Starfield – Game Review


Starfield

(available for Xbox Series X & S and PC. Xbox Series X version used for this review)

I want to state right now that I probably haven’t done as much content as some people would like. I did get as much done as possible, I even paid for early access to the game, so as a result I got it 5 days ahead of the standard edition going onto Game Pass and have played this game for around 52 hours over 23 days. I did the entire main story, a small amount of New Game Plus, and quite a few of the side missions including the missions based on the various factions, which are some of the most substantial side content.

Starfield is the most ambitious Xbox Game Studio game in years. It’s very important for them considering some of the struggles that they had this year (need I remind you of how bad Redfall was) But, Xbox has also had strengths this year, I really enjoyed Hi-Fi Rush and Starfield was something that I was really looking forward to. It seemed like that great space exploration game that people have wanted for ages. A sort of No Man’s Sky with more content. Of course, this is the first new IP from Bethesda in a very long time. Hoping to be the third pillar alongside Fallout and Elder Scrolls.

I can report that Starfield isn’t just Fallout in space, it does have its own identity and its own feel. There are 1000+ planets. You can’t necessarily land on all of the planets, the gas planets for example aren’t explorable, but you can land on several of their moons. For example, (this isn’t a spoiler) you get access to our universe in one of the tutorial missions, and once I got more freedom I decided to go to one of Saturn’s moons. A slight mistake on my part since I got involved in a museum tour that went on for ages and the guide wouldn’t shut up or stop asking me questions… But it is interesting to just explore the planets. Early on I was just landing wherever I could and exploring! If you survey a planet 100% you will gain experience points and survey data, too.

But there’s also a lot else going on in the game. Spaceship design, combat, and several storylines going on. There’s one around a group of space cops, there’s an organisation in a cyberpunk setting, and there are all sorts going here, as you would expect. You will unlock a lot of side missions just by overhearing conversations.

As for the gameplay itself, while the combat does bear some resemblance to Fallout, it does have its own flair and uniqueness to it, You don’t have the targeting limbs mechanic that you have from, Fallout 3 onwards. The wide variety of weapons was really enjoyable to use.

Majority of the game you will be working for the characters in the main storyline, who represent a group called Constellation, whose job it is to explore the unknown galaxy for information vital to humanity. You’re going to be looking for several artefacts, the first of which you discovered in the tutorial mission.

While this does have its own uniqueness to it, it still feels like a Bethesda game. The dialogue boxes look the same, the mechanics feel fairly similar, and you can tell this game has been made in the creation engine.

My review won’t do this game justice. While I tried to construct an Outpost, I wasn’t great at it, so I didn’t do it again, and I found that with a great ship you don’t really need an outpost.

As a whole, I did enjoy this game, and I’ll go into detail about the positives and negatives.

PROS

  • Graphics

In my opinion, the Creation engine was beginning to show its age, but I’ll give it to Bethesda: they have made a really great-looking game. One of the best experiences was going into the moons from gas giant planets and seeing the planets in an extraordinary way. The engine makes space look amazing.

The planets have a great variety of them. You can get a Wild West type city, there’s a neon city, and one of my favourites was the Holiday Planet which had the resort Paradiso. There was a really good variety available, and the environments were really interesting, especially considering that Bethesda had done a lot of research on astronomical data, they even used NASA’s own data to give a sense of realism to how each planet’s environment would go depending on their relation to the stars. It seems like they took our Solar System and built upon that to design their own.

You won’t come across ones with alien life each time, but you will come across interesting environments and if the game is lacking in alien life, it wasn’t noticeable to me because I went to a ton of planets with life forms.

You’ll need to change up your suits based on the environments though, otherwise, you’ll be afflicted by various elements- I shouldn’t have gone to Pluto as soon as I did, because the environment was incredibly cold, and my suit didn’t have great thermal regulation. So, I had to fast-travel back to New Atlantis to see the doctor. That may be your main capital, but you won’t be there that often. It seems to be the city that has the most effort put into it, but who knows, I might have missed something in a side mission.

What I found amazing was that it didn’t feel like any planet was half-arsed. Granted, many of the planets do receive procedural generation if you don’t land in a pre-selected area, but I still thought that there was no planet where little effort had been put in.

  • Gameplay and Combat

I wanted to highlight the combat particularly because I thought that it was pretty good. It does have that Bethesda issue of putting you in environments with way too many enemies, but if you do the main story up to a certain point, you gain an extra element to combat which can alleviate some of those issues.

I would suggest doing a good chunk of the main story before going off and doing your own thing. When you get the new element of combat, that’s when you should go off and do the side stuff. I didn’t and it made a lot of the missions much more difficult. But because I followed some advice and got some of the best suits and ships that you can get early on in the game, it alleviated a couple of my big issues. That being said, I wish I saved a little bit longer because having it earlier on would have helped. The game still provides good customisation in terms of how you want to do combat. You get several perks, for example, when you do your character creation and you pick Diplomat, you will gain extra persuasion benefits at the beginning of the game. If you level that one up to the max, you can pretty much talk yourself out of several fights and even some harder story mission moments. I personally used that one since I like talking my way out of things in Bethesda games.

The levelling-up system is quite clever. When you level up, you get a skill point that you can use to level up skills you already have, but you cannot do so unless you meet the criteria. If you want to be good with shotguns, you have to kill a certain number of enemies with shotguns, then you’ll get the upgrade to increase your damage. If you want my advice on two that you should do no matter what, I think you should level up Ship Piloting. If you want to steal other people’s ships, do better customisation, or just level up your own ship, that one will come in handy. The absolute must is weightlifting, which allows you to carry more stuff- I’ll get into my issues with that down the line. That is one you should Max out very quickly since you’ll be able to rely less on your ship’s cargo hold that way.

