How is Starfield? Is Starfield worth playing? Is Starfield terrible? I’ve been reading the social media posts over the last weeks and eventually, Starfield got released and an explosion of opinions got published sometimes in small posts and sometimes in comprehensive articles. Today we want to have a look at Starfield, what people thought it would be like, what the gamers got with the release day, and we’ll think a bit into the future about what could be.
How is Starfield? Our Review
Before you read on, I played Starfield on an Xbox Series X and have 120 hours invested in my character’s journey so far. I have not yet completed the main quest and I’ll try to avoid spoilers, so you can read on and don’t need to be afraid about any unwanted revelations. What we will however cover critically are design choices and technical performance. It might not all be positive but it won’t be grim either – that much I can already say.
How Starfield was perceived before it launched
Next to the regular marketing and pre-release news that would be typical for a AAA title, Starfield developer Bethesda Game Studios did not try to establish a hype in my opinion. Compared with Cyberpunk 2077, for instance, it could have been that you were not aware of Starfield being worked on and it’s possible that many only got to learn about the title when they were close to the release date already, while Cyberpunk 2077 was always pushed strong and it was hard to overlook.
Knowing that Bethesda is working on a new RPG, it was easy to imagine something like The Elder Scrolls in Space or Fallout if it wasn’t retro-dystopian but a sci-fi game. This thought mixed with the published preview material gave us all a good idea about what Starfield would be like and I think they kept their promise and did not over-promise something that they couldn’t deliver.
Starfield became unlike anything done before. Yes, I would tend to agree that there are aspects that feel like they already happened in other games, such as the exploration and surveying is also a big part of No Man’s Sky, but in sum, I think it’s quite unique in all it’s ways and aesthetic. I feel like Bethesda delivered a fine release with Starfield.
What are the core features of Starfield?
When we look at comparable games, some might excel at space dogfighting, and some might excel at action, but the core features that Starfield offers are well-executed.
- Exploring space, moons, and planets
- Building outposts and letting them interact with each other
- Building your spaceship
- “Open world” gameplay
- Freedom to do what you like to do and when you like to do it
- Multiple ways to solve a problem
The mechanics and most of the gameplay will certainly remind you of The Elder Scrolls games and Fallout titles, but I did not feel negative about this at all. As long as you are happy with RPGs, I think you’ll have a good time to explore all these features and all of the content in the game.
As of now I tackled more than 120 hours in Starfield and still have so much to do that I don’t even know what to do first when I start the game up. I’m sure that if you rush the main quest, you’ll be able to finish the story arcs quickly, but if you play at a regular pace, take some detours, focus on other things, or try some sidequests, you’ll get a good return on investment.
Random negative thoughts about Starfield
As I mention and discuss things that I perceived as negative, you should consider this as my personal opinion and it’s possible that you might not share the same view on something, but I still wanted to share it with you all, so it does not appear as if everything is just perfect about Starfield.
For instance, I think that Starfield lacks some iconic aspects. I really miss something like Fallout’s Pip-Boy and I was also disappointed when I learned that there are no radio stations as in Fallout. The reasoning for this decision isn’t bad, but if you’re out there on some desert planet and scanning the flora and fauna, I really wouldn’t mind the option to tune into some in-game radio stations or listen to the chatter of random spacers.
Flying around space feels a little like just hopping from one planet to the next. It’s a better-looking fast-travel option to have the “grav-jump drive” almost “teleport” you from one location to another. Of course, it makes sense with the established technical lore, but maybe it would have also been nice to think about giving space travel some more depth. The point here shouldn’t be just to make everything take more time, but at least to have the option to get the space trucker feeling, if someone is truly after such an experience.
There are some random encounters that are really creative and fun, however after a while, you’ve seen them all and from that point on they are just repetitive. The same goes for buildings on planets that you visit. I feel like there are maybe three or four building designs that you can encounter and they are just copy-pasted across different planets. This is acceptable but it’s not nice.
When you’re starting the game you are introduced to everything as a miner who is new to the job and has a special encounter that would lead to the events of the main story. However, I feel like the introduction wasn’t done great. Apparently, your character has grown up there in the worlds of Starfield but somehow doesn’t know anything. You either have to pretend to know what’s going on in dialogues or have to act like a hermit who doesn’t know what was going on in the last 100 years. Having the character enter the game in a different way, like as a person who woke up late from cryo-sleep or something similar would help not to feel like a hillbilly when in conversation with NPCs.
NPCs can have a little weird expressions and there could be more diversity with the NPCs. Sometimes it feels like the same grandma has passed me for the 5th time while simply walking in one of the cities. In general, the cities are well-made but it’s hard to believe that over so many years, humankind only managed to raise a handful of cities in the whole settled systems. As a final note I have to say that it’s a bit unfortunate that there are no pets or animal companions to bring.
But there are some good moments, right?
Absolutely the game is full of good aspects, this is why it’s easy to list the few negative points versus an endless list of good points in Starfield. Maybe it’s not perfect but I like how you can build your own starship and it’s fully accessible. Whatever I add to the ship in the editor can be seen in the game and if I decide to walk through all the rooms of the ship, it’s all there and members of the crew are about. Also great to notice that there can be a lot of interesting crew members to recruit for the ship and outposts, and not just a single companion to follow you around.
