The Endless Expanse
Starfield is Bethesda’s newest title and their first new IP in 25 years. Set far into the future, space travel is a standard part of life and hundreds of planets have been colonised, space really is your playground.
Take to the Skies
Early on in Starfield you’ll gain access to The Frontier, your first ship. This is just the surface of what space has to offer; while it has all the features you’d expect, it only begins to open up the options you’re giving in space. Ships are highly customisable, utilising a grid-based system allowing you to attach new modules in a very freeform manner. This can lead to an incredible amount of creativity, as many of the rules dictating module placement areincredibly loose. However, while these systems are incredibly in-depth, the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining it, so it would be wise to spend time experimenting and seeing what you can come up with yourself!
Ship combat is another incredibly satisfying aspect of Starfield, with big dogfights absolutely oozing with style and scale. While the controls can be a little awkward on keyboard and mouse, it feels great on a controller, which you can seamlessly switch to at any time on PC. While many of these battles can be difficult, it really shows how well the shipbuilding aspects work, as having many different ships/regularly customising your own can help alleviate these challenges.
Planets are where you’ll more than likely spend the most of your time, whether that’s questing, exploring random areas and planets, setting up resource outposts, or even exploring the vast magnitude of some of the towns and cities, such as New Atlantis or Akila City. The standard exploration can feel a little lacklustre, with many of the randomly generated points of interest feeling very similar to one another after a while, yet the sheer amount of interesting curated content absolutely trumps any of these issues. Points of interest feel like a good way to break monotony while doing other smaller tasks, such as building outposts and exploring for resources, but I can't recommend explicitly exploring random planets for hours on end, as the content and rewards run dry early.
This is completely counteracted by many of the quests and miscellaneous activities you’ll find within more populated areas. Just overhearing people within cities will begin questlines, or finding slates with information and even just outright talking to people will give you an incredible variety of quests. I regularly find myself scanning through my quest log to decide what to complete, and it never seems to get shorter. I even got accidentally dragged into some quests which were absolutely welcomed. For example, after committing a crime, instead of getting arrested in the traditional way, I was dragged away to meet with the UC Sysdef commander, which was the beginning of an incredibly fun faction quest.
Play Your Role
I found many of the game’s roleplaying systems felt a vast amount better than previous Bethesda titles, primarily in dialogue. During character creation, you can choose a multitude of traits which affect not only the main gameplay but will often have entertaining consequences in other scenarios. Beyond this, perks feel far more impactful and like a part of your character’s toolkit rather than simply allowing you to access something. This is emphasised through the dialogue once again, as in certain scenarios, having specific perks will open up new options naturally, allowing you to skip past or avoid a rough situation entirely. I’m unsure how much the main story integrates this compared to the side quests as I haven’t delved too deeply into the main questline yet, however, what I have done definitely seems to be leading to a very interesting plot.
The roleplaying really ties together with the combat, which is very good, might I add. Gunplay is punchy and satisfying aside from the occasional moments of Bethesda’s traditionally janky animation on dying enemies, while the variety of weapons adds to this. Some of the legendary weapons I’ve found have been incredibly fun to use, such as my fully automatic revolver, the Keelhauler, or an epic-rarity shotgun which occasionally sets people on fire. Perks also don’t feel necessary for combat either; while they do help, weapons are completely viable without being built for them specifically, which really opens up experimentation with all weapon types, along with being able to take non-combat perks without completely hindering your combat prowess.
Starfield truly feels like the culmination of Bethesda’s design philosophies, from the outposts and shipbuilding feeling reminiscent of Fallout 4’s settlements to the wonderful feeling of gunplay and roleplaying systems. While it definitely takes some time to get into, Starfield is more than worth your time and money!