Starfield

Cahir

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So, just before Christmas I realised I have a one-month free Game Pass Ultimate subscription and figured I could try Starfield and see, if it's really that bad (or good) as everyone says. Here are my early impressions.

The good
  • Those who loved Bethesda games and at the same time expected Starfield to be another Bethesda game, but in a different setting, should be really satisfied with the game. This is, as Todd Howard once said, "A Bethesda game through and through". You have the same freedom of exploration as in other games, maybe even more overwhelming at times than usual.
  • All handcrafted content I've seen so far (locations, one city) is excellent, especially all those huge scrapyards, shutdown plants, science/medical stations. The biggest city in the game, New Atlantis is bigger than anything Bethesda ever created by a wide margin, but it's still a Bethesda-style city, so one cannot expect a level of immersion that can be seen in CP2077, The Witcher 3, RDR2 or even Assassin's Creed games. But it does look better than in previous games, NPCs talk to each other, do their stuff occasionally (but only occasionally), so there is a slight feeling this place is alive.
  • I really like character progress, that is a perfect (for me) combination of XP gaining (fighting, exploration) and learn by use styles, that were used in previous Bethesda games. You level up by gaining XP, but to unlock higher skill tiers, you need to complete challenges, which you can meet basically through the usage of said skills. I like the combo very much.
  • Visuals - I like this specific Bethesda style, and graphics is Starfield is really nice, even if technologically behind some of the newer games. But the game is far from being ugly, on the opposite, some shots can be breathtaking. The main downside is this omnipresent usage of filters, that Bethesda is known for, that makes this greenish hue in many places. This has been seen in both Fallout games before (Obsidian was also guilty of that in FNV, but there was the orange tint instead).
  • Shipbuilding - I haven't played with it much, because this supposed to be a mid-to-late game experience and while it's not necessarily easy to use, the possibilities are endless. I can already see some wild stuff I can do with it. I am not usually a fan of base building, but this definitely caught my attention.
  • The lore and world - Bethesda was always great in world and lore-building, and this certainly haven't changed in Starfield. I haven't seen much of the story and the world yet, but I'm really intrigued. Even the background of all those little stories (that because of mediocre writing isn't engaging at all) is nice.
  • Space combat - it does need to get some practice, to have fun from it, but when you do, it's really refreshing. I haven't yet tested the boarding mechanics, because I need to invest in Better Targeting Systems skill first, to be able to target engines specifically, but even without this, it's fun. The only downside is how adjusting different system works - it's really hard to keep up with it in real time. Need to play with keybinding to find a sweet spot.
  • It's relatively bug-free experience so far, which is quite an achievement from Todd and co.
Not so good
  • Writing - well, nothing change here. NPCs still just spouts their lines without engaging the player much, and for someone used to the level of reactivity in BG3, jumping into Starfield's clumsiness can be a real bummer. But at the same time, it feels better than in Skyrim and more or less at the level of Fallout 4. So, it's not all that bad, it's just... Bethesda.
  • The size - the game is just too big. Initially, I thought the planets will be small (at least the area you can explore), but no. There is a lot of empty space to cover, just to reach a new point of interest, which can take minutes. I feel like those points of interest should be all crammed around the landing zone, instead of spread around the entire planet. This would be much less of a hindrance, if you could fast travel to an unknown location, but right now, travelling the surface of a planet is not as fun as it could be.
  • Procedural content - yeah, it was to be expected. Apart from the main story, faction stories and larger side quests, there is really not much to do in Starfield. Or, at least, when it comes to meaningful stuff.
The bad
  • Lack of ground vehicles - I still can't wrap my head around the fact, why Bethesda didn't implement ground vehicles. Sure, driving MAKO in Mass Effect 1 was clumsy, but I couldn't imagine traversing all those planets on foot. Imagine exploring ME planets on foot and you will feel like in Starfield.
  • UI - Bethesda is not known for delivering a particularly functional UI, and Starfield is no exception. I'd Even say, it's clumsier than ever. Many options are hidden behind multiple other screens, which is very annoying. Add short animations each time while you pull up a new screen, and you grow tired of it very quickly.
As I've mentioned, I'm only at the very beginning of the game, so some impressions may change while I play, but I can say that I got exactly what I've expected from Starfield. Nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, I can say, I'm quite happy with this game. I don't find it bad, quite the opposite, I'm enjoying it, but (and here's a big BUT) it pales in comparison with many other rpgs of late. It's just another Bethesda bells, with all its ups and downs. I'd say, I would put it between Skyrim and Fallout 4 so far.
 

Cahir

Innkeeper
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324
Here are some screenshots from my Starfield journey.

Mars, mankind's best hope

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Cydonia, a mining settlement on Mars

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The Eye, the Constellation owned starstation

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Akila City, the city of space rangers

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Having a quality time in Paradiso Resort

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Approaching Deimos Staryard

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Settling in a new penthouse with my wife, Sarah.

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Lovely view on New Atlantis

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Welcome to Neon, the city of endless possibilities

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We are not alone

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Antimatter

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These are amazing, just totally phenomenal, screenshots! Also, appreciate your balanced review (so far). Probably threads like this will encourage more people to try games that are not 9+/10, but still fun in certain ways.
 

Cahir

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These are amazing, just totally phenomenal, screenshots! Also, appreciate your balanced review (so far). Probably threads like this will encourage more people to try games that are not 9+/10, but still fun in certain ways.
I have a lot of trouble rating Starfield, because I would probably give it two different ratings. One is compared to other games I played in the past couple of years, and the second is compared to other Bethesda games. In the first scenario, I'd give Starfield a solid 7.5/10, in the second, a strong 9/10.

There is a surprise amount of depth underneath many of the quests in Skyrim, both from a narrative and lore perspective. Unfortunately, it all suffers from mediocre execution - there is a lot of backtracking from place to place (which basically means a staggering amount of loading screens) and the writing is not helping to build the tension, you don't feel there is a high stake for whatever you are doing. Voice acting also does not help to increase those stakes either. But all this is still much better of what I've seen in TES games (with some notable exceptions, like faction quests or some daedric prince quests) or Fallout 4. You can see an improvement in this part comparing to previous games, but it's just a small evolution, not a great leap forward.

Before I started to play, I read quite a few opinions, that Starfield start to shine around 15–20 hours of the game, when you push some parts of the main story forward, and I agree with this. If anyone decides to play it, I encourage them to focus on the main story at first, to a point where it pushes you to travel in different star systems, where you can shift your focus to side questing and exploring. Main quest introduces you to 3 main cities of the game, as well as main joinable characters. It's good to have all of those "unlocked" and then really star exploring.

I'm very curious what will come from Bethesda's promise of steady support in 2024 (patches every 6 weeks, starting from February). They promised some interesting things, that I am looking forward to see in Starfield. Now, in the past Bethesda had a habit of leaving their games in a buggy state (that modders helped to fix), but on the other hand it seems they have learned not to abandon their games (except for releasing umpteenth editions), if you can bring Fallout 76 for an example. It will be interesting to see, what does their promised mod support mean, if this will really help modders to get this game up and running for the next 10 or so years (like Skyrim) or it just means hell of microtransactions.
 
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