Review: Starfield

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Five months after being released for Xbox Series X|S and PC, Starfield is rumored to be coming to additional platforms – time to take a closer look at Bethesda’s massive RPG.

Starfield, where to begin? The game that’s been hyped for years (Pro tip: a game will never live up to the hype). In a nutshell, what is Starfield? It’s Fallout in space.

Story and Game Design

I’m an old Star Trek fan. I’m a “Kirk romancing green alien women while Bones and Spock argue in the background” Star Trek fan. Starfield is like Star Trek… modern Star Trek. If you understand the difference, you know where I am going with this. For those of you that don’t know what I mean, let me explain. Starfield tries to roll the mystery and excitement of futuristic space travel up with modern politics and social norms.

The problem is, this wouldn’t work in reality. Space is brutal, unforgiving and dangerous. Having people who go out of their way to help some stranded person on some asteroid just because “it’s the feel good thing to do” wouldn’t be reality when helping that random stranger out could mean the death of you and your crew. Starfield punishes the player for acting sensible and wants you to go out of your way to be “the nice guy” even when it only benefits one person. Going back to old Star Trek as the analogy, Star Fleet had a saying: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs the few.” In this universe however, they want you to ignore that.

So from a philosophical viewpoint, this game is fantasy, as in real people would not coexist to create this universe as it exists in the game. Some examples: I run into a ship out in space. It’s a teacher doing a field trip for students. She asks me for some ship parts, an expensive and needed commodity for travel as you run into pirates and other baddies who do damage to your ship and you need those parts for immediate repairs when in battle. She says she can get the parts, and some are on the way, but it would be more convenient and easier if she didn’t have to wait. My first thought, why is she out here alone with a bunch of kids? Why is there no escort ship ready to assist? I have four ship parts left and need to go to a hostile area. If I say no, and keep my parts, I get lectured and treated like a selfish person. If I say yes, she mumbles and thanks and I go on to get vaporized later by said bad guys. Net profit if I said no: She was safe already, just had to wait a little longer for parts, and I would have survived next enemy encounter. Net profit is I said yes: She would get my parts, I would either have to travel light years out of my way to spend more money to get more parts or get vaporized. It has no bearing on the story, it only serves to make you feel good for giving someone parts who didn’t really need them, or make you feel bad about conserving what you need for your job.

The game takes other leaps in logic that don’t mesh well. I get a contract from a massive corporate bank to go far into the out reaches of space to collect a debt. I get to the guy’s asteroid and have two choices the game forces on me: Talk the guy into paying every dime he has to the mega bank or get into a shoot out. If your charisma is high enough, you talk the poor sucker into giving the bank 5000 credits. If you fail the charisma check, he forces a gun fight and you have to kill him. Here’s where the problem lies. When you walk into his home, there are credits just laying around that he will gladly let you take that equal more than he owes to the bank. You don’t get labeled as “stealing” them, he doesn’t get angry, you can just loot his entire home and credits. So why would the game even force me to do the interaction to make him pay? As I said, it either results in success for the bank or his death. It would have made more logical sense if the only goods he even had were the credits he owed on him. It would have been nice to have an option, (if you really wanted to be the good guy), to pay the guys debt. A few thousand credits is nothing in this game. So why all the non-logical twists? To make it feel like it has “choice” and a “story”. If you succeed in doing the bank’s bidding, you’re seen as a great worker for the bank and given more jobs, however, I just left his home after taking his last penny feeling like an idiot. If the game was going for that, I would have respected that more, but no, the game wants you to feel like you accomplished something.

More logical problems here in relation to this little side quest: It would have cost me and the bank much more than the few credits he owed to go get the money and it would have made more sense for the story to be for you to find him, report back to the bank his location, then let them take legal recourse. However, the bank already knew exactly where he was already, and decided to pay me to spend much time and fuel and his possible death for less credits than it cost them to send me out there. It’s like the story writers have never engaged in real world economics or loss/profit margins before. I could sit here all day and point to many examples like this where the logic doesn’t add up.

