Following years of hype, Bethesda is ready to unleash Starfield on the masses, and it largely lives up to all those lofty expectations.
Developed By: Bethesda
Platforms: Xbox Series S|X, PC
Release Date: September 6, 2023
I’ve been waiting for years to travel to the stars in Starfield. Now, after playing the game for nearly two weeks, I can finally talk about my experience with this massive open-universe RPG. This might just be one of the largest, most compelling games Bethesda has ever created.
A Universe Full of Adventure and Wonder
HEADS UP: In my review, I will not be spoiling any main plot points, I will be focusing on what I truly love about this unbelievable game…
The year is 2330 and humans have been amongst the stars for over 130 years. Starfield begins like previous Bethesda titles typically do. After a specific story event, you awake with little knowledge of where you are, who you are, or what is going on.
At this point, you gain access to the character customization menu, which is where the real story begins. This is the most in-depth character customization ever in a Bethesda title. We have always been allowed to create who we want in games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls; but Starfield takes it to the next level. The visual customization is fantastic, not just because of the in-game engine, but being able to edit and change every facet of your character’s features.
The character customization menu isn’t just about the visual aspect though; it’s about choosing your path in the universe. You choose the background of your character which unlocks skill points to set. You’ll also choose a certain amount of traits for your character and what you select dynamically changes how characters in the universe view and react to your actions. It took me a solid 30 minutes to make my decisions, but after choosing my background and traits I was instantly addicted to this game’s universe.
From this point onward, you are the author of your story. After gaining access to a ship, you are introduced to ‘Constellation,’ a group of discoverers looking for all the big answers to all the big questions in the universe. Afterwards, you’re free to move about the universe. Traveling through this massive universe is something that still shocks me every time I pick up the game.
So far, I’ve put 42 hours into the game, completed the main quest line, and begun the new game plus mode. Even so, I’ve barely touched the tip of what this game has to offer. Each system and planet you discover brings more stories, side quests, loot, and XP for you to gain.
The development team has joked about how large this game is, but I honestly feel like it is boundless. There’s so much to do in these systems and I feel every player will experience something new. I personally visited a total of 39 systems and 42 planets while exploring these areas. In that time, I took part in some of the side missions available. When I say “some” I mean about 1%. Each settlement, planet, or system comes with so much to discover…it’s honestly ridiculous.
Traveling to these new systems was a wondrous adventure. Every new location brought new mysteries and challenges, and I found myself getting pulled into this game as if I were living it myself. So far I have had moments that were filled with stunning action and even heartwarming, story-driven sequences.
For example, when I finally felt good about traveling I decided to start grav jumping. If you don’t know, Grav Jumping is how you travel from one system to the next. Depending on your ship and how you change the power flowing to what section of your ship depends on how far your grav drive can take you. After a few jumps, I was hailed from a ship flown by a character named “Grandma.” At first, I was skeptical and a bit worried; thinking it was a pirate trap. After docking with her ship, however, and just having a meal with her while she talked about her late husband…I was almost in tears.
Another time I came upon a few ships being attacked by pirates known as the Crimson Fleet. I quickly flew into action and began taking them out one by one. Afterward, a member of the Free Star Collective hailed me and offered payment for my help (which you can choose to deny, or what payment you want).
I quickly jumped to the next system over only to find a ship floating in space with no working comms. I decided to land on the nearby planet and search for resources in case it was a trap. I found myself on a planet inhabited by other humans who had built a resort called “Paradiso.” This randomly discovered off-world paradise had its own bit of drama-filled story for me to play out!
At this point, I had to put the controller down and just laugh. I laughed out of pure shock and enjoyment. I’ve always known Bethesda to push the limits when it came to their role-playing games, but the fact that I was just jumping between random systems to see what I could find and uncovered this?
I was honestly in awe. The team has done exactly what they said, they have built a game that you can go all over the universe and discover something new in every corner.
There hasn’t been a single time while playing Starfield where I felt I was just doing the same thing over and over again. Even playing throughout the main quest line, each adventure you partake in brings new excitement and discoveries. As you build your relationship with your companions you not only start to care for them but build your own story with them as well.
The Friends We Make
One of the main companions you meet in Starfield is Sarah Morgan. As you traverse the universe, depending on the decisions you make, Sarah’s emotional connection with you is directly affected. Making the “wrong” decision (taking more of a renegade path) will push Sarah away; making her not trust you and rethink her decision to let you join Constellation. Taking a more caring and compassionate path though can make her trust you, care more about your well-being, and potentially blossom into a loving relationship.
Your companions feel like they’re living in this universe. Not just because they have pre-ordained tasks like eating, sleeping, and working, but because they remember the story you build with them.
During missions, companions in Starfield don’t just stand there as you get attacked or stay quiet as you discover new locations. They pick up resources for you on their own and comment about ongoing events or recently discovered areas. They’ll even remind you when you’re carrying too much and ask to lighten your load!
