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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.