It’s almost to be expected that really big AAA games rarely live up to the hype. In fact, you could argue that the more hype that a game has, the less likely it is to live up to it. It happened with Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet, and now it may have happened to Starfield.
This spacefaring RPG is the biggest and newest of Bethesda’s releases, having driven the hype train along the hype track up to the peak of hype mountain. It tried to shoot for the stars by being a 3D open-world RPG sci-fi space adventure filled with alien planets and spaceship combat. However, now that it’s landed, it doesn’t appear to be the amazing game that was promised.
What is Starfield?
Even if you had no intention of playing Starfield, you’ve probably been bombarded with enough news and promotional material that you can guess what it’s all about. If you’re looking for a more concise summary, then here you go.
In this open-universe RPG, you play as a miner who’s been sent to a planet to mine for precious minerals. After following an unusual energy signature, you break apart a weird glowing floating rock and then touch it. This gives you visions and attracts the attention of a group of explorers known as Constellation. With the input of the members, you’re encouraged to look for more glowing floating energy rocks and bring them together to unlock what may be the universe’s greatest mystery. That is, if you don’t get distracted by all the other errands and missions.
The Shine of Starfield
The spotlight shone for a long time on Starfield, showcasing some of the biggest features that it had to offer. To its credit, it does live up to many of those early promises. The most notable is the visuals of both the characters and the environments. The latter in particular deserves praise; the visuals make you want to visit other planets just so you can see all the details from the tallest trees to the smallest rocks.
The characters are well-animated with some solid voice acting and facial movements that aren’t terribly distracting. A lot of work to make populated areas feel natural, with even background characters having a decent amount of attention to detail to make them feel alive and present.
Then, there’s the sheer scale of activity. Like with the newer Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, you can spend your whole play time distracting yourself with everything that isn’t the main mission. That being said, the main mission is nothing to sneeze at since the mystery is intriguing, and mission prompts send you to various locations across the stars.
Still, you can play entire sessions where all you do is try to help out all the people in just one location, if you so choose. Not only that, but not often will you encounter a “simple” mission. Each one has the potential to take you down a long rabbit hole but with worthwhile rewards awaiting you when you finally make it to the end.
Finally, there’s the space exploration. This was probably the game’s biggest boast, and it delivers to a solid degree. You get access to your ship pretty early on, and within a few minutes, you learn all about the ship’s systems, navigation, and combat.
When you’re in space, you’re free to fly around, giving you a huge sense of scale when you’re not even moving. There are so many systems each with several planets to visit and touch down on (assuming there’s solid ground). There are alien plants, creatures, and strange environmental layouts to appreciate. All of your free gaming time could be put toward exploring and scanning every system. And if that’s the main thing you’re looking for, there’s plenty of it to enjoy.
The Starfield Fizzle
Despite all the things that Starfield boasted of having, there were also elements that it just didn’t provide. First, let’s talk about the technical issues. There were reports saying that this was Bethesda’s least buggy game, but it appears that the bar is set pretty low.
There are chances you’ll get locked into certain scenes, companions and characters won’t load properly, mission events won’t trigger, and other issues that prevent you from actually playing the game. What makes things worse is the fact that many issues are triggered by loading previous saves. That’s annoying, since most of us play Bethesda games with the intent to save and load as much as possible.
Then there are the space exploration limitations. It’s true that you can fly around space, but if you’re hoping to fly around fast and discover new planets, you’re out of luck. All the systems that you can visit are available on the map screen, and you can Fast Travel to them at almost any time from almost anywhere.
This basically changes the idea of “freeform open world exploration” to a very fancy-looking level selection. When you do fly freely in a ship, it’s mainly for flying around planets and engaging in combat. If you actually want to fly somewhere, you’d better bring a book with you… I recommend War And Peace.
Then there’s the combat. There are times when fighting can be exciting and intense, but it isn’t consistent. Shots will fly all over the place so much that you’d think you were a Stormtrooper fighting other Stormtroopers. Despite all the futuristic weapons you get, I quickly found a very effective method in grabbing an axe and running headfirst into enemies, smacking them until they fall down. On top of that, Stealth is next to useless. Either you need to level it really high or enemies are just too sharp for it to work. It really doesn’t make a difference, since there are usually so many you’re bound to be spotted sooner or later.
The Starfield Awaits
Starfield is a 3D space-faring sci-fi RPG and the first new world created by Bethesda in quite a long time. It’s certainly impressive in terms of scale, content, and visual presentation. Unfortunately, it’s much more restrictive than expected, particularly with regard to technical bugs that pop up frequently and prevent you from enjoying the game properly. The fact that combat can be comically easy even without stealth — which doesn’t seem worthwhile to invest in — will be a letdown for long-time Bethesda fans. That being said, if you have a lot of time to kill and are curious about a vast space mystery, you can always look to Starfield.
Starfield was played on PC through Game Pass. It is also available to play and download on Xbox Series X|S consoles.