The promise of Starfield has been evident since it was first announced in 2018. A massive epic set in space, Starfield is Bethesda’s first new IP in over 20 years and easily their most ambitious endeavor. Since it’s also the first major release for Bethesda as part of the Xbox family, there is a lot of pressure on it to perform. Luckily for everyone involved, Starfield is a blast to play.

Quite simply, Starfield is one of the best video games I’ve ever played.

I’m a big believer that there is no such thing as a perfect video game. Every game has flaws, glitches, or creative choices that aren’t exactly what a specific player wants. Games are about the overall experience and becoming immersed in the world.  This is where Starfield shines; it provides an experience so profound and immense that there is almost certainly something here for everyone.

A Story of Discovery

The main story of Starfield takes about 40 hours to complete, but if that’s all you do in the game, you’re really missing out. If you really want to dive into everything Starfield has to offer, expect to spend well more than 150 hours in the game. 

Starfield’s main story revolves around an artifact. You will start as a miner and discover a fragment of the artifact that sends you on a trippy journey of lights and sounds when you touch it. After trying to get the artifact off of the planet, you are thrust into a new world with the explorers of the Constellation faction. You will set out to find more fragments of the artifact and attempt to discover the power it holds, along with what that power means for the universe.

In many ways, it’s a classic Bethesda story. Interesting characters, plenty of choice in how you interact, and a lot of political intrigue. I found the story to be really fun and interesting. When a game’s story makes me want to learn more about the lore and universe it occupies, I consider that to be a big win. Starfield certainly does that.

Starfield Lore and Background

Starfield Crimson Fleet Pirate

The lore and the world of Starfield is where this RPG really shines. I find Starfield’s universe to be a perfect blend of everything I love about Star Wars and Star Trek. Planets, settlements, and cities feel lived in, and each of the major cities feels different from the others. While New Atlantis is a cultural hub of innovation and technology, Akila City is exactly what you’d expect a haven for a bunch of space cowboys to look like. Every part of the world adds to the authenticity of what Bethesda is trying to create.

The lore is incredibly deep in Starfield. There’s so much to learn about the different factions, planets, and characters. Adding to it all is the fact that Starfield is set far into the future, and Earth is no longer inhabited. You can not only learn about the vast universe, but about what happened to our own solar system as well. If you want to learn a lot more, there is even a museum in the game that explains a lot about what happened to Earth when you visit it. Things like this are what makes me adore this game.

How is Starfield Gameplay?

Starfield Alien Tech

Gameplay has often been a “love it or hate it” affair for fans when it comes to Bethesda games. The storied developer is synonymous with buggy gameplay across all of its biggest franchises. I’m happy to report that Starfield flips the script on that narrative about Bethesda. It’s not bug-free, but Starfield is the least buggy Bethesda game I’ve ever played  – by a mile. When I was 10 hours into the game, the most impressive aspect of Starfield to me was how bug-free it was. And that’s saying a lot, considering that the rest of the game is incredible.

In the spirit of making confessions, I have never been a fan of Bethesda’s combat. Maybe I’m spoiled by refined shooters like Destiny 2 and Call of Duty, but combat in Fallout games has always felt really clunky to me. I don’t feel that way about Starfield. It’s not AS good as Destiny or COD, but shooting mechanics feel good and very smooth in the game.

Weapons are also a high point for me. There is a lot of variety, and you can get some pretty powerful weapons early in the game. Additionally, the traditional Bethesda feature of workbenches and complete weapon customization and upgrades are present in Starfield, too, so you can tweak and modify until you’re perfectly happy.

So Much Customization

Starfield has a lot of character customization. For appearance, you can get pretty specific and unique with your character’s look. You can also choose a template if you want to jump right into the action. But where customization really shines is in backgrounds and skills. There is a long list of backgrounds in Starfield to choose from when you’re creating your character, and each has unique traits and strengths to leverage as you play.

Every time you level up in Starfield, you will receive a skill point to apply to your skill tree. You can apply points to health, your jetpack, combat, or even an ability that makes you feel like you can wield the Force like a Jedi – well, the mind tricks part, anyway. There are so many combinations and builds you can pour points into, it’s an RPG fan’s dream.

Sensory Overload

Neon Starfield City

Visually speaking, Starfield is stunning. The environments are gorgeous and varied, with different areas having their own distinct aesthetic. Being in United Colonies territory feels different than being in Freestar Collective space or a Ryujin Industries world, and that’s a huge win. All of the differences between areas and worlds make Starfield feel alive, while all the similarities you can find in each make the game better for players.

So many open-world games are dominated by a bunch of browns in the palette, but Starfield is an exception. Some worlds are more earth tones, while others are bright and vibrant. It’s a nice element of the game that keeps long play sessions from becoming mundane.

Sound in Starfield is exceptional. Weapons, background noise and conversations, and even your ship taking off and landing are just fun to listen to. Bethesda has genuinely excelled at making every part of Starfield’s vast universe feel alive and lived in.

Take Flight in Starfield

Starfield Space Combat

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning your ship. Piloting and navigating in your ship is an essential part of the Starfield experience, and there is a lot to like. It’s true that there is no player control over landing or taking off, but I feel like I’d be horrible at that so I don’t mind. When in space, however, you’re able to control the different aspects of your ship in Starfield, from engines to grav drive to weapons and shields. You’ll have to strategically decide to put more or less power into each of your ship’s systems. Making the right decisions can help you emerge victorious in battle, while the wrong one could result in you being detected by marauders when you least need it.

Starfield isn’t a perfect game, but it’s an incredible experience. The story is fun and engaging, but the real fun begins when you start simply existing in the universe and carve your own path. If you like RPGs or science fiction, you will love Starfield. If you like Bethesda games, you will feel like Starfield is the game everything they’ve made in the past was leading to.

Starfield is available September 6, 2023 on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox Game Pass.

THE GOOD
An incredible world
Intriguing characters
So much customization
Ship operation is fun
Every player will be able to write their own story
THE BAD
Some typical Bethesda tropes
Some people won’t like cinematic taking off and landing
10
Essential

Review Summary

Starfield is a masterpiece where what is possible for players is as boundless as the universe itself.

Tyler
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