How Starfield’s New Game Plus Sets a New Standard for the Popular Game Mode

The following contains major spoilers for Starfield on PC and Xbox Series X|S.

Starfield is a massive game with numerous paths for players to take during the main story. Additionally, there are over 80 skills to unlock, over 1,000 planets to discover and explore, and countless weapons and armor to collect, so players will need to spend plenty of time with Bethesda’s sci-fi RPG if they expect to make even a dent in its content. Thankfully, Starfield includes a New Game + mode, so players can potentially make that happen.

While New Game + has been included in games for decades, none have implemented the game mode quite like Starfield has. Rather than adhering to the usual formula for NG+, Starfield successfully weaves it into the game’s story, making it all but a required experience for those who desire to see everything the game has to offer. Starfield‘s approach to NG+ is unprecedented and sets a new standard for the popular game mode, but it’s worth looking first at what it is not and how it compares to the typical NG+ model.

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New Game Plus Is Meant to Keep Players Involved After the Credits Roll

Starfield astronaut looking out at planet landscape with star in the distance

The true intent and purpose of New Game + in any game is to improve it by incentivizing players to keep playing, and this is especially true of larger games that have more content than players may be able to manage completing in one playthrough. Developers have taken countless approaches to the game mode in the past, but they all usually adhere to the same model.

New Game + generally serves the purpose of giving players an opportunity to further develop their character beyond the state they were in when the game’s main story was completed. Because of this, it’s most common in role-playing games, where players can level their characters, unlock and enhance their skills, and upgrade their weapons and armor. When a typical NG+ playthrough is started, the main story is reset, and players can continue to strengthen their characters in these ways by playing through the narrative again. However, this can only truly be accomplished if the player’s progress from their initial playthrough is carried over to their NG+ playthrough.

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Most games allow players to retain their character’s level, skills, and sometimes even their hard-earned gear, items, and collectibles upon beginning NG+. Were some or all of these removed and reset, players might be too discouraged to start all over again. At the same time, it has been known to have the opposite effect, especially if progressing past a certain point ever feels needless or less rewarding than it did before.

Some New Game + modes, like Final Fantasy XVI‘s, further encourage players to replay the story by adding more powerful weapons and armor, special items, and occasionally even quests that are unique to NG+. Games that do this often increase the difficulty for a NG+ playthrough as well, since more powerful gear would need to be kept in check by the presence of stronger enemies. Lastly, level caps are often increased to encourage players to complete every quest available to them in subsequent playthroughs.

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Starfield’s New Game Plus Gives Players Unprecedented Incentive to Keep Playing

Starfield astronaut looking at mysterious ring

While Starfield certainly honors some aspects of a traditional New Game + mode, Bethesda intentionally designed it to behave differently. Rather than being centered around players further developing their character, it is largely a story-driven mode that takes a very minimalist approach to character progression. Whereas most NG+ playthroughs revert to the beginning of the game with the player’s progress still intact, it could be said that Starfield‘s NG+ continues the story with the player’s progress mostly intact.

About halfway through Starfield‘s narrative, players discover the truth about the Artifacts they’ve been working so hard to obtain. When each of them are assembled together to form an armillary sphere and placed within the grav drive of a ship, the wielder is granted access to the Unity, which is essentially the center of the multiverse. When anyone passes through the Unity, they are reborn in another universe as a Starborn—an individual who can cross universes while still retaining their memories but leaving their uniqueness behind. This is ultimately where Starfield‘s NG+ comes into play.

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At the end of Starfield‘s main story, players are given a choice: either they can stay in their universe and leave everything the way it is or enter the Unity and become a Starborn. If they choose to remain in their universe, they continue to play the game normally, with no added benefits of NG+, and every bit of progress they’ve made up to that point is still intact.

Should they enter the Unity and become a Starborn, they are reborn in another universe and leave everything but their character’s skills, level, and memories behind. This means any items players collected along the way, including weapons and armor, are entirely erased from their inventory, and any storage containers they may have used, as well as any ships they collected, outposts they built, or homes they decorated.

This much loss can be devastating for players who have spent a significant amount of time collecting everything they find, designing ships, building extravagant outposts, and developing meaningful relationships with their companions. Still, they are warned at the end of the game of the cost of stepping into the Unity, and it just wouldn’t make sense from a narrative standpoint to allow them to keep their belongings and anything they accomplished in their universe. They are in an entirely different world, after all. Despite the gut punch that losing almost everything is, however, Starfield‘s NG+ makes up for it in a brilliant way.

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A split image of starfield screenshots

Once a NG+ playthrough of Starfield begins, players are directed back to the Lodge in New Atlantis, where they originally began their journey with the space-exploration organization Constellation. Upon entering the Lodge, they are greeted by Sarah Morgan, who intimates there is something rather familiar about the person standing before her now. Players are then given different dialogue opportunities due to the memories they have from their past life and their current status as a Starborn, and this is essentially how the game plays from there on out, including giving players the ability to make new choices during the game’s most important missions.

Players can choose to skip the main missions or play through them again, but it’s best to play through them again in order to discover the new opportunities they have now as a Starborn. They are given the upper hand in many situations, now knowing how things will play out because of their experiences in their previous universe, and they can have brand-new interactions with their companions and even other characters like the Hunter and the Emissary, as they get to know them all over again while simultaneously already knowing them from before.

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In addition to the narrative elements Starfield‘s NG+ introduces, players receive a Starborn spacesuit that is enhanced every time they complete the game thereafter and enter the Unity. This actually further adds to the story, as Starborn are said to become more powerful as they continuously enter new universes, collecting Artifacts along the way. Players are also granted a Starborn Guardian ship, which they may quickly find is more powerful than any ship they found or built in their initial playthrough.

All in all, Starfield‘s approach to New Game + is one of the most innovative ever seen in gaming, as it expands on the existing game world rather than dropping players back into a relapsed version of it. It will likely be difficult for many players to go back to a traditional New Game + after Starfield, especially in the role-playing genre where the stories and worlds are the centerpieces of its games. Developers should take a cue from Bethesda as they contemplate their New Game + mode in the future, as most players want a game’s world and story to grow beyond the credits, and not just their character.

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