It’s been five years since Fallout 76 (or eight for those who would rather count Fallout 4 as the last mainline Bethesda Game Studios title), and Bethesda is back with their next great epic—Starfield. With development times taking longer and longer as more is expected from the teams behind these marvels of technology and storytelling, we have reached a point where games like Starfield only come out once (or so) per console generation, perhaps even per decade.
While tons of criticism has been volleyed at Starfield over the last several years for its delays, as well as some of the planned features and potential shortcomings, I am incredibly pleased to start by saying that Starfield is unequivocally one of my favourite games I have gotten to play on my Xbox Series X. Even though, for some, that might not be saying much, let me continue by saying I think Starfield checks all of the boxes for what a fan of Bethesda’s products would want from a current-gen release.
Now, what does that mean exactly? For starters, let me preface this review by saying The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the very first time in my young gaming career that I checked to see who the developer of a game was in order to find more titles I could jump into from that very same team. And while Bethesda’s track record has never been perfect, I think it’s safe to say they’re well known for the type of games they’ve made in the Fallout and Elder Scrolls universes and everything that Bethesda has been over the last couple of decades as one of the leaders in the RPG space comes all the way back around with Starfield.
Let’s get into it! Starfield’s story takes the player on an epic, space voyage across our universe, with the usual Bethesda charm, twists, and environmental storytelling, as well as all of the quests you could possibly ask for. The main story has the player begin as a miner on the edge of a system, where an unusual artifact is discovered, which gives the player visions from across the cosmos. From there, a new friend named Barrett and his robot companion Vasco show up to invite the player to join the Constellation (an explorer’s guild of sorts) in order to solve the mystery behind this odd object.
Per usual, if you’ve played a Bethesda RPG before, whatever path the player wishes to explore from there is totally free to take. Whether you’d like to pursue the secrets of the galaxy through the main questline or forge your own path through the various factions available—it’s all up to you and brimming with content. With the law-abiding United Colonies, free-spirited and Western-themed Freestar Collective, plunderous pirates—the Crimson Fleet, and even more available to you, Starfield builds another action-packed and diverse world for the player to explore.
Currently, I am sitting at around 75 hours played and I am close to level 40, and am still regularly discovering new people, locations, quests, and more. Hell, I haven’t even progressed far enough to see all of the weapon variations yet, with ones I haven’t seen before still popping up once in a while. With the vastness of space in front of you, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone bored during a playthrough of Starfield, as the hours lost to time due to simply wandering from place to place are more frequent than you could imagine.
The number of stories available during a playthrough of Starfield is insane, but for those looking for criticism, Starfield definitely has its fair share of repetition as you get outside of the faction and city quests. The majority of the planets re-use similar locations and enemies in order to fill out such large worlds, and most of the quests found at kiosks sending you out to claim this bounty or deliver that cargo just act as a way to add to your time exploring a system, increase your experience points and credits, and let you find more of the secrets the world has to offer.
Additionally, the main quest isn’t the strongest compared to what you might reminisce about with Bethesda titles like Skyrim or New Vegas—falling a bit closer to what you got out of Fallout 4 or 3—but still had me jaw-dropped and surprised several times. Bethesda titles have always been more about making your own story, and Starfield has the setup, locations, and mechanics in place to give anyone who loves that aspect of these titles an amazing experience from start to finish.
“Starfield stands true as one of the premiere titles in Xbox’s library and adds to Bethesda’s storied history.”
Random encounters as you travel across the solar system or land on a new planet add to the spice of it all, while Bethesda has always been the king of environmental storytelling. Exploration is a major part of Starfield—it’s the creed of the Constellation—and there’s more than a fair share of things to discover, even if you’ll find the occasional unexplorable gas giant or barren moon.
Just today, I landed on a moon where I had been sent to kill a mercenary group’s leader. After easily taking over the garrison (which was an abandoned factory that allowed me to stock up on a ton of Helium-3 reserves), I noticed a ship landing at a settlement close by and went to check it out. It turned out to be a fracking rig, but the captain of the ship needed help finding parts after getting into a fight with some pirates, which I was able to find inside the facility to help him out and send him on his way.
Then I saw on top of a plateau there was a radio tower with a building under it, so I headed that way and discovered several haywire robots defending the location, which I made short work of. When entering the building, I found several bodies and discovered a computer terminal detailing the robot attack and how they’d holed themselves up here to try to survive. These are the sorts of stories you can discover when wandering around on a random planet, regardless of the fact you can’t circumnavigate every planet you see on foot (but you can land anywhere you’d like and travel as far as you can from each landing area).
