by Chris Jackson
A few hundred years from now, a space-faring worker (that’s you) is taking part in a mining mission to collect essential resources. When your team comes across a mysterious artifact embedded in a rock, you go in to help extract it, suddenly experiencing a kaleidoscope of lights and music before everything goes dark. After paying a visit to Constellation – a private organisation which aims to chart the furthest reaches of space along – in an attempt to find out what happened to you, you quickly discover that your life plays a much bigger role in the universe than you could ever have expected, kicking off a colossal planet-hopping adventure with unimaginable repercussions for life as we know it…
Coming from Bethesda Game Studios – the people behind the much-loved Fallout and Elder Scrolls series – Starfield follows a very similar formula to its predecessors and will feel very familiar to fans of the developer’s previous titles. A sprawling 100-plus hour RPG spread across multiple star systems, apparently containing over a thousand planets that can be explored, your time will be spent visiting towns and settlements to pick up quests and trade goods with the locals before jetting off into space to complete whatever objectives you’ve been tasked with. All of the expected RPG elements are present, from levelling up your character and acquiring new skills to crafting, researching new upgrades, lengthy conversations with quirky locals and vast amounts of exploration.
Starfield‘s opening hours are largely spent in and around the city of New Atlantis, a place that inspires the rare sort of wonder that makes you slow down and take everything in en route to your destination. A handful of other large cities can be found across the galaxy, with the towering cyberpunk-esque oil-rig / junkyard of Neon being a particular highlight, but the majority of planets you visit are barren wastelands with little more than the odd small settlement, mining facility or cave to poke around in. Many of the quests you’re sent on are incredibly well-detailed with plenty of lore to uncover, and the various factions you’ll meet along the way provide countless moral quandaries and expertly-crafted stories, but the main storyline doesn’t quite live up to those found in Bethesda’s previous games, relying on little more than a few hours’ worth of artifact-collecting fetch quests before the big finale which arrives much sooner than expected. There’s certainly plenty to do outside of that main questline, but it’s up to you to diligently explore your surroundings in order to find the game’s meatier quests.
A couple of things do unfortunately hold Starfield back, though. By the end of this review’s playthrough (which lasted for just over 60 hours), half a dozen quests were impossible to complete due to some pesky bugs, and one of the game’s longer side-quests was locked out when the game refused to trigger one of its early missions. These things can be patched of course, so there’s hope that any teething problems can be fixed in the future, but it’s still a little disappointing. Starfield‘s other potentially contentious issue revolves around the way you traverse the galaxy. Where many were expecting space travel, combat and trading to resemble something along the lines of Elite, Starfield opts for a much simpler route, allowing players to simply choose their destination from a map and fast travel within seconds. While space combat does come into play, there isn’t much to it other than “shoot that other spaceship until it explodes”, in turn making improving your ship feel a little unnecessary, and immediately travelling to your destination makes the galaxy/game feel much smaller than it really is, as you never really feel like you’re travelling thousands or millions of miles between star systems.
Going into Starfield with tempered expectations, there’s certainly a lot to offer fans of Fallout, Skyrim and indeed Bioware’s Mass Effect series. The characters and stories are excellent, there are some stunning locations and interplanetary vistas to take in, and having an entire galaxy at your fingertips is quite the enticing proposition. The short main story and underwhelming space-flight elements do tend to make the overall game feel like a well-made and enjoyable yet rather standard RPG rather than the all-conquering epic that many had hoped for, though.
PLATFORM: PC, XBOX SERIES (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW