Starfield's Lack of a Pacifist Mode Could Be a Huge Problem for One Reason
Can’t we just talk this out?
Ahead of Starfield’s release next month, developer Bethesda Game Studios released a lengthy Q&A on its Discord server (which was transcribed and shared on Reddit). Lead Quest Designer Will Shen and Lead Designer Emil Pagliarulo offered in-depth answers to the community’s burning questions, covering topics such as the game’s companions, the jail system, and how buying property works.
Unfortunately, the developers confirmed that Starfield will not include the option to allow players to get through the game non-lethally. When asked if a pacifist playthrough would be possible in Starfield, Shen said, “I can’t guarantee every mission can be completed in pacifist mode.” Pagliarulo further explained that developing a “non-lethal” playthrough “wasn’t totally feasible.”
One of the main draws of Starfield has been exploration — the prospect of taking in all the sights and sounds of each planet you visit. Being able to traverse a planet without having to worry about combat is an appealing premise. Pagliarulo did explain that the Settled Systems are “mostly civilized,” but players who go “off the beaten path” will encounter some dangers.
There are lots of games that implement non-lethal runs in effective ways, such as Mirror’s Edge, Dishonored, Thief, Metal Gear Solid 4, and arguably most famously, Undertale. All include some sort of battle system, but each allows the player to complete them without any fatalities, which adds another layer of depth.
Here’s why the lack of a pacifist route is a problem for Starfield specifically. Bethesda games are revered for their stories, worldbuilding, and RPG mechanics. But they’re often criticized for their combat. For instance, Fallout 3 and 4 both had extremely clunky gunplay, which practically required the usage of the V.A.T.S. system, which freezes time and lets players target enemy limbs. I would always groan during the required shooting segments due to their sluggish movement and lack of fluidity.
Sure, combat can be fun, challenging, and rewarding, especially when there’s a variety of ways to approach it. But given Bethesda’s track record with shooting, specifically, I worry the gunplay won’t be as fun as it looks. The ability to play the game non-lethally could have offset any potential blunders with the game’s battle system. It also would have simply offered more choice and replayability.
The silver lining is that Starfield will feature ways to get through certain encounters without force. You can utilize the Speech Challenge game to “persuade someone to do something like not fight you,” Shen said. “The Speech Challenge game is added in specific scripted moments and we try to add one into most quests where important characters confront you.” So, it seems you’ll be able to get around certain scenarios, just not all.
Ultimately, Starfield will probably be fun and immersive. Based on the trailers, shooting specifically looks to be refined greatly from the Fallout series, which bodes well for the upcoming space RPG. We just wish Bethesda had added a way to complete the game entirely by sweet-talking your foes.