After spending dozens of hours in the Starfield universe, I’m convinced that Bethesda’s latest RPG subverts expectations by combining elements from Skyrim with new features that elevate the space exploration experience. That’s not to say that every element of Starfield is a success, but I found myself enjoying the story and its characters more than I expected.
Starfield has an excellent story, but the opening hours of the Bethesda RPG can be slow-paced, and the game’s initial quests can hinder your progress with encumbrance weights and fetch quests. Thankfully, following the main quest or joining factions helps to provide a more curated and exciting experience, and the main missions shine with memorable characters and engaging quests.
Starfield Review - The Sci-Fi Story
In Starfield you play as ‘The Outlander’, a scavenger who finds themselves on the run after unwittingly stealing a valuable item from the First Fleet. The First Fleet is a collection of fleets hailing from multiple worlds that are on a mission to find a new home after the destruction of their home world.
The story starts slow, with the player character’s origin story taking up a lot of the first few hours. But the storytelling picks up quickly, and the game’s main missions shine with memorable characters and engaging quests. Starfield’s choice system also adds to the fun, with decisions that have significant consequences that are reminiscent of classic Bethesda decisions. The main missions are where the game’s strengths lie, but the science fiction story is well-written and enjoyable.
That said, the game’s missions often devolve into shootouts. Starfield’s gunplay and cover mechanics are competent, but I often found myself preferring to rely on my skills to get the job done. Similarly, the game’s main missions often offer the choice to resolve a conflict peacefully by speaking to NPCs, but these options often lead to dead ends.
Our Starfield preview touched on how the game’s writing sometimes falls flat or misses opportunities to deliver emotional beats to the player. Some of these flaws are present in the game, but they often feel minor in comparison to the overall narrative.
Starfield Review - Gameplay
Lockpicking, skill upgrades, and building a base are just a few of the mechanics that add depth to the gameplay. It might seem strange to include this in a Starfield review, but Bethesda RPGs are known for their complex gameplay systems that require a lot of decision making. Skill upgrades, for instance, require you to choose between perks that can give your character boosts in specific areas, such as increasing the accuracy of energy weapons.
Lockpicking also requires you to spend skill points in the mechanics skill tree. On one hand, these mechanics can feel unnecessary, as I was able to complete the game with a low-level character without investing points in these mechanics. On the other hand, these mechanics add a layer of strategy and can make the gameplay feel more like a tactical game.
Starfield’s base building is improved compared to Fallout 4, but shipbuilding is more challenging. The building mechanics are easy to grasp, and it’s satisfying to create a base from scratch. On the other hand, shipbuilding is a mess. It’s still technically possible to play the whole game without building a ship, but you need to complete a few quests that unlock the shipbuilding mechanic. If you’re not lucky enough to get these quests early on, you might end up waiting hours before you can start working on your ship.
Exploration is another weak point for Starfield. Many of the planets you visit often feel lifeless and dull. Side quests encountered during exploration can be satisfying, but they’re too infrequent and often require you to spend a lot of time exploring bland, repetitive locations. The procedural generation of planets can lead to planets that feel identical to one another, often with similar geography and resource placement.
Landing on planets and docking at space stations is done through cutscenes, which limits your level of immersion. You can’t explore the inside of space stations or interact with NPCs on planets. The visual quality of planets can also vary. Planets with lush, green landscapes and inhabited cities are the most visually appealing, but other planets are filled with barren landscapes and rocky terrains.
Starfield Review - Technical Issues
Starfield has a few technical issues. During my playthrough, I encountered a few frame rate drops, and the game crashed a handful of times. Bethesda has already released one update for the game since launch, so it’s likely that these issues will be resolved soon.
Starfield’s cities are vibrant and filled with activities. Bethesda is known for creating impressive Open-world cities, and Starfield’s cities are no exception. The cities are well-designed and filled with NPCs that feel like set dressing, but their environments are well-designed and present players with a lot to discover.
Starfield Review - Verdict
Starfield is a fun RPG game, but it’s not without its flaws.