Review – Starfield

Star-Struck

Overview

Developer Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher Bethesda softworks
Genre RPG
Platforms Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release Date September 6th, 2023

Since the “Starfield” name was trademarked in 2013, fans have wondered what a space-themed title from Todd Howard and Bethesda would look like. We’ve been traveling the fantastic world of Elder Scrolls and wandering the wastelands of Fallout for so long—it’s been over 20 years since Bethesda created a new IP. In 2018, we learned at E3 that the wait would end soon. We’ve come a long way from that teaser logo that came alongside the one for Elder Scrolls 6.

Much has happened since that announcement. Since then, Microsoft acquired Bethesda and stated that gamers who want to explore Bethesda’s future work would have to do it on Xbox or PC. Now on the other side of the acquisition, the console war debate continues to rage on, and those who desired to play the game have found the means to do so. Even on my Series S, the experience was not stifled. I’ve found myself lost in the galaxy numerous times—Starfield delivers.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: The game includes three fictional religions. During character creation, players have the option of choosing one of them as a background which gives the character varying bonuses.

Violence: During the game, players will engage in combat using various ranged and melee weapons, involving blood splatter and enemies crying in pain. Some locations that players explore include dead bodies covered in blood.

Drugs/Alcohol: A fictional drug called Aurora is a prominent resource in the world of Starfield. Players have the option of consuming the drug along with alcohol. Some quests might have players delivering the drug.

Sexual Content: It is quite nice to report that nudity doesn’t exist in the game. Some NPCs are available to romance, but when the deed is done, your character wakes up in bed next to them as they make a suggestive comment.

Language: Words such as “f**k” and “bulls**t” are present in the game’s dialogue.

Other: Starfield is a game that gives players the opportunity to play it however they like. Doing things such as smuggling illegal contraband around the galaxy is one such act. A series of missions has the players going undercover within a dangerous gang of space bandits. On the bright side, not every encounter has to end in combat or death; players can solve many problems by choosing the right dialogue to avoid conflict.

To infinity and beyond!

Review

The world of Starfield comes from the idea of “What if we did find a way to travel beyond our galaxy” that keeps architecture and technology somewhat grounded in reality far more than most sci-fi video games, shows, and movies. It takes place in a not-so-distant future; weapons, spacesuits, and even the ships don’t feel far off from what they are today. I like this approach because it is unlike anything we’ve seen out of the genre, though the game has its own unique way of tapping into the fantastical side of sci-fi. Amongst the presentation is a soundtrack that I found myself taking in on my many adventures. Many of the tracks feel as if they were inspired by sci-fi films and television from the old days. It successfully captures the awe, wonder, and mystery that someone might find as they explore the galaxy. Lastly, Starfield is graphically the best-looking that Bethesda has ever made.

After my time with the game(still ongoing), I have a handful of experiences that occurred during my play sessions that will stick in my brain forever; that is a testament to how much I have enjoyed my time. For a while now, Bethesda has been getting clowned by the internet for being the buggiest and jankiest games known to mankind. However, I’m happy to report that Starfield happens to be their most polished release. An NPC ally getting stuck in a corner or standing on a table on accident and a game crash or two were only minor inconveniences; exploring the many galaxies was quite pleasant. Others may harshly criticize the game for not being everything Todd Howard said it would be, but I believe that this team has delivered on such an ambitious project.

Landed on Mars

One thing that was never said, is that traveling through space would be seamless. You can land on any planet you want, but you’ll load into a closed-off dome whether it is in a city or a procedurally generated surface of a planet you might land on to to explore. Let me play devil’s advocate and ask: is it actually that fun to take minutes or even hours to fly across the universe in Elite Dangerous or No Man’s Sky? That may be so for some, but not to a larger more casual player base, I highly doubt it would be in a game like Starfield. I personally don’t need a seamless transition down to a planet if the developers intend on giving me a unique and well-crafted environment to explore, though it is a slight bummer that I find myself spending a frequent amount of time in the game’s many menus for both inventory management and travel. Even so, that time doesn’t detract from the memorable moments.

