When a new Bethesda RPG comes around it is usually a time for celebration for me. I truth I would consider myself a Bethesda fanboy as I have played most of their games and I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of times I have rode that cart into Helgen to have my head chopped off. This time however Bethesda are going for their very own new IP, Starfield, a sci-fi world that wants to try and stand with the titans in the industry. So does Starfield match up to previous titles, and how many times did I end up glitched into a wall? Let’s find out!

The story of Starfield will feel pretty familiar if you’ve played any Mass Effect game recently, or most space-based stories to be honest. Mankind has taken to the stars and you play as a lowly miner who has been tasked with retrieving a strange artifact from deep within a planet. After touching it you black out and wake up, claiming you saw all kinds of crazy things. From there you are invited to join a secretive space exploration group known as ‘Constellation’ who are looking for more of these artifacts and it’s your job to go out and find them! From there you can choose the path of whatever you want, you can focus on doing your job with Constellation and go planet hopping and treasure hunting, or you can become someone else entirely! Become a space pirate, build up planet colonies, become a space trucker, the choice is yours. The story this time around is a lot more involved with the overall world and you can really feel the stakes of what you are doing, with many of the side activities and factions also being noteworthy additions to fill out the worldbuilding of the world. The story even has a very interesting bit of ludonarrative dissonance as it goes on which I found intriguing. Sadly however one department where this game unfortunately lacked was its character building as with it being the all-human gun show and no intelligent aliens to speak of in normal interactions I found myself getting bored with my new team members rather quickly, and the world just failed to grab me as much as it should have. Plus, because of a… certain event that happens you will find yourself being rather detached from the world and it’s people, as such I didn’t find myself compelled to go back and explore more which is a shame as the world has clearly been worked on a lot.

What could this be….

Presentation-wise the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The ‘nasa-punk’ design the artists kept pushing to be labelled as is a really cool aesthetic and everything feels incredibly authentic. Buttons click and UI elements flash in the exact way you would expect it to, future cities look like the type of thing that would be shown in an 80’s PSA and you really do feel like an explorer from the old world looking into new horizons. This also extends to the music as it has a good mix of synth tracks, bombastic orchestrated songs and the quite, empty moments of just travelling in space works incredibly well. I also love the improvements to things like facial animations which Bethesda has previously really struggled with. While they still haven’t quite got the menacing stares down right, it’s a massive improvement over something like Skyrim. However one of the biggest problems I feel the game faces is the… ‘blandness’? It’s a little hard to describe, but essentially almost all the characters and all the worlds you visit aside from major cities just feel very similar which leads to it all feeling a bit like a randomly generated experience. This of course is an issue in a story-driven game and as such I didn’t find enough distinctions in the world or people to truly be awed. This isn’t helped by the fact that while the visual design looks pretty the actual visuals themselves don’t impress me too much. It all look a bit old, funnily enough like it’s running on an old engine! Also for some bizarre reason by default the game runs with the resolution scale at 50% meaning the game looks incredibly blurry and out of focus for first impressions. If I am to give any advice, it’s to turn that up to 100% in the settings as soon as possible to help alleviate this, also turning off the motion blur and depth of field effects helped. Overall then presentation isn’t this game’s strongest suite, but it is at the very least interesting.

Gameplay in Starfield, if you wished to boil it down to basics, is essentially Fallout 4 in space. The game plays very similarly with its RPG mechanics having levels, perks and gunplay but it has a few key differences. Firstly rather than exploring a vast singular overworld you instead travel from planet to planet and explore them each. Secondly the game, obviously, has ship combat and that adds an entirely new dynamic to combat encounters allowing you to target specific systems, engage in dogfights and even board enemy crafts if you want. Finally the game also has a similar-style settlement building system but this time it focuses on building outposts on different planets allowing you to mine for resources and engage in different quests. Overall same-old same-Bethesda RPG and I certainly did like some of the new systems introduced. Base and Ship building are complex and multi-layered with enough complexity to keep you entertained for hours while allowing you to hop into your ship for a couple of battles against pirates if you feel the urge. However my biggest issue is seemingly that, outside of these, the RPG mechanics feel almost secondary or simplified. Weapon crafting and modifications are far less extensive, levelling doesn’t have stats anymore and just runs on perks, ship combat is rather basic and doesn’t offer the same amount of complexity as combat on-foot and ultimately it just feels as though it is a streamlined, but yet less interesting Fallout game. I’m aware the games have nothing to do with one another, but the fact I kept thinking this while playing speaks for itself. I also felt that the world this time was very… disconnected. You have to engage in so many loading screens just to get to different planets and as a result you don’t feel like you are exploring the vastness of space but instead are checking out lots of little rooms of space, which breaks up the world and makes it far less enjoyable to just explore. I also found most of the random planets to be boring outside of scanning, with not much to find or do. Quests are pretty much your only option and while some of them are cool, like getting the ability to join a space pirate group, many of them just end up feeling like endless loading screen busy work which left me feeling not too engaged by the end of the story.

You can use a mining laser to gather resources for crafting!

My biggest issues with the game however of course would have to come from technical problems, this is a Bethesda game after all. Something to note though is that the game doesn’t have as much ‘Bethesda-jank’ as usual such as NPC’s walking through walls or being flung into space by Giants, stuff that while certainly not intended gave these games a bit of charm to them. Instead the main issues I found were slowdown, crashes and the game’s inability to run at a smooth framerate in larger cities. All of these combined together to make the game more of a slog to complete which really hurt my wish to replay it. This also, I imagine, is attributed to the large amount of loading screens in the game which on PC pretty much requires you to use an SSD which should never be an absolute requirement. Without it you will be seeing so many loading screens that you will barely be able to play the game. There’s no point in making bigger and more populated worlds if only a fraction of your playerbase will get to enjoy this as it was intended. Ultimately I think that game game suffers from a lack of focusing on being an RPG. Bethesda games are known for being RPG’s and this is more of a simplified space life simulator with RPG elements thrown in. You could almost throw out the whole quest system and the game would still feel very similar as while the world and systems are certainly developed it doesn’t feel like an RPG in the end. Maybe that’s just my fault going in with those expectations, but I came into this game looking for the equivalent of Skyrim in space, but instead I got a buggier, less interesting and ultimately more disappointing Mass Effect/No Man’s Sky cross-over with poorer characters and less interesting systems.

So what is my final conclusion? While I did have fun with my time once I got past all the technical hurdles I don’t see myself returning for repeat playthroughs. It’s a passable experience for me that you can enjoy if you get it for free on the Xbox Game pass however as a full product unless you are really into the ship and base building aspects this won’t feel as satisfying for you. This is not the space RPG you were waiting for, this is just a space life sim with none of the colour it should have. Ach well, at least modders will have a good time with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *