Do you know when a colleague tells you that you have to watch a series that you are not particularly liking because in the seventh season it gets really good and it is the best in the world? I would feel a bit like that friend if I enthusiastically recommended you play Starfield. In the last game sessions of the almost eighty hours that I have dedicated to the Bethesda space adventure, I have found missions that have excited me and situations that have surprised me, but to get to them I have had to go through dozens of hours of other activities that I have not found them, at all, so stimulating. Starfield is a very mixed-feeling game: some of the breadth and depth we’ve come to expect is there, yes, but other aspects of the gameplay feel rather half-baked, like they’ve been added at the last minute or something. put there by compromise. Its inconsistencies, its rough edges, and its less polished or thought-out mechanics can be overlooked some of the time, but they can also become deeply frustrating when they blatantly get in the way of what we want or need to do. In the process of analyzing Starfield I have had gaming sessions of more than eight hours in which I have constantly made excuses to myself not to stop playing, promising myself to do just one more mission; I’ve also had days when I’ve avoided sitting in front of the console, lamenting that I couldn’t be playing anything else.
First of all, I would like to point out that I have played the Xbox Series X version. Although I know that some of my other colleagues in the Spanish press who have enjoyed the PC version have hardly had any technical problems – beyond from some small graphical glitch – unfortunately this has not been my experience, nor that of some other analysts who have tried the game in its console version. Maybe I was unlucky and got the short end of the straw, but I have experienced several bugs that have caused me to lose hours of progress, some missions that I have not been able to finish for these reasons and several situations in which I have had to restart the console due to crashes that did not allow me to exit the menu or problems that prevented the movement of my character. The frame-rate, while staying at the promised 30FPS for the most part, fluctuates at times, especially when using the console’s Quick Resume or engaging in multi-enemy combat. My experience has been marked, to a certain extent, by these problems, but I have to say, yes, that almost all of them have been concentrated after twenty hours of play: the start of Starfield is noticeably more polished than the moment when the one that we really have freedom to move around its map. In this regard, Bethesda has informed us that a day one patch is in the works that fixes some of the issues with progress and performance of the game, but at the time of publishing this review, it is not yet operational, so don’t I can assure you what the state of the game will be when it reaches your hands. In any case, if you can choose, it seems more sensible to choose, at least for now, the PC version.
Starfield has a modest start, a bit slow, in which we are gradually introduced to some of its mechanics and concepts. In the first minutes of the game, our character’s life is marked by contact with a mysterious Artifact that reacts when we interact with it, and that will lead us to become part of Constellation, a semi-secret organization dedicated to studying this type of device. of events, and that she is convinced that they hide some kind of truth unimaginable by the universe. The main mission, therefore, will focus on us looking for these artifacts in different parts of the galaxy and discovering, in the end, what they are and what their purpose is. I am not going to reveal more, of course; but, in that sense, the plot is quite linear, with only two serious decisions that we will have to make throughout the thirty hours that it lasts, and only one of them has real consequences for the end of the story.
However, if you have played other Bethesda games, such as the most recent Fallout 4 or Skyrim, for example, you will know that the main mission is not usually the most important element of the studio’s titles. That almost all the construction of the universe, the discoveries and interesting ideas are in the different faction missions or in the secondary tasks that we will find as we progress. If I were to compare Starfield to the developer’s previous titles, I’d say that structurally it’s more like Fallout than an Elder Scrolls, with most of the game’s action and mythology revolving around cities and people, with various affiliations. and contexts that populate it. However, the difference between Starfield and these other sagas is that in this case the main mission is quite vital to understand the game, at least during the first tens of hours.
The world of Starfield is vast, full of solar systems, planets, and galaxies to explore, but moving through them without knowing what we’re looking for isn’t the most optimal experience. The real points of interest on these planets are more limited than might appear a priori. At various points in my game I’ve tried to find my own way, get on the ship and just jump from galaxy to galaxy until I found a new city or a thread to pull on to find a subplot, and I’ve failed at almost every one. Once we move away from Alpha Centauri and Sol, the two closest solar systems, the only thing we will achieve by moving freely and aimlessly is to land on many empty and similar planets where we will barely find any resources to put in the bag and , with luck, one or two species of local fauna or flora. Occasionally, you will find abandoned mining outposts or destroyed settlements, probably procedurally generated, where there will be some weapons, weapons or food that we can use in battle, but not much else. For this reason, the main plot is essential to guide us through the stars and explain where the important cities are: Akila, Neón and Cydonia, in addition to the initial city, New Atlantis, will be the main locations in which we will move almost always.
