Ever since Starfield was teased during Bethesda’s E3 2018 presentation, fans everywhere have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Bethesda Game Studios’ newest IP in over 29 years. Given how popular both the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises are, I can fully understand why there has been so much hype for this game but I personally wasn’t interested until after the Starfield Direct back in June.
Now that I’ve been playing this highly anticipated title for the last two weeks, I can confirm that Starfield is an enjoyable, wildly ambitious action RPG and a noticeable small step forward for the Xbox first-party brand. Here are more of my thoughts on what you could expect should you decide to check it out.
Prepare For Lift Off
Starfield could be best described as a massive science fiction-themed action role-playing game that takes place in the year 2330. Beyond the outer reaches of the Solar System in a place referred to as The Settled Systems, you take on the role of a customizable silent protagonist who joins Constellation, an organized group of space explorers, after discovering a mysterious artifact. With so many questions about the artifact’s origin and what its existence means for the entire galaxy, your mission now revolves around uncovering every secret across various uncharted territories.
While this mission is at the centerpiece of the storyline, Starfield is essentially a game about having the freedom to explore. This unique experience is dictated by the fact that you can customize your character and ship, recruit new members to your team, make crucial life-or-death decisions based on conversations with other NPCs, join different factions with varying philosophies, hijack other ships, and partake in various side story missions that showcase how current events are affecting others.
When it comes to exploring any of the 100 habitable planets, It’s worth noting that you can’t immediately jump to any new area if you haven’t yet visited another planet in that region. This doesn’t happen with every single planet as some locations are tied to the story but it is necessary to clarify that a little work is needed before accessing certain destinations.
There are over 1000 planets across the Star system but as of this writing, I haven’t yet found every single one. Some of the planets that don’t have life do contain other elements that are vital to the story and I’m very curious to see how fans will react once they make these unique discoveries.
If you’ve ever played any Fallout game, then you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Starfield. The major difference about this game is the outer space setting and how vast the opportunities are for adventure and exploration. One minute you could be tasked with stopping a bank robbery in a new region and the next minute you could be the one needed to steal a valuable item from corrupt space pirates.
While I personally thought the narrative pacing started out a bit slow in the opening mission, things picked up very quickly after doing my first Constellation mission and remained interesting afterward. There are several exciting twists and turns that will keep you engaged and provide more surprising answers to your questions.
One Small Step
From a graphical standpoint, Starfield looks great on the Xbox Series X. This is the first Bethesda game to make use of Creation Engine 2 which includes features like real-time global illumination, advanced volumetric lighting, and improved dynamic environments and character models. In regards to the various locations, you can definitely tell that a lot of detail went into bringing these concepts to life. Character models and animations were also very fluid as I didn’t notice anything that looked weird or out of place.
On the performance side, I know there have been many complaints about Starfield running 30 fps on Xbox Series X. This particular issue didn’t bother me one bit while I was playing the game. I did however encounter a few bugs during a quest mission that was fixed after rebooting the game. Bugs are very common in games and given that Bethesda has a reputation for having many bugs in their games it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they would exist in a game of this scale. For the most part, I didn’t encounter too many bugs so at least for now the claims of this being their least buggy title seem true at least on console.
In A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Starfield is a very ambitious game and this will be apparent to anyone who picks up the controller for the very first time. When you start the process of completing your character profile, you gain access to Biometric Customizations for your gender, body, face, background, traits, and name. The traits are important because they define your background and play a role in how you carry out conversations with others during your journey. You can update these options at any time by visiting a genetics facility.
From there, you start your mission which usually consists of completing a main objective while also engaging in conversations with your companion and other NPCs. You can switch between first-person and third-person perspective views at any time. Companions are typically other Constellation members who are required to partner up with you in earlier missions until a key objective is completed. After that, you do have an option to go solo and complete other missions by yourself.
When you do bring a companion, they get you a gift and you can use this kind gesture to build a bond and potential friendship or romantic relationship with them over time. While I did like some of these companions, a large majority of them just didn’t feel memorable to me at all. The knowledge they brought to the table was valuable but they did tend to annoy me a little after a while.
Speaking of conversations with other NPCs, one thing that I absolutely loved about this game was how you can use persuasion to get your way. In specific conversations regarding getting information or resolving conflicts, the dialogue box will appear with an option to persuade whoever you are talking to. You then have 3 chances to choose the right dialogue to use in your explanation. If you fail, then the outcome could be catastrophic depending on the situation. I encountered one of these instances where I tried to talk myself out of a shootout and the end result was guaranteed bloodshed and dead bodies.
Luckily for me, the combat aesthetics and gunplay controls were also solid. It felt very satisfying to use almost every weapon in the game and the enemy AI provided a very balanced challenge especially when there were a ton of them that needed to be eliminated. If you end up taking too much damage, you can use any of the food or first aid items that you’ve acquired. You can also sleep before and after combat to restore your health. I also like that injuries and extreme environmental conditions can impact your health status in which case medicine is needed to fully recover.
Ship combat took a little more getting used to as I had to account for upgrading parts in order to strengthen integrity against attacks. Eventually, I did get better at this but it’s especially tough when starting out. In both combat scenarios, you can use stealth prior to attacking enemies but when it comes to using ships, sneaking across enemies requires powering down your vehicle which leaves you more vulnerable. For this reason, I would strongly recommend that you consider your strategy wisely before moving forward with any plan.
Jumping back to the exploration side of things, you have the ability to collect a ton of miscellaneous items including food, resources, and more. Just like in Fallout, it’s very important to be mindful of how many items you are carrying as it can deplete your oxygen and stamina faster and prevent you from using fast travel to other destinations. When you have too many items in your inventory, your companion starts to make comments about you carrying too much junk. You can then choose to give them some items or use your ship’s cargo as a storage place when you’re nearby. Some items can be bought or sold and used for crafting and research so it’s important to consider all of these factors when making decisions on what to get rid of.
As you progress through the story, you’ll earn XP which will unlock skill points that can be used to level up your character in 5 key areas which include Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Tech. Once again, this progression system reminds me of what we have seen in the previous Fallout games and is therefore very easy to understand. You can also earn XP by discovering anomalies throughout the Settled Systems and scanning and surveying various planets for resources. In a nutshell, there is a ton to do in this game on just about every level which will keep those who are interested busy for days and hours on end.
Starfield‘s musical score was composed by Inon Zur and really pulls you deeper into the world and characters. I can tell that the team was inspired by various science-fiction-based movies and TV shows for the last several decades. The Starfield theme especially is something that I have had a very hard time getting out of my head which means it definitely succeeds in leaving a lasting impression on you.
In closing, I would say Starfield is a solid action RPG experience and a great step forward for the Xbox brand. Diehard fans of Bethesda surely will love what this game has to offer. If you’re a casual Xbox fan and you have Xbox Game Pass, then it may be worth checking out but that depends solely on what type of games that you’re into.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Starfield for the Xbox Series X provided by Bethesda Softworks.