To some, the arrival of Starfield has taken on near-mythic status.
Fans of Bethesda’s previous games in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises have long hoped this could be the company's biggest and best release of all time. Others will look at Bethesda’s current ownership, Microsoft, and argue that anything short of a perfect landing could spell trouble for the Xbox brand on the whole.
With the game now finally being available to the masses, we’re here to tell you that Starfield is just a game. It’s a very good one at that, but if your expectations are epic in themselves, you might want to realign them somewhat.
If you were hoping this release would change your life, maybe think again. It will certainly take up a fair chunk of your life, with a main story that will take tens of hours and plenty of side content on top of that, but it doesn’t so much reinvent the wheel as it does mush a few different wheels together to make something reasonably impressive.
Read more on Starfield:
- Starfield missions list - how far are you?
- Starfield tips and tricks - how to get started
- Starfield romance - all potential relationships
- Starfield character creation - all your options explained
- Starfield digipick - how to lockpick
- How long is Starfield? The hours you'll need
- Will Starfield ever come to PS5? Developer comments
- Starfield cast - all voice actors
- Starfield companions - who to recruit
- Starfield soundtrack - how to listen
- Starfield storage guide - don't be overburdened
- Starfield FOV - change your point of view
- Starfield FPS - developers explain 30fps
- Starfield PC requirements - specs needed
- Starfield performance - potential fixes
- Starfield factions - all possible groups
Starfield is a sci-fi RPG in the vein of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect and The Outer Worlds, with all of the planet-hopping missions and collectible companions that you would expect. It’s also a Bethesda RPG, so expect numerous factions and plenty of choices to tailor your experience. It's a galaxy exploration game, too, with base-building mechanics, a bit like No Man’s Sky or even Outer Wilds, to an extent.
Bethesda should be applauded for doing all those things pretty well, in one handy package, but we wouldn’t say Starfield is the best in class of any of those categories. It doesn’t have the humour of The Outer Worlds, the truly loveable companions of KotOR, the properly open-ended feel of No Man’s Sky, or the structural uniqueness of Outer Wilds.
But enough about what Starfield doesn’t have. It does have a lot going for it, after all. For one thing, the number of ways in which you can customise your character is properly impressive, so much so that you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the traits and backstories you can choose from at the start.
Starfield is also very quick to let you off the leash. Once you’ve completed the tutorial content and picked up your ship, there’s nothing really to stop you from hopping about between different planets and doing whatever the heck you want. If you want to build outposts and scan the local flora and fauna, you can.
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But if you’d rather head out in search of action, you’ll find plenty of enemies and stories dotted around the universe. Any approach is valid, you can ignore anything you don’t fancy, and it’ll be interesting to see what players discover once the game is in their hands. Whether you love collecting companions or crafting upgrades, or just want to look around, Starfield is supportive of your unique play style.
One thing that players might be disappointed by, in this day and age, is the fact that the game does have a lot of loading screens that it doesn’t try to hide. Open the door of a police station? Loading screen. Get in the lift to go upstairs? Loading screen. Take off in your spaceship? Loading screen. All these little breaks in the action do hinder the immersion somewhat, especially with this being billed as a next-gen experience.
Another thing to watch out for, and we cover this in our tips video above, is the fact that the gameplay is so open and freewheeling that you might find yourself bogged down at points. You may end up hunkering down on one planet, missing a lot of the game’s magic, intimidated and slightly confused by your massive to-do list.
We’d encourage you to shake off that feeling and flit about between lots of different worlds, but it’s hard to shake that one-thing-at-a-time mindset when there’s so much going on.
On the visual side, Starfield is a bit hit and miss. It ran just fine in our experience playing on both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, but some of the planets are pretty bland-looking, and the characters sometimes get a bit glitchy (your companion might sprint away from you or get stuck on a door, for example, or your character's head might lock in a left-pointing direction).
The tone is also a little bit on the wobbly side. While there are comedy inclusions like Bethesda’s recurring Adoring Fan Easter egg, the overarching vibe is aiming for something more like the prestige sci-fi of Interstellar.
That straight-faced tone is fine for a one-off film, but after tens of hours of gameplay, the deadly seriousness with which most people speak can get a bit dull. We’d recommend picking the sarcastic conversational choices from time to time, just to spice things up.
What’s interesting, though, is that the more time we spend with Starfield, the more we come to love it. And the more we go off the beaten track, following up on vague leads and responding to distress calls, the more we see that there is a staggering amount of story to discover here. A lot of big ideas, well-realised, that you could miss if you simply chain the main missions back to back.
This is a game that rewards your curiosity and encourages you to stop and smell the roses.
The gameplay has grown on us gradually, as well. To start with, juggling all the different guns and ammo types was a cause for frustration, as was the regularity with which the main character becomes overburdened (you’ll want to spend skill points on 'weight lifting' ASAP).
The space battles also felt a bit confusing at first. But over time, we’ve come to relish combat situations, both in the sky and on land, with the verticality provided by your jetpack being a particularly fun element to play around with. And the resource management element of the space battles is a nice challenge throughout (e.g. do you spend your limited energy on shields or guns, engines or lasers?).
One thing that we’ve continuously enjoyed is the music, with the orchestral score by Inon Zur being nothing short of beautiful. As we explore the planets, work our way up the factions and gradually assemble the mysterious artefact at the heart of the story, Zur’s epic musical themes tie it all together very nicely indeed. From bombastic parp to atmospheric intimate moments, this is a soundtrack that we can imagine getting a lot of play on Spotify for years to come.
Starfield is a mash-up of a lot of different games that you may already know and love. Initially, you might think it doesn’t measure up to the likes of Skyrim or KotOR. But over time, the slow burn will work its magic and you’ll find yourself realising that this game is more than just the sum of its parts or a retread of its inspirations.
It’s a vast galaxy full of possibilities, a real achievement in terms of storytelling scale, and we’d say that it’s well worth checking out for yourself. Give it a go on Xbox Game Pass, keep chipping away at it, and you’ll be rewarded with lots of good stuff.
Patience is a virtue, and spacefaring adventure never stops being cool.
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