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God of War writer flies to a planet in Starfield without the loading break, sort of

"Pluto confirmed flat!"

Approaching a planet from space in Starfield.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Softworks

One of the bigger Discourse torpedoes aimed at Starfield's glittering hull over the past month has been its strict division between planetary surfaces and outer space. Space sim fanatics were dismayed to learn that you can't actually fly down to the surface of the planets you're orbiting - instead, you hit a button to initiate a loading break and a landing cutscene, which makes outer space feel more like a glorified airlock chamber than, well, outer space. This segmented approach has prompted many unflattering comparisons with No Man's Sky, in which you can manually pilot through the atmosphere.

Players and critics were similarly disappointed by the apparent inability to manually fly between planets in different orbits - instead, the game invites you to pick a destination from your star map or while using your spaceship's scanner HUD, with the journey condensed to a cutscene, again. Well, I bring news on this front. You can actually fly "to" and perhaps even "between" planets in Starfield. But there are some buts. Buts of astronomical dimensions. Onward!

Streamer and Sony Santa Monica writer Alanah Pearce set herself the goal of travelling from Pluto's orbit to Pluto itself over the weekend, leaving her ship in transit overnight and waking herself up at 30 minute intervals to course-correct. She had to course-correct because planets in Starfield do actually follow orbits, which is a nice touch. After seven hours of Old-Man-and-the-Sea-esque penury she made the trip. Sort of.

Unlike planetary maps, Starfield's orbital playspaces don't seem to have invisible boundaries. You can indeed fly up close to the "planet" you're orbiting - whereupon you'll clip inside it, and eventually pop out the other side. Honestly, I think this sounds brilliant. Perhaps even Elder Scrolls-esque. Mysterious are the workings of spacetime!

But what of flying between planets - Pluto to Neptune, for example, because Neptune is so nice this time of year and let's face it, Pluto is a bit of a dive, not even a real planet at all, as Pearce has now confirmed. The cosmic wonderchildren of TheGamer are making the effort, and have so far not had any success, but then again, we're talking umpteen jillions of kilometres, so we won't know for sure till, oh, I'm going to say 2026, by which time Starfield's modders will have probably rebuilt the entire simulation to support fully manual passage through the atmosphere.

Alice B is powering away at our fashionably late Starfield review, which confuses me a little as I thought I'd already written it. Are you playing the Premium early access release? What do you think?

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