By Sithis, Starfield sure is a thing.
Nah it’ll be fine, it’s a Bethesda game right? I mean, right out the gate you’re having fun; after character design, you’re immediately attacked by a dragon and need to run to shelter with either Hadvar, an Imperial soldier, or Ralof the Stormcloak rebel…
Sorry, force of habit; I’m still surprised Bethesda have made a new game and not just released Skyrim again. But also, I feel like Bethesda still think they have a unique proposition, and I don’t really know why.
I liked No Man’s Sky and The Outer Worlds too
We all know what Starfield is about; you, a random miner, touch an alien artifact, trip balls, and then get invited to a secret society. Classic call to adventure. Now, on to the gameplay.
Thievery and murder are, of course, both good and fun. All of us are in the stars, but some of us are looking at the gutter, and personally I’ll steal anything not nailed down. Especially if I can immediately and easily fence it to the Trade Authority, or Space Thieves’ Guild.
Murder is harder to get away with, but sometimes important; I’ve tried to solve problems with as little collateral damage as possible, but I also don’t view corporate drones as people most of the time, so they don’t count.
Honestly, I think when The Outer Worlds came out, it shook Bethesda. So much of the game is similar, but forcibly different, that it feels like Starfield originally was much more like the Obsidian game than anyone would like. But, development cycles being what they are, Outer Worlds came out first, and Todd pivoted like Ross in that one Friends episode.
Why are you like this?
And this, Bethesda, is why you can’t take a decade per game. Someone else will do your idea first, and what was unique when you started won’t be by the end. Starfield could’ve been cut down to nine star systems and felt amazing. Instead, we get a myriad of forgettable locations with a couple of rare standouts. From another studio this would be fine, but with BGS we expect more.
And look, I get it. No one likes being typecast, and I don’t blame BGS for trying something different. But when I’d rather play No Man’s Sky over a brand new AAA RPG, you know something’s up.
I’m still enjoying Starfield, obviously. It’s not a bad game by any means. I’m harsh because I love, and because I love I need to be harsh. Inventory management is a living nightmare. Spacesuits, helmets, and packs being seperate, sure, but why did you mash Aid and Food into one? You fixed this in 76 guys, come on.
Speaking of things that used to be fixed, crafting is bizarrely difficult, with menu after arcane menu needing navigation. So many skills needing points means that leveling is a difficult choice between “shooty make more bang” and “make shooty better in general”.
I don’t care for it, personally.
Ah, the bugs
Oh yeah, technical stuff. Inon Zur’s soundtrack sounds exactly as you’d expect, so that’s good. The game runs fine on XBox Series S, so I have to assume it’s grand on everything else too.
There are bugs galore; loading saves biffs me about 200 metres away from where I saved and clips me through the ground, so that’s fun. My ship’s exterior just plain stopped loading for a while, companions won’t shut up during vital exposition dialogue, and the usual stuff you expect from a BGS game.
What, did you expect polish? Have you met Bethesda?
Bethesda’s trademark environmental storytelling is still evident in cities, ports, and other scripted areas. No skeletons on toilets, but hey you can’t have it all. And there are some great quests, great characters, but the attention to detail in in some of these big pieces just heightens the emptiness of the rest.
Sometimes, however, the shallowness is even more apparent. I got married in Akila City with my husband’s dad and his ex-wife. The daughter bugged and never showed up, but it was my own parents absence that really got me. Skyrim brought a ton of randoms to your wedding, and it was great to see everyone I hadn’t already sacrificed to the Ebony Blade there. Starfield won’t let you bring your parents, friends, coworkers, anything. This lack of depth is felt almost everywhere, and it’s deeply disappointing, but this one hurt.
Starfield is vast, empty, and cold. And I don’t understand why.
The real reason I’m angry
I’m coming off as aggressive, and that’s intentional. I wouldn’t be so harsh, but Starfield has committed a fairly serious faux pas in it’s voice acting which has managed to ruin the game for me. I’m an Irish immigrant to New Zealand, and I’m a little bit sensitive (extremely sensitive) when it comes to people imitating my accent. Which is why, when a character named Clover Mackenna shows up full of begorrah and Jaysus, I had to look up the actress. Surely, SURELY this isn’t some random American doing their best leprechaun impression?
I was disappointed, dear reader, but not surprised.
This happened three times, with three different actors. There’s probably more, but damned if I’m going to seek them out. It is, I should mention, not hard to find Irish voice actors. Why Bethesda insists on doing this (that’s right, no one’s forgotten Fallout 3’s Moriarty or the insane stereotype of Fallout 4’s Cait) is beyond me. They know Ireland’s a real country, right? Six odd million of us, real people, who already have to watch our culture and heritage abused on the daily by the diaspora and whoever else wants a go? Clearly they don’t.
They need reminding.
At the very least, the New Zealand characters are actually voiced by Kiwis. Nice that my chosen country, if not my home country, is given a modicum of respect.
Seriously guys I’m so mad about it.
I don’t know what it is, but I’m not engaged. I spent 80 hours in this game, then rebought the Skyrim Anniversary Edition. And that’s the crux of my review, the takeaway from weeks of gaming; I’d rather be playing Skyrim.
Bethesda started making this game a decade ago. In the meantime, No Man’s Sky, The Outer Worlds, Cyberpunk 2077, and a myriad of other games came along and did most of what Starfield is doing. This was always going to happen because, as I said, you can’t spend a decade working on something and expect the zeitgeist to wait for you.
My own mileage is very subjective, and much of my ire is personal. I’ve agonised over this review, and my verdict of “I guess it’s fine” is the most impartial I can be. Starfield is a game that took years to make, developed by a widely celebrated studio, and it just manages the bare minimum.
I hope you like it more than I do. I’m going to go play Skyrim.
For a game set in the sky, it's no Skyrim.