As in previous Bethesda games, you can pick your gender within the character creation at the start of the game and most characters in the game seem to be bisexual, therefore you’ll be able to romance most of them. Many of the characters you interact with seem to scold and treat you like you’re an annoyance at best. By the end of the game, the faction that seemed the most realistic and decent were the pirates. They at least lived within realistic means and had solid reasoning for what they did. All the other groups were either too far-fetched or lived in a way that the harshness of living on an isolated planet would have self-corrected their behavior rather quickly. The story really made this a slog for me to go through. Way too many side quests that detract from your main objective and the plots and reasoning just did not sit well with me.

The meat and potatoes:


Graphically the game runs pretty well on my Intel Core i9-12900k and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. I would hope so, its using the same engine from Fallout 3. Yes, you read that right, it’s using a modified version of the same engine from Fallout 3. And it shows. Underneath the glitz and glamour and useless lighting effects (more on that later), lays an inescapable truth, the people in this game are ugly and plastic looking. Some of the most attractive looking characters in the game look at best, like a normal person in real life. I don’t know if the problem lies with the artist or the engine, but seriously, most people are just either really ugly or just plain and plastic looking. Before I mentioned the useless lighting effects. For some reason, there is a fog and glow lighting effect that covers everything in the game world like a smudged on Vaseline coating. If you use mods or try and fix it yourself, the engines limitations make it clear why that fog and glow is there; to hide the limitations of the game engine. So you either fix the bad lighting and deal with graphical glitches with crushed blacks and overly bright whites or you live with Vaseline effect.

And while I’m on my soap box, what’s with modern devs putting in camera effects in games for vision? What do I mean? Lens flares, chromatic aberration, bloom, grain and motions blur are not what the human eye sees. These are side effects of modern day camera limitations. Am I viewing the game world from a video camera from 2010 or am I supposed to be viewing the world through my characters eye balls? It’s all to make the game look pretty, as if you’re watching a movie or TV show rather than actually being there and it’s a trend not everybody fancies.


The sounds of the ships were pretty solid, but the guns lacked a lot of oomph especially for the ballistic weapons. The dub is done rather well, and it’s convincing, without sounding over-acted. I usually turn in-game music off unless it’s exceptional (Fallout 3 and New Vegas are two of my favorites), as I did on this, so I won’t comment on the music scores.


Combat for a game like this is usually pretty stiff, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well the enemy AI reacted and how gun the gunplay felt. While not perfect, it came very close to feeling like a confident shooter at times. Ship combat however needs a rework. The GUI for the game runs at 30 FPS locked regardless of what your game actually can run at, so your targeting system is always going to be clunky and slow. Ship combat basically boiled down to throwing as much firepower at a ship as fast as possible. Strategic targeting to take over enemy ships is in the game, but trying to do so in the early game is impossible, and when it does become available, your weapons usually blow-up the enemy ships before you can take down just their shields and engines.


As of writing this, there are thousands of mods out already for the game. That may be its saving grace to be honest, as the game is already able to be modified. There are supposed to be plans by the devs to release a complete modding toolkit, aka Skyrim in the near future, so expect to see a lot of mods for this.


Again, as I said before, this is Skyrim/Fallout in space. This is not Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous or not even No Man’s Sky. It’s a full on RPG with space effects. If you are good with that going in, and know what your getting into, I think you could really enjoy this game with some caveats: The engine they are using is really showing its age, and I’m hoping this is their last outing on this aging engine. If The Elder Scrolls VI uses this engine, then I fear it won’t be a fan favorite. My advice to the devs/writers, take out the “modern” viewpoints and political brownie points and try and write a science-fiction story set hundreds of years in the future where the issues of today won’t even be remembered. Come up with new slang, new problems that we don’t face today, problems a planet on the edge of nowhere would face. Give us dialogue and game options to be who we want to play as.

The publisher provided us with a Steam copy and the screenshots of the game.