I haven’t even gotten into space combat yet, which I would deem to be okay if you’re playing the game in the third person. Do not do ship combat in first person! For one thing, nothing looks that good from the cockpit vs. full view in space. Also, combat is way easier to figure out what you’re doing that way. It works for the most part, but I found it really difficult to get the hang of when there were a lot of enemies. Trust me, a lot of space combat will be mandatory so level up that piloting skill so you can get better ships.

MIXED

  • Story

This will depend on which storyline you do. Some of the side quests really vary in quality and some of the storylines don’t really do that great of a job. I feel like I should have cared way more about the mission when I was essentially a space cop, but that one didn’t really keep my interest towards the end, and it was kind of all over the place.

I think my favourite one was when I had to go undercover in the Crimson Fleet. You might want to hold off on finishing that one because not having pirates attack you in space or when you’re visiting planets can actually be of some benefit. That one had an ending where I was questioning what exactly I was going to do.

I think that your side companions have great stories and personalities. Often the dialogue and dialogue options can change depending on what companion you take to certain missions.

The ending is really interesting, and it leads to a very interesting conclusion which did make me want to play the game a bit longer. I’ll let you discover it for yourself, but many were recommending completing the main story, but unless you do a bit of side content including some of those big side missions that involve multiple missions, I don’t think that the impact of it will hit. You’ll know what missions I mean because they have a special logo next to them.

  • Customisation

While I didn’t really enjoy the outpost, I did enjoy customising my ship up to a point. It is cool to design your spaceship to have everything in there, like a good workshop for crafting because tons of people were telling me that that’s what I should have, but then it turned out that that was meaningless because I was barely crafting or cooking anything because I couldn’t find any ingredients…

The customisation does have its limits. If you pick certain ways to customise your ship you can end up doing things that you don’t realise- if you pick a certain company’s habitat environment, you can end up altering another habitat you already had! If you do it in the worst way you can even alter a bed, which can mess up your sleep and therefore your health.

It also comes with the fact that this ship has to be able to mechanically fly, which I didn’t think would be an issue until I tried to make this thing work. I got into several issues where the game would tell me the ship wouldn’t be able to fly… Again… And again! Eventually, I would just give up and wait until I had enough money to buy a new ship or just do different missions and hope I could nick a ship that would suit my needs better.

Obviously, my experience isn’t the same as everyone else’s. I’ve seen so many elaborate creations online, like the person who created the Titanic. Because I don’t even know how you began to do that. I would advise that you don’t really need to do much customisation. You will need to have a fleet of spaceships for certain parts of the game.

  • Travel

The fast travel is fine in this game and if you upgrade your ability to do Gravity Jumps, you can go further distances without having to jump between planets. I did appreciate the fact that the game didn’t let you jump into an undiscovered galaxy, and you had to discover certain routes, but it started to bother me when fast travel would just be between galaxies, and you couldn’t go between planets seamlessly. Well, you can kind of do that, but it takes hours (and I do mean hours!) It’s been tested on other people’s live streams, don’t make the mistake I did where I left the game going for 40 minutes before I realised I could just fast-travel from the Pause menu. I do think that this is one of the aspects of the game that Bethesda oversold. You won’t really be exploring space, but you will be fast travelling a lot. It won’t be like No Man’s Sky where you can take off and immediately be in space, there are a lot of loading screens in this game.

That being said, there isn’t anything majorly wrong with the travel in this game.

CONS

  • Incumbency Mechanics

I have no idea why Bethesda has kept this in. This made things miserable a lot of the time. I can’t just pick up anything I want because if I go over my weight limit it will stop me from fast travelling and if I do anything more than a slight walk, I will lose oxygen. I never liked incumbency in Elder Scrolls or Fallout, and I don’t like it here. There are other ways to give your players a limited inventory that are better than this, and I hope they remove this in future games.

  • Framerate Issues

This might be because I was playing on Xbox Series X where the framerate is locked to 30FPS and I haven’t played the PC version, but for the most part, the framerate didn’t bother me because it seemed like the game was built around that framerate. That being said, there were moments where the framerate would freeze entirely, or the game would struggle to load things in. It’s certainly an issue predominantly towards the final few hours of the story.

  • Bugs

I haven’t encountered some of the really weird bugs, and I will say to Bethesda’s credit, this is probably one of the most polished launches to come from them in a while. While I didn’t get some of the usual Bethesda ones like the lively corpses, the game did crash on me on numerous occasions, seemingly sometimes at random. I had a crash happen to me in one of the bigger cities for simply jetpacking over a fountain. I would say that on the whole, while I do think the game works well at launch, it does have a major issue with crashes, and I would like to see them sort it out in future updates.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Starfield is a great game if you go into it hoping for another good Bethesda game. I wouldn’t describe this as a genre-defining title, but with all of the content in this, you’ll be playing it for years. I wish incumbency wasn’t a thing, and if you want a way to alleviate it other than the weightlifting perk, read everyone’s note documents on the tutorial mission in the space station near Neptune, once you read all of the enemy’s documents, you’ll get a mission called Mantis. It’s a hard mission to do early on, but the perks you get for it is worth it and will help.

As a whole, I think that this plays well, and I found it really enjoyable. While I don’t think it does too much to separate itself, I think that it was still an enjoyable experience. It has some issues that it needs to work out, but I will be really interested to see what Bethesda will do in regard to a sequel to this. It might not have given us the definitive space exploration game that everyone has been waiting for, but it was a really good stab at it and it’s a really good Bethesda RPG.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia10th July 2024
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