Bethesda is well known for creating game worlds with rich stories, and Starfield is no exception. The journey through this vast new sci-fi universe goes to some pretty unexpected places, and not everything is clearly explained in the main story alone. Also following Bethesda tradition, no two playthroughs of the game will be the same, so while the broader parts of the story will remain similar, your experience may differ at points. With all of that said, here’s a full summary of Starfield’s story, including an explanation of the ending.
Starfield Backstory: The Colony War
When you first start the game, you’ll hear a lot of characters mention The Colony War. There’s even a monument to it in Starfield’s first major city, New Atlantis. The full history of The Colony War is explained to you if you choose to join the UC Vanguard faction.
Upon discovering that the Earth’s magnetosphere was failing sometime around the year 2150, the United Colonies were formed to ensure the success of the evacuation process. The creation of the Grav Drive only a few years before this meant that ships could now travel vast distances across the universe. Earth’s inevitable destruction now forced humanity to become a planet colonizing species.
As the United Colonies expanded their form of governance across more worlds, other opposing factions — first the Freestar Collective, and later House Va’ruun — emerged with different political and religious ideologies. Tensions between the United Colonies and the Freestar Collective would eventually come to a head in what would later become known as The Colony War.
The Colony War would last from 2307 until 2311. Battles took place across the galaxy, with escalating methods of violence being used by each faction to gain the upper hand. An uneasy truce is formed between the factions in the present day, but the memory of the war lingers on.
The game picks up in 2330, just 19 years after The Colony War ceased.
Joining Constellation and Finding the Artifacts
You begin Starfield as a miner for a company called Argos Extractors, though your specific backstory is defined by you during the character-creation process. On your very first mission, you encounter a mysterious artifact. Upon touching the artifact, you experience a vision of some kind of space phenomenon and are rendered unconscious.
This chance event brings you into the orbit of Constellation — a fringe faction of explorers who are trying to uncover the secrets of the universe. They already have two of the mysterious artifacts in their possession by this point, and they want to recruit you to find the rest.
When brought together, the pieces of the artifact react, but the vision we experienced only happens to the first person to touch the artifact. The artifacts are made of an unknown and unidentifiable material, but can be traced by the Eye; a space station above New Atlantis.
Unlocking the Powers of the Temples
After locating a few more artifacts, the Eye stumbles upon a similar but larger reading that matches that of the artifacts. When you travel to the location, you find not another artifact but a huge temple that resembles nothing built using human technology.
Upon making your way inside the temple, you encounter a strange spinning device. Passing through the device grants you a vision similar to what you experienced when you touched an artifact for the first time. It also gives you unique powers that somewhat resembles magic. One power allows you to slow time, while another lets you shoot a ball of energy from your hand.
The Eye locates more of the temples throughout the universe, and each one grants you access to a new ability. It’s obvious, given the materials and designs of the temples and the artifacts, that they were built by the same race.
First Encounter with The Starborn
After acquiring an artifact from the city of Neon, you are apprehended by a strange ship unlike any other in the universe. The pilot of the ship warns us about the dangers of the artifacts and requests that we hand over the one that we just recovered on Neon.
They tell us they are one of the Starborn, and after this encounter, other members of the Starborn will attack you at the site of any new artifacts or temples. You learn nothing else of the Starborn just yet, and the members of Constellation all have differing thoughts on who or what they could be.
Following the acquisition of another artifact, a different Starborn — the Hunter — attacks the Eye and its crew on their ship. The Hunter then proceeds to attack the Lodge, forcing the Constellation members there to evacuate with the artifacts.
After losing the Hunter, you regroup with Constellation to find that one of the members was killed in the attack. Who exactly is killed depends on your allegiance to the various members of Constellation up to this point in the game and the choices you make during the Hunter attack.
During the encounter, the Hunter handily explains that the artifacts Constellation has been searching for come together to form something called the Armillary. The purpose of the Armillary is to allow whoever uses it to reach the Unity.
The Hunter, the Emissary, and the Pilgrim
The Constellation crew are all puzzled by what the Armillary and the Unity could be. Matteo is the only member to offer any slim hope of where to go next, recalling that he has heard mention of a Unity in the teachings of the Sanctum Universum. You seek out the religious leader of the Sanctum, Keeper Aquilus.
He explains that in his religious scripture, a Pilgrim discovered the meaning of Unity and shared the meaning among not only the Sanctum, but the House of Enlightenment and House Va’ruun. After paying a visit to each group, Aquilus deciphers the clues given by each to find the location of the Pilgrim’s resting place.