Although it is appreciated that there is some method within the game itself that allows us to find the points of interest, it is true that the missions that are used as an excuse for us to travel to them are just small errands that the game uses as a pretext to point out its location on the map. Speaking of which, don’t expect a lot of space travel in your ship inside Starfield: we’ll get a vehicle early in the game, and we can buy bigger ones and upgrade the ones we already have, but there isn’t really a mechanic that lets us freely pilot them. When we get on our ship inside a planet we can take off and travel over its atmosphere, but the range of movement that exists is very limited. We will be able to engage in combat or get close to other ships that float around it, in addition to destroying asteroids that are in the area to obtain resources, but if we want to move to another planet or another location we will have to do it through fast travel. For example, if we take off on Mars and we want to travel to one of its moons, we will not be able to do it “by hand” but we will have to first select its course within the map that is in the menu, to navigate there, and then open the menu a second time to choose the landing site and, again, teleport to its surface.
Although we already knew and many of us did not expect a No Man’s Sky-style experience, in which every moment of space exploration, from takeoff to landing, is controlled by us, that the only way to move through the galaxy is fast travel it creates some problems. First of all, it will be difficult to escape situations with hostile ships wanting to attack us – there are several factions of pirates and mercenaries in the game that will do this – because of the lack of movement. On the other hand, in the long run it ends up making that big expansive universe that Bethesda has come up with the feeling of being exactly the same as any other map in an open world game where we move between cities using the map. The sensation of immensity that we felt when we discovered our first galaxies diminishes and the experience becomes trivial when we realize that the entire process takes place in menus that magically take us to a place hundreds of light-years away in just two seconds. . It is a shame that this system, which does not contribute much, ends up acting as a barrier between us and some missions, including those of the main plot. The power of our ship will limit the distance we can travel, which is wide but not absolute at first, and to finish some tasks and even the main plot we will be forced to save to buy a better ship than the ones we have at our disposal in the first tens of hours of the game.
The reasonably bland space exploration contrasts with some very vivid cities, full of people, shops, characters with subplots that will allow us to learn more about their world. All the Starfield moments that I will remember fondly have to do with them. Although it is true that the vast majority of decisions we make in the game do not have much impact, some plots, such as that of the Crimson Fleet pirates or those of Ryujin, a powerful technology company based in Neon, we They will surprise us with the variety of tasks that they offer us, from stealth and infiltration to persuasion duels, naval battles, investigating the story of a riot in a space prison or lending ourselves as a scientific subject for body modifications, among others. On the contrary, and even with exceptions, many of the secondary missions not associated with any powerful group in this universe will be messenger missions in which we will have to talk and convince various characters, collect resources from a specific planet and return or gather a amount of money and pay it. Furthermore, all these “activities”, as the game calls them, will start when we pass through specific places or listen to conversations between passersby, and they will be grouped under a single tab in the mission menu. This means that, when we have played enough hours, we will have a huge list of tasks that we will not know where they came from, that urge us to “talk to X character” or “infiltrate Y place” without giving us any clue where or How can we access these objectives?
Planetary exploration, resource gathering, base building and everything associated with it is the weakest aspect of the game by far; and the proof of this is that absolutely none of the main or faction missions that I have played require you to use any mechanics associated with them. As we visit more places and discover more planets it becomes more apparent that even the team themselves don’t seem very confident in what they offer. The general dynamic of exploration is to search for a planet and land on it. If we are close enough, we can pre-scan some data like its temperature and available resources. There, through the map, we can choose the landing place. Some planets will have already marked places of interest, such as small bases or abandoned research facilities that we can explore. Most will not have life, but in some we can find a handful of creatures or plants that we can scan to find out more about them. Occasionally, we will find a lost traveler who we will have to rescue and will offer us a small reward.
From what I’ve gleaned through trial and error, Starfield’s planet generation seems to work as follows: at Landing on a planet, the game generates an environment around us, with various points of interest that we can perceive on our radar and investigate. On planets with only one biome, this generation is designed so that we can explore 100% of this planet from the landing zone that we have chosen. On planets with multiple biomes, which are the minority, we may have to land in two or three different places before we can. There are certain elements that reveal the trick. For example, many planets have some predetermined locations, such as caves, abandoned mech factories, or ship landing zones that we can use as a starting point for our exploration. If two of these points are next to each other, for example, no matter how far we walk in their direction, we won’t be able to move by walking between them; We will have to go back to the ship and fast travel there. In the days leading up to the game’s release and due to some leaks, there has been a lot of talk about whether the game has invisible barriers. The fact is that it has: if we walk too far in the same direction, we will end up with a screen that will tell us that we have reached the border of the area we are in. But it must also be said that it is practically impossible to find them exploring naturally. I’ve only come across them once, and because I actively searched for it to see if it was true: it took me about half an hour walking in the same direction until I reached the edge of the area.
