield’s most interesting locations, and alongside Akila City, an intriguing example of how the spacefaring RPG is going to encapsulate quite a few subgenres within its sci-fi setting. Because just as Akila City is Starfield’s take on a Wild West setting, Neon is its own version of a futuristic cyberpunk city. And it’s also got quite an interesting backstory.
Found in the Volii system (which is in Freestar Collective space, according to BGS), the city of Neon was one a fairly nondescript fishing platform on an aquatic world, until the megacorp known as Xenofresh Corporation discovered a native species of fish with psychotropic properties. Using that fish, Xenofresh created a substance known as Aurora, the profits from which were significant, to say the least.
By the time players will be visiting Neon in Starfield, the city has completely transformed. Driven primarily by the sale of Aurora, which is illegal everywhere in the Settled Systems except Neon, what was once a fishing platform has now transformed into a bright, glamorous pleasure city where anything goes, a capitalist hub where megacorps reign supreme, and a place that attracts crowds from throughout the Settled System. Meanwhile, in addition to Xenofresh, another major faction, Ryujin Industries, is also based in Neon.
Cydonia is, relatively speaking, much closer to home than most of the locations we’ve spoken about here. In Starfield’s lore, Cydonia, on Mars, was one of the first proper settlements established by humanity after it left Earth, and based on the glimpses of it that BGS as shown off so far, it looks like that’ll be reflected in its visual design. In contrast to the ritzy lights of Neon, or the gleaming skyscrapers of New Atlantis, or even the dusty frontier of Akila City, Cydonia is much more focused on function over form.
The city is supposedly entirely underground, and above all else, functions as a mining facility. It is, in fact, the largest mining facility in the United Colonies. BGS has said that players will be visiting Cydonia in the earlier parts of Starfield’s main story, and will be encountering plenty of characters and questlines, but whether or not that means we can expect it to be as sprawling as the likes of New Atlantis and Neon are seemingly going to be remains to be seen.
In addition to its four main cities, another key location that Starfield will have players visiting is The Key. So far, Bethesda has said very little about it, beyond confirming that it is a sprawling space station in the Kryx System, and serves as the headquarters and base of operations of the Crimson Fleet, one of Starfield’s major factions, an organized group of space pirates.
A few vague details can be gleaned from what little we’ve seen of The Key in footage so far, like the fact that it is orbiting a planet, or that – based on the worn-down decorations in some of its interior shots – it was once a United Colonies facility. Was it abandoned before the space pirates moved in? Did the Crimson Fleet perhaps take it by force? Also, will it be as elaborate and large as the actual planetside cities in the game? All of these questions remain yet unanswered.
… AND MORE
To say that the locations we’ve discussed here so far are likely going to only scratch the surface of Starfield’s open world setting seems like an understatement based on what we know of the game so far. There will, of course, be literally hundreds of procedurally generated planets for players to find and plant their flags on, though it’s probably safe to assume that there will be plenty of named, hand-crafted, story-related locations that we don’t yet know about as well.
A few have been passingly mentioned and spotted in Starfield gameplay footage so far, like the Red Mile, which looks like some sort of facility, or the UC Vigilance, the UC’s massive and intimidating flagship, or The Eye, a star station owned by Constellation. Exactly how large these locations will be or what role they’ll play in the story remains to be seen, though thankfully, with Starfield’s launch right around the corner, it won’t be too long before we can find out for ourselves.