This will be very short. I played Starfield for a little over an hour and then returned it. It’s a wait-for-a-sale game, in the same bucket with most all of the Assassin’s Creed games.
It’s pretty, and they’ve improved on the improvements they made in Fallout 4, but it’s nothing special. Just an ordinary, do-the-same-things-again, take-no-chances, factory-produced AAA game, like any other you can buy these days. It’s somewhat strange that it took them eight years to make this, when other studios can slam these things out the door just about every year.
I’ll start with some things I liked. I loved that the player’s character isn’t voiced, which is an absolute delight for anyone who makes videos or streams these games. I wish more AAA games would abandon the idea of voicing the player’s character, or at least provide an option to turn it off. I hate that my character talks with their own voice actor in Baldur’s Gate 3 when I click on them.
I also really enjoyed that I could make a character who looked like a frumpy, balding old man who has no business being in any kind of heroic story. Hilarious stuff. More games should allow that. Every character in Baldur’s Gate 3, for example, looks like a genetically-engineered, unrealistically-beautiful porn star.
I liked that there was a third-person camera option if you mousewheel out, with different distances, kind of. Would have preferred a little more control there, like every MMORPG, but it was certainly better than a first-person view, and an improvement on Fallout 4.
Now for the rest.
It’s yet another game where the NPCs deliver main story dialog while they’re walking around, but if your character is too far away, looking at all the interesting stuff they put in the environment, for example, you can’t hear what they’re saying. So you have to stick to their backs like glue while the NPCs walk around, jogging-stopping-jogging-stopping, because they walk way slower than your character does, while you listen to their dialog. It’s the most annoying thing that’s ever been introduced into video game engines, and developers just keep doing it over and over and over again. Just stop, okay? Make main story dialog front and center, all the time, so I can listen to it while I’m walking around other places. Yeesh. It’s been decades I think. Why doesn’t anyone else hate that and want to fix it?
That wouldn’t keep me from playing the game, though.
After the introduction and the character creation, there was a short little fight. Starfield has the same first-person shooter feeling that Fallout 4 did: You can make it work, but, as with every previous Bethesda game, you can tell this game was made by RPG developers and not shooter developers. It just feels awkward and unnatural. Most Bethesda games feel that way. Nothing new or unusual there.
It ran rather badly on my GeForce 3070 gaming PC with the default settings (I think it was “High”). But I think that’s because I installed it on a hard drive instead of an SSD. (A lot of AAA games in 2023 are moving to passively, if not openly, requiring an SSD.) It turned into a slideshow many times in that first combat encounter, but it never crashed.
That also wouldn’t deter me from playing the game.
After the little fight on the surface, you leave the starting planet or asteroid or whatever it was, and you fly a ship, and then have to fight some space pirates or something. This is where the game pretty much lost me completely.
I hate space combat in video games. It’s always the same: You fly toward the enemy ship, they fly toward you, you fill them full of space bullets or space missiles, depending on which mouse button you pick. You fly past each other, then you have to drag the mouse hard to turn around and find them again. Repeat many times. You have to wait for their space shields to deplete before you can really kill the enemy. Maybe you lock onto them with your space target lock and fire a space homing missile. Then you repeat the cycle fifty thousand times. It’s dueling yo-yos in space, constantly tracing these stretched ellipses around each other. I hate it. I didn’t need or want space combat in an RPG. Hopefully it’s entirely optional and entirely skippable because, as previously indicated, I hate space combat in video games.
But it’s part of the Starfield package, I suppose, and even that wouldn’t deter me from playing the game.
The biggest problem I found with Starfield was that I wished I was playing Baldur’s Gate 3 the whole time I was playing Starfield. It just … wasn’t interesting. It’s just another Bethesda game. They’ve spent eight years making the same game again, which is not a terrible idea for business reasons, of course, because gamers traditionally love to play the same games again and again and again.
But for me, they created a game that I’ve already played many, many times before, and the gaming demographic I belong to is not enthralled by games that don’t spark my imagination or break any envelopes or new ground. And for some inexplicable reason they focused on adding space combat and procedural worlds instead of a better first-person combat system, or a better conversation camera.
Ah well. It is what it is.
I saw enough to know I wasn’t missing anything by waiting. I’ll buy it in a sale a year from now, or maybe it will become the new Red Dead Redemption 2, which has actually been on my wishlist and on sale for roughly ten consecutive years, but I’ve never bought it and have never felt like I’m missing anything.
Incidentally, I didn’t find Skyrim all that interesting either. I played it a single time, sticking to the main story, which I don’t think took very long to finish. At present, I have no memory of–something about dragons? Anyway, I’ve never played it since. I never installed any mods and I didn’t do any side missions.
(I did install the Enhanced Edition once with an eye toward replaying it, but never actually followed through with that. The beginning of Skyrim isn’t very interesting, either, and I’ve never really loved the Elder Scrolls knock-off worldbuilding or their knock-off RPG rules. Also, sword combat in a first-person game was and still remains a pretty terrible idea, but they stubbornly stuck with it from Morrowind to Oblivion to Skyrim.)
I did like Fallout 4 a lot, though.
I felt like the narrative conversation views in Fallout 4 were a lot better than what I saw in Starfield. Bethesda regressed from the superior, industry standard “over-the-shoulder” camera views in conversations, the immersive style we’re all used to seeing in every television show and movie, back to Oblivion’s original, straight-on face camera, like you’re looking at every NPC in the game through a Facetime chat over a phone, except the phone camera is a mile away and using a telephoto lens that creates intense depth-of-field, much, much farther away than where your character is actually standing. It looks very … video gamey, and dated, and unrealistic. Seemed like an odd design decision to me for an RPG that’s supposed to be immersive. I don’t know why nobody else notices these things, but I wish I didn’t notice them.
That might also be a Me Problem though. For various brain reasons that I’m sure a certain small percentage of the population understands but nobody else does, eye contact has unnerved me my whole life, and every NPC looks like they’re staring you right in the eyes, boring into your soul. They never look away like a normal person. Just staring right at you, all the time. Super creepy.
And one other thing I couldn’t unsee: I noticed everybody had exaggerated and slightly slow-moving blink animations, which was the same weird-looking effect that Mass Effect Andromeda had. Everybody’s eyes looked unnatural and distracting, like everyone was a lizard in disguise.
Anyway, those were my impressions. Probably a fine game, worth the purchase, delivering exactly the comfort food most people want. It’s just not particularly noteworthy or interesting to me, a gamer who thrives on the new and different and innovative and risky and exciting. It wasn’t any of those things in the first hour, at least, which you’d think woudld be where they would put all those things.
Starfield is easily saved for a rainy day when there aren’t any other games to play.