After reading the writings left there by the Pilgrim, it becomes apparent that he is, in fact, a Starborn. His final note gives you the coordinates to a location where you meet the Hunter along with another Starborn, the Emissary.
Both the Hunter and the Emissary reveal that they are from other universes. As it happens, there are an infinite number of universes — a multiverse — and humans who connect with the Unity can travel from one universe to another. The Hunter is revealed to be Keeper Aquilus from an alternative universe, and the Emissary is an alternate universe version of the Constellation member who was killed during the Hunter’s attack on the Eye and the Lodge.
They are impressed with your progress in collecting the artifacts and have now taken an interest in your continued success as, until now, you’ve never been able to connect with the Unity in any of the previous realities they have visited.
The Truth of Earth’s Apocalypse
The Emissary points you in the direction of one of the three final artifacts by giving you a keycard to access an abandoned base on Earth’s moon.
However, before heading for the moon, a trip back to the Lodge results in Vladimir giving you the location of yet another Artifact. This Artifact is located on a space station called Nishina. On board the station you find that experiments on the Artifact have caused a rift to open between two alternate universes. Depending on the choices you make during the Nishina mission, either or both universes can be saved.
Reading through logs in the abandoned facility on Earth’s moon, you learn that this was where the Grav Drive was first tested. In the initial test that took place here, the Grave Drive was able to transport a ship from the Moon to Jupiter in mere minutes.
The mystery of how exactly the data and technology used to create the Grav Drive was obtained is unknown to the Moon crew. You must now travel to NASA’s base on Earth to learn the fate of the decimated planet humans once called home.
As you read through emails on NASA’s computers, it’s revealed that the first Grav Drive was powered by an artifact that had been discovered on Mars. After the success of the initial Grav Drive test which took place on the Moon, other Grav Drive-enabled ships were produced at scale, and a new era of space exploration began.
Unfortunately, the use of the Grav Drives came at a cost. It was discovered by the designer of the Grav Drive that using them stripped the Earth of its atmosphere. With only 50 years remaining before the Sun’s rays would make the world uninhabitable, a mass evacuation of Earth’s population began.
Many billions of the Earth’s population would remain on the planet to die, while many others would resettle on new planets and begin the human colonization of the universe. However, the fact that Earth was sacrificed at the expense of this next step in human advancement was hidden from the general population.
Starfield’s Ending Explained
At the end of the Unearthed mission, you are given three choices. These three options are to side with the Hunter, side with the Emissary, or step through the Unity on your own.
The final mission of Starfield takes us to a buried temple on a planet named Massada 3. Besides the Hunter and the Emissary, there are a lot of other Starborn here. They all attempt to take you out, and depending on which choice you made at the end of Unearthed, you’ll have to face either the Hunter, the Emissary, or both (unless you are able to persuade them not to fight you).
Whichever choice you make, once you step through the Unity, you become Starborn yourself. You are reborn in a different universe — one that is similar, but subtly different, to the one you came from. You are now free to acquire the artifacts as many times as you like to continue becoming more powerful and to view other versions of the universe.
So, why does it matter whether you choose to follow the Hunter, the Emissary, or to go through the Unity alone?
Well, each one represents a different attitude toward how you choose to live. The Hunter represents an individualistic ideology that values gaining power for the self above all else. The Emissary believes that they have a responsibility to nurture, in each universe, another member of humanity to become worthy of entering the Unity. Going alone, however, is more an act of stepping away to allow fate alone to decide who becomes Starborn in each universe.
Also, who or what are the Starborn? Put simply, Starborn are humans, except they’re not — or at least, not anymore. When a human passes through the Unity as you do at the end of the game, they meet a representation of themselves at the center of the universe. Except it’s not the center of the universe; that’s just the only possible way the Unity can be explained to humanity given their limited understanding of time, space, and all things cosmic.
Regardless, when you pass through the Unity and are reborn as Starborn, your entire physical being is rewritten as something that’s no longer recognizable as being human outside of your appearance.
Ultimately, Starfield is a roleplaying game, and it wants you to make choices so that it can show you what impact those choices have. You can choose to act as you yourself would, or you can act out the role of somebody completely different. The Unity gives you the ability to do this as many times as you’d like and shows you not only how your actions affect those around you, but how they affect the entire universe.
Now that you’re all caught up on the story and ending of Starfield, you’re ready to dive back into the game for a New Game Plus run. We’ve got plenty of other guides listed down below that can help you make it as efficient as possible.