This just adds to the feeling of this being a living/breathing universe. Building a relationship with said companions increased my drive to discover new sections of the galaxy. Having them with you on this journey into the cosmos almost made me feel like there was a hidden co-op mode in the game. The overhaul in the system is very impressive from previous titles and I can honestly say is one of the biggest highlights in the game!
More Of A “Hardcore” RPG
Starfield is not just about traveling the universe and looking at pretty things. There is a plethora of systems in place for you to deep dive into that will have RPG fans screaming with excitement. The level-up system is divided into five different categories Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Tech.
As you take on challenges in the game, you will gain XP that eventually awards you skill points. Once you choose the skill to focus on, those individual skills come with challenges of their own to be leveled up.
Not only do you have to complete missions in each skill level, but you also have to use gained skill points to unlock the next rank of your skill point. This means you can’t just do XP grinds to rank up said skill, you have to dive into the universe to gain skill points as well. This feature made the game’s RPG aspects more dynamic to me; diverging from the traditional skill tree system.
With Starfield, you have to invest time into the character you are trying to build. At one point, I was starting to take on more enemies who had energy weapons. Since I was devoting time to exploring that system and surrounding planets, I decided to start focusing on the “Energy Weapon Dissipation Skill”. This skill—after ranking it up—drastically reduces the amount of energy damage you take per hit.
That’s just one of the 82 skills you can invest in and rank up. Each system comes with entirely different challenges. Once, I accidentally traveled to the wrong system and jumped into a nest of Crimson Fleet pirates. I tried my best to take them on but failed.
I was pissed and looking for payback. I reloaded my previous quick save and traveled to the nearest spaceport to upgrade my ship. I was so eager to head back and wipe out those pirates, but then I realized I couldn’t just pay for an upgrade with the credits I had. Instead, I needed to invest time in the skill system, locate ship parts, and choose the right upgrades/changes for the ship I had.
As I said, this game is vast, and with that comes a vast amount of skills for you to unlock and rank up. These skills, and the subsequent challenges you undertake to improve them, will drastically change your style of play. Not only does this make your initial playthrough fun, but helps ensure future adventures won’t be the same.
I became engrossed with the “discovery” element of the game and exploring one planet quickly turned four planets (which took roughly 8 hours). Ultimately, I realized that Starfield is a culmination of some of my favorite games. Take Mass Effect + Fallout and add a dash of No Man’s Sky, that’s what Starfield is: an action-packed adventure.
Starfield is a crowning achievement and the best game Bethesda has made year to date. This is not just a trope of a review, or me being a fan, this is coming from the heart of a gamer who has played Bethesda titles for years. This game is pretty damn close to being a perfectly executed title. It was always a running joke that Bethesda titles would launch with glitches or bugs, but I can tell you from hands-on experience that this game nearly has no bugs or glitches.
There were only two times during my PC playthrough that I ran into a glitch. Once I was taking on some random spacers and after killing one of them their body went into a standing pose. Another time, some NPCs in the game became bald after loading into certain areas, this was hilarious but after reloading my previous save it didn’t happen again. This is a huge open world title, so to expect glitches are common, but to only have two during my entire playthrough is a triumph.
I am sure there might be some glitches I just didn’t but with this massive of a game. After launch I’m certain someone will find some silly glitch and it will be the talk of the town…but I would also expect it to be few and far between. That said, there were a few things I did not talk about in my review because I didn’t put a lot of time into them or their respective systems.
- OUTPOST – I did touch on outpost because that task needs you to be at a higher skill level than I was. You also need to heavily invest time into scanning planets and getting resources like Aluminum, Iron, Etc.
- SUIT AND WEAPON UPGRADES –This is another trait you must spend time gathering resources to upgrade.
- CONTRABAND & BOUNTIES – This is a cool feature in the game that makes the world feel more alive and adds consequences to your bad decisions. . .but I never had this fall on my shoulders cause I chose to play nice on my first playthrough.
- LANDING ANYWHERE ON THE PLANET – I know this has been a big focus online as gamers keep hearing more and more about the game, but all I will say is: YES, YOU CAN LAND ANYWHERE BECAUSE I DID IT.
I just wanted to mention how stunning the game’s visuals are. Each planet you visit has a unique landscape, ranging from frozen tundras to hot deserts and lush tropical paradises. This attention to detail makes the game feel more authentic and captivating. Additionally, the NPCs’ facial animations are breathtaking.
Bethesda went above and beyond to develop new technology for the game’s NPCs, resulting in their best-looking characters yet. As someone who’s been a gamer for years, it’s truly impressive to see how far Bethesda has come. Moreover, Inon Zur, the composer for Starfield, Fallout 76, Fallout 4, and Fallout: Tactics, did an incredible job with the game’s music.
The music plays a crucial role in setting the tone for each scene, and Zur’s work is nothing short of exceptional. The game’s music is the epitome of a cinematic experience!