There’s so much to do in Starfield that I sometimes forget what I meant to do when I loaded the game up. You can be lawful good, neutral, or chaotic evil, or mix to do as you please. Eventually, your decisions and actions will have an impact on people and your surroundings over time and people might respond to you based on your history, but all of that adds a great immersion for you. If you don’t want to sweat you can change the difficulty to easy and if you don’t feel like a dogfighting ace, you can double down your ship on shields and automated turrets. Play your own way.
What I also like is that Bethesda has done the best job for the third-person perspective as an optional mode for the Starfield players ever. They always experimented with offering something else than first-person perspective but in Starfield it looks a lot more sophisticated and if you truly felt motion sickness from playing in first-person perspective, or if you just want to always see your fancy outfit, using one of the two third-person perspectives is a great option.
I also like the aesthetic of Starfield a lot. It’s a bit like a mix of Star Trek and Alien. It’s believable and can feature both shiny things but also some gritty dirty or broken parts of the game world. Maybe it’s just me, but even though the overall aesthetic is absolutely en vogue with what we enjoy in 2023, I feel like some retro vibes are included. For some clothes and hairstyles, I really get strong Alien/80s signals. But I love it.
While the city NPCs might be not so deep and diverse, I like the companions and named people that are part of your adventure. They are sympathetic and interesting. I also like how they designed the factions and how everything has a backstory, except your own character.
How does the game perform technically?
With widely negative reception, sometime before launch, it was made clear that Starfield wouldn’t run on 60 FPS on consoles, at least for the current generation. Of course that wasn’t great to hear, but at least to me 30 FPS is still acceptable if everything else in the game is fine. However, even with 30 FPS on the Xbox Series X, there are performance issues. This can be lag or other sorts of issues that break the immersion.
The larger issues, however, are beyond visual performance limitations. I feel like the longer I play Starfield, the more prone to issues it gets. Save your game often, because, oh boy, it really happens that it can simply break down and crash. I even encountered a corrupted save game once and this kind of thing is not cool. So next to quicksave and autosave, make sure to have a regular save file every now and then. I know you’ll eventually need to start deleting save game files after you have more than 50 saves, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
There can also be bugs beyond visual performance or crashing. It occurred to me a few times that without me doing anything bad, suddenly my companion gets angry as if I attacked an NPC and everybody starts attacking me, triggered as if I committed a crime. Especially weird in one occasion when this happened while I was in conversation with a character and could not possibly have done anything to offend anyone. The game then got stuck, people kept shooting at me, and I was still in dialogue mode and couldn’t quit or move and had to reload the most recent save file.
Before your game crashes, I recommend you to hard-quit it every two or three hours. I feel like this helps the performance and prevents some performance-related crashes. Perhaps this will be improved with future patches or updates.
But you meant to say Starfield is actually good?
I know the points raised sound harsh, yet, they are merely observations to talk about. If you are going to buy Starfield, you should certainly be aware of these facts, which are at least, as of now, present in the game. Still, my verdict is that all of this is acceptable. This is a fantastic game with an enormous amount of potential even beyond what it currently is. It could surpass The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. I love Starfield – it’s great. Play it, and have fun with it. Be a pirate or be an explorer. Do anything you feel like.
The future of Starfield?
Many people still play Bethesda games even many years after they were released. Games like Skyrim received so many re-releases and special editions, that I can’t even list them all down without looking them up first. Fallout 4 had a handful of DLC extensions to provide significant updates to content and game mechanics over the years. These games are not just built for a single year. Bethesda games are established as a gaming platform for people to enjoy for many years, likely spanning several console generations and PC builds.
And what about the modding scene? Mods are not always an option, at least for console players, but Bethesda usually supplies their RPGs with an option to browse and download community mods after some time. Even if everybody at Bethesda stopped working on Starfield and neither DLCs nor updates would be worked on, a great community of modders would be there to add content mods and technical updates that work similarly to patches or to improve visuals.
Beyond this being the case, I think it’s not impossible to expect an “online version” of Starfield down the line at some point. There is The Elder Scrolls Online and there is Fallout 76, which are both great online adaptions with a multiplayer focus, but don’t force the players into teamwork, if they would prefer to play alone either. While Starfield is great in my books, I wouldn’t mind some more online interactions in Starfield Online, maybe, in a couple of years.
Sorry, did you scroll through all of my article just to get my final verdict? Okay then. Let me summarize it for you. Starfield is a fantastic experience. Go play it. Huge fun and many hours to play. It might not be perfect but issues are acceptable. It’s likely that grim issues will be fixed in updates and it’s likely that more content will be introduced over time via DLCs and the modding community. Starfield right now feels like it’s truly only the first version of itself and I expect it to evolve over time, and I’m sure things like 60 FPS and other features will be added as hardware improves as well. It’s also on Xbox Game Pass, but you can also invest the money to purchase it for good. No dealbreakers for me – now excuse me, I have to play some more Starfield. 10/10.
YouTube: Let’s Play – Starfield Review [Gameplay, No Commentary]
Photo credit: All images are owned by Bethesda Softworks and were made available through their press portal.