So. I did it. I got to the credits in Starfield. Steam tells me this is after a bit over 48 hours of play.

Hm.

Now would be the part I share with you how I feel about the experience. But sitting now at this end of things — I don’t have a great many strong feelings about it. Which, I suppose, might be telling in its own right.

But then that’s a reaction (or, lack-of) to the story itself. I don’t think anyone particularly goes into Bethesda games looking for a top-notch main storyline. That isn’t where Bethesda typically hides their cake. Unfortunately for them, though, since Bethesda last launched anything (that wasn’t a Skyrim re-release or a disaster of an effort at a monetisable online monstrosity), The Witcher 3 has come along and shown us that we can, in fact, have our cake and eat it too, when it comes to expansive open world stories also having a strong narrative.

For whatever faults Starfield may have, setting ambience (interiors in particular) isn’t one of them.

I didn’t do all of the factional storylines, knowingly missing most (but not all) of the Freestar Collective deputy line, and the Ryujin Corporation line. But of the ones I did complete, I thought most of them outshone the main story by a fair degree.

On the whole?

The handcrafted content of Starfield is not bad. Not at all. But… There is a lot less of it, I believe, than their previous titles. Rather ironically, there is less of a sense of exploration and being able to find some fully fleshed-out quest off the beaten path in Starfield than there was in essentially any of the prior Bethesda titles.

There seems to be a higher reliance on the less fleshed-out procedurally generated content to carry the game further.

And that procedural content is bad. What it does is generate large chunks of usually rocky, barren landscape, randomly scattered across which are a smattering of points of interest. Those points of interest are in fact handcrafted, but the copy-paste effect means that you can literally encounter the exact same layout with more or less exactly the same enemies again, and again, and again.

Once I understood the nature of the planetary ‘exploration’, I completely disengaged with it. It felt utterly pointless, and I kept to the main paths from that point onward.

Sigh

Now, I feel a need to apologise in advance for spilling this next bit if you didn’t already know. But I’m still going to do it. NPCs no longer have schedules. You know how in Oblivion and Skyrim NPCs would have places to be and things to do at given days and times?

Well- not so in Starfield. They’ll just stand around in the same spot, 24/7, only ever shifting if a script trigger makes it so.

Starfield just doesn’t feel very alive when held up in comparison. Of course — it took me quite a long while to actually notice this. It’s one of those, ‘Once seen cannot be unseen’ things though. So, yeah. Again. Sorry about that.

I realise though I’ve been pretty hard on the game so far.

I do feel that Starfield warrants a degree of criticism. Those saying it is outdated are… well, they’re correct. Those saying it is perhaps a regression — in gameplay terms — over what Bethesda has done before are also correct.

I didn’t get any wild bugs like some of the videos out there are showing off — but I had a couple, like this T-posing security guard.

But on the other side… There are people who will garner enjoyment from Starfield and what it is today. I garnered a lot of enjoyment from it.

As to the rest of it… Well…

“Modders will fix it” is a bit of a joke refrain where Starfield is concerned, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find this was a serious attitude within some quarters of Bethesda. But hey- equally, they’re probably right. Modders will fix it. They’ve already massively improved the UX and UI of the game and made multitudes of other QoL improvements, all without the benefit of the official modding tools being launched.

So I do have a fair degree of hope for the future of Starfield, even if it never quite reaches the modding heights that Skyrim now has.

So all said and done… Would I recommend it to you?

I won’t lie — the current fantastic state of modded Skyrim does make the recommendation a little harder, but…

If you’re someone who enjoys the Bethesda formula of games — the formula set out over their last few TES games, and FO games (’76 excluded), there is a pretty high chance you’re going to have fun with what’s on offer right now. My advice would be to just take your time with it, go around and do the faction questlines — they’re by far the best content in the game. Just pretend the whole ‘planetary exploration’ elements aren’t there. Because scratch even slightly below the surface and they’re… not.

But if you’re someone that enjoys these games heavily modded and fleshed out by the community, there’s really no need to jump in just yet.

Just wait and pick it up on a sale a few years from now.

I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed by Starfield, but it certainly isn’t a revolutionary gaming experience or the next big coming of the open-world genre. Go in with expectations at the right level, and I think you’ll find it’s worth the price of admission. :)


Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

2 Comments

gamerladyp · October 14, 2023 at 4:24 am

I recently wrote a “game is good but not great” post about Starfield. I’m not a fan of games that count on modders to fix their UI, but I sure hope they put out their official modding tools sooner rather than later. I did find quite a few interesting side quest chains to do and deliberately slowed my pace on the MSQ and researched how to start the better side quests. I still need to head out into high level space to chase down one of the more intriguing side quests on Charybdis, but the planet outlevels me by a lot. Of the two main faction quests, I’m glad I did the Freestar Rangers first. The ship you get as a reward for that chain is one of the better ships in the game. I’ve done only one planetary POI and one space POI and that’s plenty for me. I thought I’d found my beach house planet but got chased to death by an overwhelming number of critters that popped up out of nowhere while I was scouting a flat space near the ocean, so I’m still looking for paradise. I had a list of places others had found, but I guess the procedural generation thing means my planets won’t be quite the same or they are just less picky than I am? Don’t even get me started on the “space” suits.

    Naithin · October 14, 2023 at 10:28 am

    I only went out to the higher level planets when the main story demanded it of me near the end to be fair.

    Although for those quests at least, everything still seemed to scale around me rather than the system level. I imagine the procedural content would scale to the system, but not certain.

    And you are right, it isn’t like there are no standalone fleshed out quests out there. I found one system by way of SOS that needed help of clearing it out of spacers and rejoining three different families into a union to keep each other safe which was OK.

    But then a few systems over I found (what seemed to be) an incredibly similar questline and couldn’t help but to roll my eyes.

    As for the “Modders will fix it”, while I do agree, the base experience shouldn’t rely on this fact — I do greatly appreciate games that make this not only possible, but easy.

    For all the stacking faults of the aging Creation engine, at least it still has that going for it.

    I do hope we’ll see TESVI in something new… But also fearful of that at the same time. I have to imagine that they’re well aware of the importance of mods for the longevity of their games and allowing for the multiple versions and resales of Skyrim they did… But… Might also well be something that gets (initially, at least) thrown into the ‘too hard’ basket.

    So guess we’ll see! (Eventually… sigh.)

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