North Texas Daily

‘Starfield’ provides a largely satisfying galactic adventure

‘Starfield’ provides a largely satisfying galactic adventure

‘Starfield’ provides a largely satisfying galactic adventure
September 16
14:00 2023

 “Starfield”‘s developer, Bethesda, is responsible for some of the greatest games of all time, especially their early “Fallout” titles, but “Fallout 76” was a widely publicized failure and other studios released titles like “The Outer Worlds” and “Cyberpunk 2077” that outcompeted Bethesda’s offerings. Veteran game director Todd Howard had guided Bethesda to greatness since the release of “Fallout 3” in 2008, but after 15 years, it was beginning to look like he was losing his grip.

Fortunately, those fears were largely unfounded. “Starfield” isn’t perfect, but it provides an immersive, awe-inspiring and highly entertaining RPG experience.

To understand why, we first have to understand what a roleplaying game, or RPG, is in a video game context. Inspired by tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, these games let players feel like they’re part of some fantastical world, typically including features that maximize the player character’s freedom of choice and ability to affect the story. If you’ve played a video game with skill trees, dialogue choices, customizable characters, multiple possible story directions and endings, as well as a general emphasis on letting the player do what they want without confining them to a linear path, that game was probably an RPG.

“Starfield” mostly lives up to its genre’s strengths, especially in terms of the massive galaxy at your fingertips. For a game that emphasizes exploration, you’re rarely lacking in new and exciting locations to discover. There are supposedly over a thousand planets to explore, and while many are uninhabited, a surprising number have fully fleshed-out cities, destinations and lore. These environments can also be surprisingly deep–I spent the first seven hours of my playthrough on a single planet, exploring the capital city of a major faction. 

But an RPG’s world is only as good as the narrative behind it, which is why “Starfield” benefits from its strong lore and worldbuilding. The galaxy you explore has been through several hundred years of development, and as a result, almost every settlement you visit has a unique history and place in this world. This, combined with the top-notch designs and beautiful graphics, makes the galaxy of “Starfield” feel alive and vibrant.

As for what you do in that world, “Starfield” benefits from its extremely deep gameplay. There are plenty of different ways to pass your time, including negotiations, gun battles, planetary exploration, space combat, resource management, mining, and base building, just to name a few options. Despite their massive variety, these systems near-seamlessly flow together to create a strong core gameplay loop.

Two of those elements in particular stand out. The conversations players can have with NPCs are perhaps the game’s biggest draw, with hundreds of named characters having detailed backstories, surprisingly well-written dialogue and entertaining side quests. Like any real society, the world of “Starfield” is enriched by its inhabitants.

But even that pales in comparison to perhaps the game’s biggest surprise–the space combat. The surprising amount of different abilities, the ability of players to fully customize their starships, and the power-focusing mechanic all made each dogfight exhilarating. While the world and quests were more intellectually stimulating, the simple act of engaging in a ship-to-ship duel against stunning cosmic vistas easily provided the most enjoyment I got from the game.

Of course, “Starfield” isn’t perfect. First, the base building is underwhelming. Most planets you explore can house fully customizable outposts, but the story never provides a reason to build one, and the system is so complicated that I was never encouraged to spend time doing so. The sheer number of mechanics is already somewhat overwhelming, so it’s easy to just ignore this aspect of the game entirely.

Also, while the world and characters are fleshed out, the main story and factions sadly aren’t. Supposedly, the galaxy of “Starfield” exists in an uneasy state of peace between two rival powers – the social democracy of the United Colonies and the more libertarian Freestar Collective – but the differences and tensions between these factions were seldom explored, so it was easy to just forget this Cold War was even happening. In a game with such excellent side quests, it is easy to forget that the central plot even exists.

Finally, while “Starfield” does many things well, there are few original ideas it has. Many contemporary titles exceed it in at least one aspect – “Fallout: New Vegas” has better dialogue and a stronger story, “Fallout 4” has better base building, “Cyberpunk 2077” has better graphics and gunplay, “No Man’s Sky” has better planetary exploration, and “The Outer Worlds” is a smaller scale but more unique take on a space-centric RPG.

But while “Starfield” may not be unique, it makes up for it by synthesizing the best aspects of every game previously mentioned into an experience on a monumental scale. None of its flaws are dealbreakers, and the overall experience absolutely still warrants a strong recommendation.

Ian’s Rating: 4/5 

Featured Illustration by Bella DuBose

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Ian Cropper

Ian Cropper

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