Upcoming Sci-Fi RPG Starfield has received the highest-ever restricted rating of any Bethesda game in Australia due to “high impact” drug use.
Starfield is easily the biggest Xbox-exclusive game this year, primed to let players explore in excess of 1,000 planets when it launches on September 6, 2023. However, the Australian Classification board’s designated age rating seemingly indicates that it will be far more of a mature experience compared to past Bethesda titles – at least in one particular area.
As revealed on the board’s official government website, Starfield has received a restricted R 18+ rating due to its portrayal of drug use in-game, which is said to be “high impact” in nature. The board breaks games down into six categories when looking at how to rate them. And interestingly, for other categories like themes and language, Starfield was only classed as having “moderate impact”, while sex doesn’t seem to factor in at all and the appearance of nudity is only “very mild”.
Starfield’s portrayal of drug use alone, however, is enough for the Australian Classification board to give it a restricted R 18+ rating. There’s been no response from Xbox or Bethesda about what this in-game drug use entails or whether it will play a crucial role in the story, but it must be big enough to limit sales of the game in Australia exclusively to purchasers older than 18. By comparison, other Bethesda titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4 were given an MA 15+ rating.
In the days since the Australian rating was made public, certain players have already been voicing disappointment over Starfield’s lack of sexual content in a Reddit post. The top comment responded to the topic “well I'm sure that one particular website will fix that issue”, indicating that modders are already thinking about how they can integrate certain types of explicit content in the game.
Mod support for Starfield was previously confirmed by game director Todd Howard in a previous AMA Reddit thread where he said “Our plan [is to have] full mod support like our previous games.” It remains to be seen how policed the community will be with mods of this type, and whether or not the same level of mods will ever make their way to Xbox Series X|S.
The high life
When compared to other Bethesda titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, I’m genuinely taken aback by the Australian Classification board’s decision to give Starfield it's highest restricted rating. Trailers and gameplay footage released so far have portrayed this version of the galaxy as one that is (mostly) squeaky clean, meant to instil optimism and hope as opposed to any seedy drug exchanges that might take place within, say, some sort of criminal underworld.
Some of the killings in Skyrim can be rather bloody. Although I suppose, in Bethesda’s pursuit of the realistic, harder style of Sci-Fi world, it might come at the cost of a more grounded effect on proceedings. The R 18+ rating leaves me curious as to how Starfield will be rated in other territories like the US and UK, but one thing is for sure: I’m much more intrigued about the game’s mechanics and possible story ramifications now as a result.