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Starfield review: A disappointing trek through the stars

starfield review header image of man between rocks in space

“Overhyped” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. In an age of instant gratification, people love digging through forums for leaks to deliver that hype dose on upcoming AAA projects. Sometimes, the games themselves are unable to match the hype that fans developed in their heads. As our review shows, that could be the case with Starfield. 

Starfield technically never made any promises it couldn’t keep. There are indeed thousands of planets to explore in the game. There are indeed spaceships you can kit out to your liking and swim through the stars with. It even has the classic Bethesda mod support that allows you to shape your adventure however you see fit. 

But we still can’t help but be disappointed in the experience, one that may have been more concerned with fulfilling promises on a technical level rather than delivering a game with real heart.

The Good:

  • Fans of the classic Bethesda RPG formula will appreciate its familiarity.
  • Starfield has some great aesthetics, and does present an open world to explore.

The Bad:

  • The story, characters, and most of the game’s planets are bland.
  • Starfield suffers from some immersion-breaking jank. 

Review Details:

  • Platforms available: PC, Xbox Series X/S
  • Reviewed on: PC
  • Official release date: September 6, 2023

Starfield’s voyage through the final frontier

It would be dishonest to say that Starfield’s first few hours aren’t inriguing. It’s hard not to be awed by the presentation of scale of deep space. Starfield does a good job showcasing this grand beauty. The stars twinkle in the night sky in the canvas of pitch-black void. Massive planets rotate slowly and allow the player to take in their majesty as they float by on a spaceship.

Upon landing on the first civilized planet, Starfield gives players a glimpse at one of humanity’s potential futures. Impossibly massive buildings of glass and metal cover the skyline, a boastful display of humanity’s dominion over the final frontier.  

Like any Bethesda RPG, the game generally lets you do what you want, whene you want. A player could spend dozens of hours exploring a single star system and not uncover a fraction of Starfield’s content. Whether it’s moonlighting as a pirate or as a space mailman, Starfield grants the player a lot of freedom.

Unfortunately, Starfield’s ocean of opportunities turned out to be puddle-deep. All of the opportunity in the galaxy doesn’t mean much if the options before you are largely hollow. 

A vast expanse of nothing

It’s hard not to compare Starfield to another AAA RPG that came out in 2023: Baldur’s Gate 3. That game packs so much depth into every nook and cranny of its world that it’s constantly surprising the player. Sure, it may not represent thousands of planets, but a street corner in the city of Baldur’s Gate has more captivating story beats than an entire planet in Starfield. A similar comparison could be made to 2022’s Elden Ring, another game full of content waiting to be explored that makes Starfield look empty by comparison.

Starfield has a ton of planets to explore and careers to try out, but the actual meat and space potatoes of what you do is never very interesting. Being a space pirate sounds cool until you realize Bethesda wants to punish you for being a “bad guy” and hamper you with several annoying disadvantages. Exploring planets might as well be a walking simulator, because thousands of these planets feel lifeless and sterile.

You could argue that the vast majority of space is lifeless and sterile, and you would be correct. However, you have to wonder whether that authentic space experience is worth copy-pasting a hundred times over into a video game. These games are ultimately meant to be played and enjoyed, and it’s hard to enjoy Starfield after you realize just how empty the game really is.

A powerful narrative could help make up for these faults, but the story simply isn’t captivating. Unlike Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or Fallout: New Vegas, there is no real incentive to pursue the narrative, and it doesn’t help that so few of the characters feel at all engaging. And by the time the story finally does get interesting, it suddenly ends.

gameland.gg’s bottom line: Starfield technically succeeds in creating a space-exploration RPG with many planets to explore, but the lack of interesting gameplay and story beats means there’s little reason to pursue that exploration. 

Score: 5/10 

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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