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Bethesda’s new Starfield lore timeline leaves Earth's fate a mystery

Will we beat climate change, then?

A screengrab of Bethesda's official Starfield timeline, showing the sections describing a war between the United Colonies and Freestar Collective factions.
Image credit: Bethesda / RockPaperShotgun

Bethesda have published a timeline detailing events in the Starfield universe from before the player's arrival. The scrollable chronology, which runs from 2050 to 2160, charts the origins of the war between the United Colonies and Freestar Collective factions, who sound more and more to me like the Union and the Confederacy in the US Civil War. We're also told about the formation of the Constellation organisation, a group of swashbuckling pioneers who are concerned with the origins of certain mystic Artifacts. And we get to read a little about a few key Starfield characters, such as space cowboy Sam Coe, careworn ex-soldier Sarah Morgan and sciencehunk Barrett. But the timeline also leaves plenty of mysteries. Join me, as I make a show of poking around in the collapsing space-museum with my tricorder.

The big one is the fate of Earth. We know that it's on the Starfield starmap, we know that humans begin leaving it to settle other worlds from around 2050-2100, reaching the Alpha Centauri system by 2156 (so presumably, Todd Howard's favourite gadget the space-folding Gravition Loop Field Array must have been invented roundabouts then). But there's no intel on how Earth is shaping up in the game's present-day, or how it weathered the global catastrophes we're experiencing in our present.

Starfield fans have predicted the worst for our precious green marble, calling attention to tiny hints in certain screenshots. Has Earth become one of those far-future quarantine zones? I'm wondering if Bethesda will need to fully devastate the place for the more practical reason of not having to commit to a realistic rendering of familiar environments. Though I do kind of yearn for the opportunity to take the Constellation crew on a trip to my own birthplace, a creepy village in North Yorkshire. I bet there are Artifacts to dig up there. Perhaps they could just bundle Starfield with a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator, with its hundreds of photorealistic cities.

The timeline also makes room for fresh speculation about Starfield's overarching plot. You've got your principle factional conflict between the Freestar Collective and the United Colonies, which I'm guessing will diminish in significance as the role of the Artifacts becomes clear and some form of galaxy-ending evil reveals itself. Said evil might involve one of the game's corporations, like fishing-company-turned-drug-peddler Xenofresh, the jolly buccaneers of the Crimson Fleet, or the religious zealots of House Va'ruun, who worship a big snake. Or perhaps the real villain was Constellation all along! Trust nobody, is all I'm saying.

You can read the full Starfield timeline on Bethesda's official site - just scroll to the bottom. Starfield's Early Access falls on 1st September, with several editions to choose from. Here's our guide to Starfield character creation and an explainer for Starfield's player background choices.

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