With the launch of Starfield less than six months away, more details on what exactly Bethesda’s space-faring RPG will be are slowly bringing into focus what fans can expect. The latest information comes in the form of an official rating for the game in Australia. The rating is broken into several categories and the individual ratings tell us about certain content that will appear in Starfield — most notably the presence (or lack thereof) of sex and drugs in the game.
The Australian Classification Board officially rated Starfield on March 15, giving it a rating of R18+. While the initial response is to believe that this means Starfield is going to be filled with more violence, sex, and drug use than other Bethesda games in the past, in reality, the rating is more complicated than that.
The rating itself is broken up into six categories that are each then rated on a six-point scale from none to high impact. the context categories are themes, violence, language, drug use, nudity, and sex. Each level of impact correlates to a rating, with high impact equating to an R18+ rating. A product’s overall rating matches whatever the highest rating it received in any given category.
For Starfield, the R18+ rating comes from the game’s drug use, which the Australian Classification Board rated as high impact. In comparison to the ESRB (the rating body in the U.S.) an R18+ rating is equal to an M rating, which isn’t uncommon for games to receive. However, the previous big RPG from Bethesda, Fallout 4, managed to earn an MA15+ rating rather than R18+. Fallout 3 was outright banned by the ACB before the creation of the R18+ rating due to the inclusion of morphine, which was later given a fictional name to get around the ban.
The ACB has a history of handing out an R18+ rating and even bans in response to drug use. The issue typically is due to a perception of drug use within a game that incentivizes the player to take the drugs.
Using Fallout 3 as an example, the drug Med-X (formerly morphine) increased damage resistance. That classifies as an incentive to use the drug, as it makes the path through the game easier by rewarding players with enhanced abilities. Med-X also does have a 10 percent addiction rate and disincentives the player through a withdrawal mechanic. In general terms, any drug-like resource that enhances the player’s abilities can be seen as drug use and will immediately earn an R18+ rating.
What this tells us is that items like Fallout’s Med-X will be making an appearance in game. Considering Starfield is about conquering the many planets of space, engaging in combat, and finding resources, it’s not surprising that this will be a part of gameplay. Narratively it would also make sense for the world of Starfield to have manufactured many different drugs to help give people different advantages in space, or just ways to counteract the natural atrophy that the human body experiences in space travel.
The other big piece of information on Starfield that we have thanks to the ACB rating is that it will have no sex. Sex was rated as having the lowest impact category, none, with nudity being given a very mild impact rating. Mechanically this suggests that romance as a whole is not a part of Starfield, something that comes as a disappointment for people who enjoy being able to build relationships with companions in games. Even past Bethesda games have had the option to marry characters. Any romance that does make its way into Starfield will be squeaky clean, except for all the drugs and violence you will be partaking in with your companions.