While the No Man’s Sky comparisons are valid, it’s not the same kind of game as Starfield and doesn’t have the depth of what you’ll find searching and exploring through Starfield. Discovering resources, crafting, and searching out biomes of plant and animal life are all interesting but definitely feel secondary to the stories you’re meant to find along the way, while No Man’s Sky has made those scientific aspects its bread-and-butter. Customizing settlements to make home bases or factories for lead and chlorine production adds a complex dynamic (not to mention the fully customizable shipbuilder) but can be ignored entirely if you’re looking for a more traditional Bethesda experience.
Space combat itself isn’t something I personally search for in video games, but Starfield does a fine job making dogfighting another aspect of the game you can either lean into or avoid as much as possible. Using a ship’s tokens, you place power reserves into different functions of the ship, like its missiles or shields, which can all be changed on the fly when needs differ in various situations.
Different types of weapons can lead to choosing pure power, a more boots-on-the-ground approach with EMPs that can leave a ship stranded and ready to be boarded, or the stealthy approach, where jumping away to new systems or turning the boosters on low to sneak to a space station is key. While it takes some getting used to, after some trial-and-error, space wasn’t such a confusing place to traverse.
“Long-time fans of Bethesda have another must-play title to add to the rotation…”
This brings me to one of my biggest issues with Starfield—tutorials. While I don’t expect the dozens of systems and mechanics to be explained in great detail, as that would take hours of your time you’d probably rather spend playing the game for real, several times I found myself unsure how to do different things. A help menu helps with this, detailing several of the mechanics and processes, but regularly, I found myself upset with not knowing how some things actually worked.
From there, something I’m sure tons of people will be curious about with a Bethesda product is the bugs, and I must say, this might be the least buggiest Bethesda launch I can remember! Around the 30-40 hour mark, I started seeing my first couple of visual bugs, with the occasional pop-in and stuttering. The only game-breaking bug I discovered during my entire playthrough so far was a quest that I couldn’t actually get the character to give to me, but it wasn’t a major one and didn’t blow the game up or anything.
I think the most annoying thing I’ve encountered is the Quick Resume function on the Xbox Series X not working, which just means quitting out and starting over whenever I don’t properly shut things down. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the state of the game, and patches are already rolling in.
Starfield is visually stunning, and the work done to the engine to allow for better facial animations and graphics during dialogue sequences has been super-noticeable since the last Bethesda game I played. Gunplay is tight, with tons of variants to use for whatever play style you’d prefer. And the skill tree allows for vastly different characters to be made, even if I didn’t love the fact you couldn’t rank up a skill until you’d completed a certain number of tasks (such as sprinting for a certain number of steps before being able to rank up weightlifting to get more carry weight or killing a certain number of enemies with pistols before able to apply a damage increase).
The only other downside to the skill tree that isn’t explained well is how some skills must be ranked up in order to activate certain abilities. For example, a rank in Stealth is necessary in order to unlock the actual Stealth meter you might be accustomed to in Bethesda games (even though you can still attempt to Stealth without the skill). Additionally, actions like pickpocketing or items like boost packs are walled off behind the skills, with the biggest bummer of them all probably being Piloting, which must be ranked up to use bigger and better ships.
“Starfield is visually stunning…”
With so much to go over and see in Starfield, it’s easy for me to list off the few issues or concerns I’ve had with the game, but the dozens of hours spent loving every second of it make up for every bug, unexplained mechanic, or set of tasks to be completed to rank up that next skill.
Long-time fans of Bethesda have another must-play title to add to the rotation, and it was a pleasure to be able to jump in and review it for the fine folks at CGMagazine. While some will point out the bugs and make fun, others will complain about this aspect or that one, and others still will always wish it was more, Starfield stands true as one of the premiere titles in Xbox’s library and adds to Bethesda’s storied history.
Starfield is a perfect example of that “total package” ideology. It isn’t that there aren’t issues here or there. It’s that between the megalith of an undertaking the story is, from each city to faction and the universe as a whole, as well as the impressive improvements made over the years and the overflowing RPG mechanics, and you’ve got a true-to-self Bethesda game that wants to be played however you want to play it—regardless of what parts of it you take to and the parts you want to ignore.
Enjoy your time amongst the stars!