Making your character in Starfield feels more special than doing so in Elder Scrolls or Fallout, as you’ll be choosing a background and optional traits. I had no idea how these options would affect my game, which made the concept all the more fascinating. I chose gangster for my background, which said I’d have people coming after me on occasion but I’d gain a damage boost at critically low health. The trait I chose was “Neon Street Rat”, which would grant me extra rewards for anything I did in the city of Neon. Choosing both of those also granted me extra dialogue options that sometimes helped certain situations work out for the better. While I can’t say I spent enough time in Neon to fully reap those rewards, the background and traits came into play when it truly mattered—enabling me to roleplay the kind of person I wanted to be in the game.

This street rat had no idea he was going places.

When on foot, you’ll quickly notice that Starfield plays like Fallout in space. The one missing piece, however, is the V.A.T.S. system from that series. It may not have been a mechanic that fans enjoyed, but I certainly made use of it. While it felt somewhat awkward to not have that, I realized it was time to put my big boy pants on and work for those shots. The skill tree also encourages players to put in work by completing various challenges to rank up a skill that they seek to be proficient in; completing these challenges opens the opportunity for you to apply a skill point to the next rank. Each skill point I earned through a level-up was put into shotguns, pistols, and improvements to ship combat—even unlocking some gameplay features I was previously unable to utilize. This skill system only enhances the roleplaying experience when you truly apply the points to the areas that matter for your character instead of trying to min-max everything.

In terms of space combat, do not be discouraged if you find it difficult at first. If you want to be a threat behind the guns like I aimed to be, you’ll want to put your points into skills like piloting and ship targeting. There was a time when I was so weak and still had the starting ship that I had to leave a quest and return later to finish the job. The flight controls are thankfully simple to grasp, but diverting power to different parts of the ship can be a stressful task which would be the case in a real interstellar dogfight. My best example of how space battles work is in comparison to Star Wars: Squadrons, only that the ships are slower and bulky here and you have a few more sections of power to divert. Suppose you’d rather not be a space ace. In that case, I imagine it would be a fun challenge to play a character that prefers a more passive way to handle some situations, because, for every option you have to skip the small talk and get your triggers ready, there are plenty of situations you could avoid combat if that’s what you want to do.

Starfield includes some memorable companions.

Speaking of spaceships, Starfield boasts an extensive suite of customization tools to make your very own ship. The options are certainly robust as I’ve seen players come up with some amazing creations across the internet, but it was a feature I didn’t get much time with and couldn’t fully grasp just by jumping into the editor. Do not fret, as making your own ship isn’t the only way to acquire new ones. You could commandeer one from someone else, or earn a few as a quest reward—one such quest called “The Mantis” is one of my favorites. I tried to see if there was a way to mix and match ship parts from those that I acquired; if that is an option, it likely isn’t as simple as I thought because I couldn’t find a way to do so. Again, the ship editor is a tool that isn’t required but seems worth exploring if you want to bring some ideas to life.

Even through all the menu delving, Starfield delivers what I believe Bethesda values most in their games—immersion. It’s not usually the story of a Bethesda game that players end up talking about, it is the moments along the way that we share. The same will go for Starfield, though I feel that this is the one time that players should be discussing the story more. I surely won’t forget the one encounter where a father and daughter hailed me to sell some lemonade—a situation in which I expected to be robbed or ambushed. And yes, I did have a mercenary ship recognize my wanted status; let me just say I didn’t let him have that bounty. You could finish the game’s story in about 25 hours, but you’ll likely be spending closer to 100+ if you want to see everything the game has to offer, especially with the unique approach to new game+.

Where do we go next?

At its core, Starfield isn’t much different from any other Bethesda game we’ve played before, but it is the most ambitious space adventure to ever be released on a console or PC. To the casual PlayStation owners, I won’t say you should run out and go buy an Xbox or PC simply to get your hands on the game. However, if you’re a die-hard fan of these developers, you would be missing out on one of their most important releases in a very long time. I imagine that Starfield will be the new gold standard that their future titles will rest on and we will first see that in Elder Scrolls 6. Let us not forget that if you decide to get your hands on a new device to play it, all you need is a Game Pass subscription unless you’re one of the many that Microsoft suckered into paying $30 extra to play a few days early. If you decide to pull the trigger, I hope you find yourself engrossed in this great space-faring journey.

A review copy was generously provided.

The Bottom Line

 

At is core, Starfield isn't anything we haven't seen before. However, it delivers on immersing us into a vast universe that contains galaxies of possibilities.

 

8.5

L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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