By the time we’ve explored a few planets, the facilities, points of interest, and even the animals and plants that inhabit them end up becoming quite repetitive, and the sense of discovery fades. Of course: I do not think it is, exactly, a problem of the amount of content. Although more environments or animal species would have been appreciated, I think the real problem with Starfield exploration is not having a true gameplay or progression loop to get us interested in it. The materials we obtain are only used to craft objects or improvements in our weapons, and to get material for our posts, which also serve to… Get more materials. But the game’s item creation and upgrade system isn’t particularly well planned. Creating basically anything will require us to invest points from our skill tree to unlock it, pay some materials to unlock the upgrade in question, and then pay materials again to add it to our weapon or suit. The same happens with the manufacture of objects. This presents us with a dichotomy: whether to invest our skill points in qualities that will help us progress in the game, such as life improvements, damage or social skills, or invest them in improving our crafting capacity in the hope of unlocking something that will serve us well. to create something interesting.
Some weapon upgrades, such as the ability to add armor-piercing ammunition or upgrade magazines, will require you to invest at least five or six skill points from the tree to obtain them, and then obtain the necessary materials. To make matters worse, when we have spent a couple or three dozen hours, the weapons that the enemies that we defeat or that we find exploring will leave us will generally be better than those that we modify, allowing us to access these abilities without having to go through any of the previous steps. As such, the game’s crafting and resource system is an element that’s there, but doesn’t particularly urge us to spend time on it.
This issue applies to many other areas of the game. Overall, we get the feeling that Starfield is a very broad game, and as a result, it has a ton of mechanics, but almost all of them lack depth. Another example of this is the combat system, again reminiscent of other company titles like Fallout, which is quite simple and doesn’t pose much of a challenge because it’s not well balanced. Enemy levels don’t seem to scale with ours, so regardless of whether we’re level 10 or level 35, enemies will stay the same overall level. Landing on a planet that marks us as level 70 and encountering level 5 enemies, or facing level 10 robots in the final mission of the game, as we have also done in the early stages of this game, takes away some of the excitement and challenge to the whole
Starfield tries to season its combat with a mechanic that has not been revealed and that we can unlock from a certain point in the story. This mechanic, which we cannot talk about so as not to spoil the surprise, will require us to finish a sort of side missions that always work exactly the same: the location of some temples scattered throughout the game universe will be revealed to us, we will travel to them, we will find a door, we will solve a puzzle inside a room, which will always be the same, and we will repeat the process until we are able to unlock the full potential of this functionality. This means that to take full advantage of one of the game’s mechanics we have to solve the same puzzle around twenty times.
When we already have everything unlocked, when we understand how its systems work and we have gone through certain procedures, such as advancing in the main plot, and we can move freely in search of secondary missions and other stories, Starfield takes off and offers us surprising and striking plots. . But to get there we have to overcome many other sections of the game that are not so powerful at all. Personally, I would have preferred the game to focus on what it knows how to do well, that is, on creating an interesting universe, with different forces in balance between them, in which we can take part in their conflicts and choose our path, rather than trying to push in so many directions at the same time. As if desperate for everyone to like it, Starfield has exploration sections for those looking for that originally advertised No Man’s Sky, ship building for those more versed in sims of this type, shooting for shooter fans. , a cyberpunk city, Neon, for those who want more of the CD Projekt Red title, relationships – a bit modest and a bit bland, really – for those who miss the classic Mass Effect BioWare, and so on. . What saddens me most about this, I think, is that it is very difficult to talk about the title without relating it to another, not to mention the obvious inspiration it has taken from other hits whose audiences want to capture.
Perhaps if Bethesda had focused on being Bethesda, on doing what we love and have always loved about its titles, some of the game’s weaknesses, such as the lack of agency when making decisions, would actually be its strengths; perhaps then the game would be enjoyable throughout its run. But the game that we have, the Starfield that we can play, is a title with victories and also with clear defects, which starts slowly and in which we can take a good handful of hours to find ourselves, to understand how to navigate it to obtain an experience satisfactory. Many users, I have no doubt, will like it precisely for this reason; The most classic fans of the studio may have some thorn stuck in us that could, or not, be resolved with the post-launch content.