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Starfield’s Future Desperately Needs Dogs

This story is part of our new Future of Gaming series, a three-site look at gaming’s most pioneering technologies, players, and makers.

Three hundred years from now, the Earth is a barren desert. Like its brother Mars, the planet’s electromagnetic field has been damaged, drying oceans to dust and eradicating all breathable air. The invention of the Gravity Drive has made interstellar travel possible, but the price of that innovation proves staggering—humanity must abandon its home, never to return.

Even so, vestiges of the dead planet’s civilization are everywhere in Starfield—countless copies of Oliver Twist, portable portions of pizza and chicken, and a bottomless sea of glorious intoxicants. You’ll find loads of stuff to pick up everywhere you go. Much of it is useless, especially food, which only restores a paltry number of HP relative to the amount of space it takes up in your inventory. And curious though I may be about what red wine tastes like in “Chunks” form, there’s one food item that casually reveals perhaps the most devastating morsel of lore about the grim future Bethesda has concocted—an innocuous little tin box of treats called “Chocolate Labs.”

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The tin reads: “Centauri Mills’ chocolates, shaped like an extinct canine called a Labrador Retriever.”

It’s true: Dogs no longer exist in the timeline of Starfield. Nor, indeed, do cats. Where have all the good boys and girls gone? Into the starfield, I guess.

If you’ve done any exploring beyond New Atlantis, you’ll know there are beasties aplenty both within and beyond the Settled Systems. Many of them are revolting, oversized insects that seem very eager to gnaw your face off. Some are docile and gooey, content to munch on plants or power cables, just waiting to be blasted into delicious crafting materials or Alien Jerky to restore a measly 3 HP.

But none of these creatures are particularly inclined to follow you home to the Lodge, curl up on the foot of your bed, and ask for belly rubs. You cannot dress a Terrormorph in a bumblebee or hot dog costume for Halloween, even in its early larval stages. You cannot stage a fake engagement photoshoot with a Model A robot. Not a single one of the members of Constellation will react with rhapsodic glee if you toss a stinky sock at their mouth. (Sarah disliked that.)

The decision to nix dogs and cats from humanity’s spacefaring era makes little sense for two reasons. The first is a narrative one—I find it extremely unlikely that every human exiled from Earth just complied with the rule that said “no pets” on the cargo ship. I have seen 90-pound women toting 40-pound dogs in their handbag just to skirt rules on the subway. And even if sneaking a Great Dane onto a packed transport ship might be tough to pull off, the citizens of Starfield’s doomed Earth had years to prepare for this calamity. Surely a couple somebodies would have frozen some pet embryos and stashed them in the back of the cargo hold?

Sorry, but I’m just not buying the fact that humanity saved thousands of copies of Dickens and not a single dog. You don’t think any rich idiots escaped Earth? They were the first in line!

From a gameplay perspective, not allowing players to have a canine or feline companion at all times makes a bit more sense. You don’t want to bring a Corgi into a nest of stim-addled Spacers and Crimson Fleet Pirates, even if that Corgi would be a more interesting companion than Sarah. But pets could open up some interesting opportunities in terms of exploration, resource gathering, and outpost building. Can you imagine how much a dog would love running and jumping in low gravity? And let’s not even begin imagining all the adorable spacesuit options.

What if your fuzzy buddy could automatically pick up any resources on the ground after a fight, or acted as an extension of your sensor ability? Imagine coming home to your luxury flat in New Atlantis’ Mercury Tower and being warmly greeted by a smiling four-legged friend. Maybe then I’d actually furnish the place!

It’s not too late for Bethesda to right these grievous wrongs, and give us the booster-packed good boys and girls we so richly deserve. My two biggest asks for the upcoming Shattered Space DLC? More House Va’ruun and more dogs, dammit.

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