Fans have been waiting for Bethesda’s next major open-world RPG since the disappointing mess that was Fallout 76. We were eager for the next Skyrim, an expansive game with multiple factions, complex morality, and the freedom to explore a vast and lively open world. In 2018, Bethesda gave us what we wanted with the announcement of Starfield, which some may equate to Skyrim in space. It’s been over three years, and right when the release date of November 11 drew near, Bethesda riped Starfield from our grasps, delaying it to 2023.
Jason Schreier, a game journalist at Bloomberg, tweeted about some conversations he had with Starfield developers last Spring. The folks he talked to were “extremely worried” about the November 22 release date because they did not see their development progress lining up with that date. Apparently, there were a lot of murmurs about Starfield being the “next Cyberpunk” around the Bethesda offices. A delay gives developers more time to avoid the Cyberpunk catastrophe, but it’s difficult not to see the similarities between the two games.
Cyberpunk 2077 is famously known for being a disaster filled with game-breaking bugs and an under-delivered open world. When I played through Cyberpunk, an enemy got stuck inside a cargo crate, and I couldn’t find out how to kill him, resulting in an annoying mission restart. That only scratches the surface of playing Cyberpunk. It was like walking on a rickety, wooden bridge, never knowing when the board underneath will break and cause the whole thing to fall. Beyond the bugs, the game simply didn’t deliver on its promises. The three different starting classes did not profoundly alter player choice and narrative, the streets were desolate, and the main story was surprisingly short. We hope that Starfield doesn’t follow the same fate, however, they both adhere to the same burden of unfathomable hype.
Cyberpunk 2077 came from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developers, one of the best and well-recieved RPGs ever created. When it was announced that CD Projekt Red was tackling Cyberpunk, fans were almost certain the project couldn’t fail. Add that to a stellar marketing campaign featuring Keanu Reeves, and you’ve got one of the most hyped games of all time. Bethesda, despite the dud that was Fallout 76, makes some of the most immersive open-world games in the industry.
With its astounding six re-releases, Skyrim was a cultural phenomenon. And especially after Fallout 76, fans see Starfield as a return to form. In fact, some think we may be in for another Skyrim in terms of cultural impact, sales, and quality. As we can see, Starfield reaches the same amount of anticipation as Cyberpunk, which could explain those inside baseball murmurs. The ones from the Bethesda offices that say: “our fans want so much from us, but we can’t deliver. I hope we don’t get the Cyberpunk treatment.”
One of the problems with Cyberpunk was that CD Projekt Red over-promised and underdelivered. Let’s look at what Starfield is promising.
The first thing that comes to mind is the overhaul of the Creation Engine. Every time a new Bethesda game comes out, the company boasts a new engine. The tactic eases fans who are continually unimpressed with the look of Bethesda games, especially Fallout and Skyrim. No matter the promises of a new engine, Bethesda games always look rather outdated and muddy. I don’t trust that Starfield will be any different. I’ve been burnt too many times by the false hope of a better-looking and playing open world. With that said, Howard promises a lot out of the new Creation Engine during an interview with gameindustry.biz.
“The overhaul on our engine is probably the biggest we ever had, maybe even larger than Morrowind to Oblivion… When people see the results, they’ll hopefully be as happy as we are with what’s on the screen and also how we can go about making our games.”
If history repeats itself, then this will be nothing but hollow words.
Howard also promised “hardcore” RPG elements, which is welcome news for fans unimpressed with the depth of Fallout 4. Hardcore refers to the ability to choose your character’s backstory and shape your own path through the world of Starfield. The concept is ideal for RPG fans who are tired of the streamlined main questline, impactless character choices, and rudimentary faction reputation. It’s what most people are looking for in these types of games, so it makes sense that Howard would advertise the game as such. Now, it’s likely that the game won’t deliver perfectly on these promises. Bethesda is setting the bar high for Starfield by saying exactly what the fans want. I remember CD Projekt Red promising similar things only for Cyberpunk to feel more like a free roam game than an in-depth, choice-driven RPG. I can only hope that the delay gives Bethesda the time to deliver on this promise, or we may see history repeat itself.
We see that Starfield and Cyberpunk have established high expectations thanks to both the fans and the developers themselves. One difference is that Bethesda is keeping Starfield’s gameplay a secret. It’s been about four years, and we have yet to see any concrete gameplay. Maybe we will finally see some gameplay at the Xbox and Bethesda showcase on June 12, and have a better understanding of what Starfield has in store for us.