At the beginning of the Xbox/Bethesda showcase, Pete Hines (Bethesda Softworks) mentioned that Starfield would make an appearance at the end of the event. The showcase was excellent, showing off a wide range of games. However, I was most excited about the promised Starfield presentation. This was the perfect time for Bethesda to show off an in-depth look at the game, and it did not disappoint, exhibiting gameplay, RPG mechanics, and its massive scale. Now that we finally have solid information, here is everything that excited us and everything that left us a bit skeptical.
8. Space Travel (Excited)
Throughout the gameplay demo, we saw ships landing and taking off in what looked to be loading screens. At first, I thought this was all the ships were good for, but Todd Howard, with his slick leather jacket, exceeded my expectations. You can fly them. In other words, Starfield will include full-on space travel. The extent of this gameplay is unknown, and we have several questions. Can you fly anywhere, or are there limited zones designated for space travel. Is the open-world barren, or can you find captivating sights and quests scattered throughout? The answers to these questions may make or break the mechanic, but for now, it’s exciting that Bethesda is attempting it. Additionally, the space combat looked fun and strangely beautiful with subdued explosions and floating ship debris.
7. Outdated Dialogue view and Animations (Skeptical)
One thing we can expect from Bethesda games is clay-like characters staring into your soul as you pick a line of dialogue. Starfield’s dialogue screen looks slightly better than Fallout 4’s, but that game is seven years old. The NPC’s hair looks plastered on their face, and there are hardly any facial expressions when they talk. If there is, it’s wildly exaggerated. I expected Bethesda to update their dialogue ecstatic much more than this. It’s more intriguing to see cutscene quality camera work during dialogue than a steady camera pointing straight at an ugly NPC.
6. Speed of Combat (Excited)
Shooting in Fallout was always slow, clunky, and awkward, but the shooting in Starfield seems a lot faster. The enemies went down fast, unlike Fallout, where you shoot someone in the head only for them to shake it off, with a sliver of health gone. Beyond that, the movement speed is faster, and there is more verticality, thanks to the character’s jetpack. Also, we saw some zero-gravity combat, which should add some creativity to the basic sprinting and shooting we’ve come to expect.
5. Bethesda Jank (Skeptical)
You will see this idea echoed throughout most of the negatives, but I was hoping Bethesda would make some big steps with the new engine. Instead, the step forward in tech is small, bringing back the infamous Bethesda jank. The FPS would dip throughout the gameplay demo, and the enemy AI is as dumb as ever. One enemy slowly walked out of cover with his back turned to you. Not the best combat strategy. Furthermore, the melee looked clunky and would greatly benefit from a dodge feature. There are a few things to consider about this point. First is that the game will release in 2023, so there is time for polishing, and secondly, Bethesda jank is part of the game’s DNA. It adds some flavor, but it does get old seeing the same issues pop up game after game.
4. The Environment Variety (Excited)
The benefit of the space setting is that artists can go all out with wacky and unique design choices. The Kreet moon showed off in the gameplay trailer was dull and grey, but we also saw glimpses of other planets and locations. There is a sprawling city called New Atlantis and some unnamed planets, such as one with a neon, underbelly city, another with big crystals jutting out of the ground, and one with a peaceful, tropical beach. With a game so big, I’m surprised to see this much diversity in environments, and, hopefully, each planet will feel unique in its own way.
3. Graphics Leave Much to be Desired (Skeptical)
Again, this goes back to the unmet expectations of the new engine. The best thing I can say about the graphics is the lighting inside darkly lit rooms. Seeing the light span across the shiny floor gave me an idea of what a current-gen Bethesda game should look like. Everything else was a little lackluster, especially the textures. The ship is muddy and so were several pieces of the environment. Additionally, the smoke effects looked overly pixelized. Graphics are not everything, and I’m ok if they are sacrificed for a good cause, however, what Starfield had to show was not too impressive for a Triple-A game.
2. Customization (Excited)
It looks like a lot is going into letting players define their character. The character creator, despite being subjected to the ugly character models, seems incredibly in-depth, but that’s far less interesting to me than crafting the character’s personality and backstory. There are several backgrounds to choose from, such as a Ronin, Cyberhunter, or Industrialist, which will give you three different starting skills. Different traits will also negatively or positively affect your skills. Beyond customizing your character, players can also customize their ship part by part. The same can be done with your home base, a Fallout 76 function that has become surprisingly popular among the community. For the building aspect, I do hope they are optional because not everyone is interested in them. I, for one, am a fan of having a home I can call my own in these open-world RPGs.
1. There are Too Many Planets (Skeptical)
Aggressively large games are a perplexing marketing beat to me. When someone says their game is massive, it often decreases the quality of other parts of the game. In the case of Starfield, you can land anywhere on any planet, and there are over 1,000 planets. That’s not inviting to me… that’s intimidating. Furthermore, most of the planets we saw were barren plains, despite being rather diverse, and that’s disappointing. I don’t want to walk around an empty planet with nothing to do just so the developers can say their game is massive. I’d rather have something narrowed down where every nook and cranny of a world is fun to look at, fun to explore, and worth my time.
To be clear, I’m going to hold off my verdict until I actually play the game. I know that even if it’s filled with jank and overindulgence, I’ll still dedicate hundreds of hours of my life to it. It’s reminiscent of classic Bethesda open-world games, and that’s something I miss dearly.