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Lost in Space or Lost Potential? A Starfield Review

Updated: Dec 17, 2023


Title image with the words Starfield in front of a planetary horizon
Image: Bethesda Game Studios

Hey there, fellow spacefarers! I recently docked my ship after a 60-hour voyage into the universe of Starfield, and I've got to say, I've got some thoughts to unpack. Now, having completed the game, I think it's only right to share my voyage with those who might be considering embarking on a similar journey.

 

Gameplay & Story


Firstly, for those of you who've lost countless hours to No Man's Sky, you'll find some resemblances in Starfield, albeit with a toned-down exploration element. The vastness of space in Starfield feels a tad more controlled and guided, which might be a plus for those who felt overwhelmed with the almost infinite expanses in No Man's Sky. But if you were hoping for that same boundless freedom to chart unknown planets, you might find Starfield's cosmos a bit restrained in comparison.


One of the highlights, and simultaneously a point of contention for me, is the galaxy map and user interface. It's strikingly reminiscent of Mass Effect. Now, don’t get me wrong, navigating through star systems and plotting courses brought a wave of nostalgia. However, while Mass Effect a game made in 2007, paired its galaxy map with deep storytelling and character arcs, Starfield sometimes felt like it was missing that narrative punch to accompany its spacefaring mechanics, the constant loading screens and non-seamless space travel and empty planets didn't push me to want to explore.

"Quests felt like they were checking boxes rather than pushing boundaries"

The quests and missions, while mostly engaging, sometimes tread into familiar territory. There were a few unexpected twists and turns, but a majority of them felt like they were checking boxes rather than pushing boundaries. After my 60-hour journey, while I felt accomplished, there was a lingering feeling of wanting just a bit more depth, a bit more risk in the narrative. The Faction quests are entertaining and probably the most fun part of the game. I completed every faction quest before the main story and other than hastily written radial quests, I couldn't help but feel the game was done. By the time I forced myself to continue with the overarching story I was already fed up, go here pick up artifact, rinse repeat and it was too similar to the Artemis path of No Man's Sky for me, travel the galaxy searching for objects before crafting something that answers the 'big universe mystery'.


In terms of gameplay mechanics, it's solid. Spaceship controls are smooth, and combat, both on foot and in space, is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a Fallout game.

 

Graphics & Sound Design


I dove into Starfield with high hopes. Given the buzz and the tantalizing teasers, I was ready for a visual feast that would make my retinas dance with joy. However, after journeying through its vast expanse, I felt a tad... underwhelmed. First and foremost, space. The final frontier. In games like these, it should feel vast, mysterious, and awe-inspiring. But in Starfield, space felt more like... well, empty space.


Venturing towards planetary bodies, my heart sank a smidge more. Planets, which should be the pièce de résistance of any space exploration game, felt generic. Their surfaces lacked the intricate detailing I've come to expect from next-gen titles. Barren planet after barren planet I gave up exploration altogether.


However, character models are a significant improvement on Skyrim and Fallout, my companions did feel like they expressed themselves well in most conversations. It's not exactly industry leading but they did a good job.

"For the most part, the voice work is stellar"

Now let's chat about voice acting, a crucial component in any story-driven game. Starfield offers a broad range of characters, each with their personalities, quirks, and tales. For the most part, the voice work is stellar (pun intended!). Main characters come through with emotional depth, making pivotal moments in the story resonate even more. Their lines are delivered with conviction, making it easy to forge connections or, in some cases, feel genuine disdain. Sarah Morgan was brought alive by the talented Emily O’Brien and fans of the Deus Ex games will recognise Elias Toufexis as Sam Coe who did a commendable job as our favourite space cowboy.


Gameplay wise the sound effects, especially during combat, pack a punch. Weapons have weight to their sounds, and the clang of metal on metal or the whiz of an energy guns passing by creates an adrenaline-pumping atmosphere. Ship sounds, are also done rather well. The roar of the thrusters and the beeping of onboard systems make piloting feel engaging and authentic.

 

The Verdict


I hate to be a downer, friends, but I can't dress this up. Given the potential and pedigree, Starfield could have been a masterpiece, but at best it is a competent space odyssey that borrows elements from some of the giants in the genre. While it doesn't quite reach the narrative heights of some or the explorative freedom of others, it carves out a niche that's fun for those willing to take the leap into its universe. But for a game that took a whopping 8 years in the cosmic oven, one would expect a dish bursting with flavors. And while there are certainly moments of brilliance that showcase the dedication of the team, there's also a lingering aftertaste of "what could've been." The vastness and ambition are evident, but at times, it feels like the focus was spread too thin, leading to areas that lack polish or depth. Given the prolonged development, I hoped for more consistent highs and fewer "been there, done that" moments.


For a near-decade of anticipation, Starfield is a worthy play but may leave some star-travelers yearning for a touch more of the extraordinary.

7/10





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