Bethesda Game Studios is known for their expansive open worlds, where you are free to go wherever you please. In the lush fantasy landscapes of The Elder Scrolls or the desolate nuclear ruins of the Fallout series, in Bethesda games, you can easily lose hundreds of hours. Now, the studio aims to take it a step further with Starfield. Bethesda promises a complete universe that you can explore freely. Can it deliver on that promise?
When you first launch Starfield, you step into the vacuum-sealed boots of a miner who discovers a strange artifact on a distant moon. That object burns a strange vision into your retinas and sets the main story of the game in motion. You embark on a journey to uncover the truth behind the artifact’s mystery. Along the way, you encounter a diverse cast of characters in very different locations. You can also undertake various missions: want to become a mercenary? Go ahead. Prefer to be a space trucker? That’s an option too. The characteristic freedom of Bethesda games is fully intact in Starfield.
Before you set out, you must create your character. Starfield’s character creator is cleverly designed. You can simply adjust a few templates and start playing, or you can open each menu one by one and customize your character entirely, from the width of your nostrils to the extra weight you carry above your belt. The results you can achieve look much better than the sometimes plastic creations seen in earlier Bethesda games.
Character creation doesn’t stop at your physical appearance. You also get to choose from various backgrounds that determine your character’s starting skills. Then, you can select a few traits, unique characteristics for your character that provide some backstory and gameplay benefits. For example, you can burden your character with a house loan that needs to be paid off every week. This form of role-playing is not something we typically see in Bethesda games, where characters are often blank slates you can choose to fill in or not.
Unlike other RPGs, your Starfield character doesn’t have attributes like strength or charisma. Instead, you have an extensive skill tree. Each time you level up, you unlock a new skill point, which you can invest in a new skill or a higher level of a skill you’ve already acquired. The system doesn’t go as deep as, say, Baldur’s Gate 3, but it offers enough variety to create a wide range of characters.
Your skills are just one of the many systems you’ll engage with in Starfield. You can also crew and upgrade your spaceship, scan and catalog planets, further develop your mysterious artifact powers, search for materials to craft new upgrades, customize your weapons and spacesuits, and so much more. The amount of content in Starfield is simply overwhelming.
For experienced Bethesda fans, the temptation to venture out as soon as you have your spaceship will be strong. You can visit what remains of your home planet, land in the dust deserts of Mars, or search for a distant garden world where you can establish your own base. You can land wherever you want, choose a direction, and see what you discover. The entire universe is literally at your feet.
This might remind you of No Man’s Sky, but make no mistake: Starfield is not a clone. You can mine minerals with your laser and scan alien creatures, but that’s just a small part of what Starfield offers.
The scale of everything you can find in Starfield is sometimes hard to fathom. The planets you can land on are gigantic. The distances between celestial bodies are also realistic, so you don’t have to attempt real-time travel from one planet to another. Fortunately, you can quickly select your next destination with your scanner in the cockpit or the star map.
The controls of your spaceship are not straightforward. You must allocate the flow of your engines among your weapons, shields, thrust, and warp drive. If you’ve just come out of a grav jump and immediately come under fire from an enemy ship, you need to switch quickly if you don’t want to become space debris. Combine that with enemies coming from all directions and a lack of escape options, and you have a recipe for challenging battles at times.
In addition to your spaceship’s cannons, you have a complete arsenal of human-sized weapons in Starfield. Shooting in Starfield feels much better than in Fallout 4, but it still retains a certain stiffness compared to real shooters. You have many options for how you want to take on your enemies: up close or from a distance. There are many different weapons to choose from. With your boost pack, you can jump over enemies to shoot them in the back. With your alien powers, you can trap enemies in a gravity field. In certain situations, you even find yourself in zero-gravity shootouts. Fire your weapon, and you’ll be catapulted through the room.
During your journey through the galaxy, Starfield regularly presents breathtaking views on your screen. The accompanying music often adds the finishing touch, although it can be too minimalist at times. The hundreds (thousands?) of NPCs in the game are brought to life by a very diverse cast of actors. The conversation system, where the camera zooms in on your conversation partner similar to Oblivion, could have been more like Skyrim. The characters in Starfield look much better than those in Oblivion, but the perpetual close-ups can be a bit awkward at times.
The universe itself is beautifully designed in an art style that the developer has called “NASA-punk.” Everything looks like a logical evolution of the rockets and spacesuits we know today. However, this design also has a downside. The design of many objects is very busy, with lots of small details that can sometimes create an overload. This can make it difficult to find your way or quickly determine which objects are worth picking up and which are better left behind.
In-game menus suffer from this as well. Your inventory is cluttered, with an all-capital font that does not enhance readability. All data is crammed on one side of your screen, with a large 3D model of the object taking up the rest of your screen. The notifications that sometimes appear on your compass are also hard to read. If you get lost and want to use the “surface map” to find your way, you’re out of luck. The game simply renders a blue surface with no visible details. The function is currently so useless that we suspect it might be a bug that still needs to be fixed.
Because yes, it wouldn’t be a Bethesda game without bugs. Starfield has had a much longer development time than its predecessors, and it shows. The game generally runs smoothly on Series X hardware, with only occasional hiccups. There are also far fewer bugs than you would expect from a game of this scale.
However, the bugs that do exist can be quite bizarre. For example, some characters occasionally lose their hair, only to have it magically reappear after a reload. (This bug has been fixed in the most recent patch.) But it can get even stranger. Since the beginning of the game, our spaceship has been accompanied by a piece of space debris. It just hangs there, having no impact on the world. Even if we change ships and take off again, the rock is back to silently orbit our ship. These are things you often only find in a Bethesda game.
Starfield also possesses that special feeling you get from other Bethesda titles. Every time you step into your spaceship, you feel like anything is possible. Sometimes, all the systems come together to create a truly memorable moment that you won’t find
Starfield exceeds all expectations and then some. The scale of the game is nearly unparalleled. The sheer number of systems can be overwhelming at times. Not everything is a perfect hit, and unfortunately, a few bugs are inevitable, but everything comes together to create a beautiful whole. Starfield offers a true space fantasy, seasoned with a Bethesda flavor. It turns out to be a winning formula where every gaming session can lead to a new, completely unexpected adventure.
Our Personal Score: 91/100
Real space fantasy vibe
Completely open Universum
Packed with Content
Most stable Bethesda RPG ever