One of the most eagerly anticipated video games of all time is out in the public domain, but does the ambitious title live up to the overwhelming hype surrounding it?
Starfield, by the developing and publishing Goliath Bethesda, officially launched on 6 September 2023, but those who preordered the game got to play the game on 1 September 2023 as a reward for placing their trust in the potential Game of the Year sci-fi role-playing game.
With thousands of players having now played Starfield for the first time, review sites have published their previously embargoed reviews, and we must say that they make for mixed reading.
The consensus is Starfield has the potential to be one of the all-time greats, but in true Bethesda style, the game is not what was promised during development and is a little rough around the edges.
The Most Hyped Video Game For Many Years
The results can be spectacular when Bethesda gets everything right. You only need to look at the Fallout, Dishonored, Doom, and Wolfenstein series to see that for yourself.
Toss into the mix the likes of Brink, Prey, and Deathloop, and it is easy to see why the best sites for sports betting in Texas slashed odds for Starfield to walk away with the coveted Game of the Year award.
However, before releasing Starfield, Bethesda also recently released the rather mediocre Ghostwire: Tokyo and the frankly awful Redfall.
Since Bethesda released a short teaser trailer for Starfield at the E3 2018, the hype surrounding the game has continued growing. Bethesda has a reputation for creating amazing role-playing games (RPGs) that are crammed full of exciting questions, page-turning lore, and open worlds that demand exploration.
Put all that into the same basket in a space setting where procedurally drawn worlds are travelled to in fully customizable spaceships, and you have all the ingredients for a video game blockbuster.
Bethesda threw fuel onto the fire by revealing Starfield runs in native 4K definition and sent excitement to new levels when the publisher announced New Atlantis, the game’s central city, was the largest it had ever developed and that the maps for each planet were larger than Fallout 4 and Skyrim before it. What could go wrong?
Limiting Framerates to 30 FPS
The first indication that something may be amiss with Starfield came in late August when Game Director and Executive Producer Todd Howard gave an interview where he discussed the game’s visuals.
Howard confirmed that Starfield runs in 4K, at least on PC and the Series X, and features eye-popping, jaw-dropping visuals, but with a twist.
Where the framerate is uncapped on PC – although you need a beast of a setup to get the most out of Starfield in a Windows-based machine – Bethesda decided to lock the framerate to 30 FPS on Xbox Series S/X.
Howard claimed Starfield runs at more than 30 FPS on consoles, but they wanted to ensure the framerate was steady without compromising the stunning visuals. In an era where console players cry out for 120 FPS to make the most of their machine’s hardware, 30 FPS is a kick in the teeth.
What Are Reviewers Saying About Starfield?
As mentioned, Bethesda removed the embargo for video game review sites’ articles about Starfield with the game’s release, and those reviews are a mixed bag. Although the reviews are overwhelmingly favourable, Starfield is not currently setting a course for superstardom.
There is not a single reviewer who is unhappy with the game’s visuals. Indeed, the game is stunning on PC and Xbox Series X; the level of detail is like nothing seen before.
Players can zoom into any part of the maps and find high-definition visuals staring back.
Look at any of the buttons and switches within the game, and they are packed with details from realistic screws and rivets to wording informing you what their purpose is.
It is a similar story regarding Starfield’s many NPCs (Non-Playing Characters). While their facial animation leaves a little to be desired, the details and intricacies of their uniforms and facial features are breathtaking.
Unfortunately, all that high-quality imagery comes at a cost: the dreaded loading screens. However, players can fly around a map and look out of their spacecraft’s windows in real time; traversing on foot results in those maps being split into smaller sections, each requiring a short loading screen. Bethesda was open about this in its previews, but it is still disappointing in a modern-day title.
Another significant negative from almost every review is that you cannot travel anywhere in Starfield without fast-travelling, which is bizarre for a game billed as the ultimate space explorer.
In other Bethesda titles, like Elder Scrolls or Fallout, you could traverse the world without ever fast-travelling if you did not want to. The opposite is true with Starfield; perhaps flying around space will come in a later update or patch.
Lastly is a “feature” that is an ever-present annoyance in not only Bethesda titles but the majority of RPGs: inventory management. You will spend more than a third of your playing time sorting out your inventory, which takes away from the experience.
There is a constant need to move around and transfer your weapons, materials, and space suits to avoid becoming overloaded. If this was not bad enough, the user interface (UI) is horrible, making inventory management a chore. It will not be surprising to see PC modders create a mod that streamlines this process.
This article avoids any spoilers because everyone should be able to play a game without knowing what comes next. Bethesda has delivered on its promise for a stunningly visual game that hardly any other can hold a candle to.
The game is enormous, too, with some reviewers spending 80 hours in it and not even scratching the surface, so that is great, too.
However, the launch version of Starfield is littered with annoyances, even if most are relatively minor. The NPCs feel robotic and do not make cities feel alive, similar to those in the early days of Cyberpunk 2077, and the enemy AI needs buffing because it is ridiculously easy to defeat them in battles on foot or in space.
In its current guise, Starfield is a good game but not great by any stretch of the imagination. Bethesda is known for patching its titles and doing so quickly, so it will be interesting to see the upcoming updates and upgrades that are in the pipeline come to fruition. Will they make Starfield great? Only time will tell.