Review – Starfield

Games like No Man’s Sky, Elite: Dangerous, and the never-to-be-fully-released Star Citizen promised us of a galaxy-sized sandbox we’d be able to explore and do whatever we wanted, depending on the role we’d want to take in their respective universe. Sadly, in most cases, we’d be limited to explore vast amounts of nothing in one, or just deliver something from one place to another in other. Not exactly bad things to do when the map at your disposal is immense, but it’s still not the kind of space adventure we were promised. The Outer Worlds came extremely close, offering truly astounding gameplay, world-building, and storytelling in what was admittedly a smaller scale of a world to explore. We were finally getting close.

So here comes Starfield. A game produced by Todd Howard, known for occasionally over-hyping the hell out of the games he makes (Fallout 76 was supposed to have “sixteen times the detail”, whatever that was supposed to mean). A game made by Bethesda’s inner development team, known for making ambitious, but very buggy games. How would Bethesda deliver on the sky-high expectations set by the fans and themselves? Would the game even be playable at a decent state at launch? Where would the problems show up, for there were obviously going to be loads of them? Well, gather your synthetic whiskey juicebox, load up your starship, and let’s go on a journey.

New Atlantis

Welcome to New Atlantis, where your GPU’s DLSS capabilities will be put to the test.

Starfield starts off in the clunkiest and most rushed of ways, which made me immediately feel skeptical about the game as a whole. In the span of about ten minutes, we descend to a mine, extract a mystical artifact, trip our gonads off with some psychedelic imagery taken straight from 2001: A Space Odyssey, go through a character creator, kill some pirates, and then meet a guy who just says I’m the chosen one and hands me over an entire STARSHIP as if it were candy. Jeez, thanks for the generosity, but I have several questions. In true Destiny, “you may have a lot of questions but it’s not the time”-fashion, you are told to venture to a nearby planet and meet a bunch of bureaucrats.

Starship combat

Starship combat ended up being a disappointment.

The more this introduction kept going, the more confused I got. For a second, my heart also skipped when I was called Captain LEO, fully voiced by my companion robot. Then quickly came back to my senses to wonder why the hell was a miner being a called a captain from out of nowhere?

It was only after meeting the people from the space exploration society called “Constellation” that I was finally getting SOME answers as to what the hell was going on. Mystical alien artifacts. Exploring new worlds. Unveiling the mysteries of the universe. Some other esoteric crap a hippy would say after dropping some acid. At this point, I was given a comrade, some objectives, and the vague suggestion to follow them, or just explore the universe however I felt like, finally becoming the space adventurer Mr. Howard has been promising me for the past years.

Starfield Mars

Here’s Mars. So, where are the Cacodemons, Bethesda??

This is what I did. My first few hours in Starfield were spent away from the critical path, just exploring nearby worlds, trying to rack up some money via No Man’s Sky-like research quests (very vague, very boring), attacking pirate strongholds, and struggling with some poorly explained mechanics. But I was out there, making my own adventure in the stars, in a somewhat immersive manner. To top it off, in a shocking turn of events, no glitches. You read that right, no crashes or glitches or anything of the sort, on a Bethesda-made game, at launch.

I get that I shouldn’t exactly be praising a game for doing the absolute bare minimum, but I was afraid Starfield was going to cause my rig to internally combust. Remember Fallout 76‘s launch? That’s what I was fearing. There were a few issues related to the visuals, but the game was, for the most part, running extremely well. By using the included dynamic resolution and FSR features, Starfield was constantly changing its resolution in order to ensure a, more often than not, stable 60 frames per second. That would occasionally result in some harsh resolution drops, to Nintendo Switch levels in some instances, but we were getting fluid gameplay at the other end. The very strong art style still managed to hold things up pretty well.

Starfield Dialogue

It’s like they read my mind.

I do think that the lack of a framerate cap option was a mistake, however. This isn’t the kind of game where more than 60fps would be necessary by any means, so having the option to lock it up to 60fps, for instance, would have helped ensure less framerate pacing hiccups. That being said, the performance, loading times, field of view, draw distance, all worked well enough, way more than I could have ever expected from a game developed by Bethesda. Bear in mind, against common sense in a game like this, I played Starfield without any single performance-enhancing or bug-fixing mod. That just goes to show that, as it stands, it’s already pretty good.

The combat and exploration, while on foot, were also good. The combat was more akin to The Outer Worlds than, say, Fallout, being more of a straightforward first-person shooter with RPG elements in this regard. Nothing too confusing, with the exception of an unnecessary amount of poorly-labeled ammo you have to take notes of, in order to properly known what to buy whenever you reach an armory. In this case, I don’t think less world-building would have been an issue. I would have appreciated having to deal with dumb-named “Shotgun Ammo”, “Laser Ammo” and “Rifle Ammo” instead of the bizarre numbering in each one of them.


Here’s Neptune. You can also visit Uranus. You can’t probe Neptune. Neither can you probe Uranus.

With the exception of a handful of premade areas, each world has its geography rendered procedurally, but in a way that makes it almost feel natural. It doesn’t feel excessively artificial, robotic, like in No Man’s Sky. Granted, you can still find pretty much every single specimen of fauna and flora of a planet in a 1km radius, but again, that ain’t something I’m against. At times, practicality beats excessive immersion. What I didn’t like about this entire exploration schtick was the lack of an on-screen minimap, which would have helped me a lot while traversing these landscapes.

Do they all feel samey after a while? Well, yes. There’s just so much you can do in a terrestrial planet. Raiding pirate fortresses, looting abandoned bases, playing a fun yet botched version of Sim City, scanning everything like a mixture between No Man’s Sky and Metroid Prime, building a ship like it’s a more refined Tears of the Kingdom; there’s a lot to do in Starfield, but don’t expect all of those activities to be very deep. You can, however, dedicate an enormous amount of time with side careers that can easily distract you from the critical path for literal hundreds of hours.

Starfield Combat

Who would have thought? Starfield ain’t a bad first-person shooter.

It’s not that the story is bad, or that the critical path is underwhelming, but, well, it’s the storytelling you’d expect from a Bethesda RPG. Really good (dare I say, excellent) voice acting, the occasional fantastic dialogue option, but the critical path itself is… fine. I am not willing to do a one-to-one comparison, since one game is vastly better than the other, but think of Tears of the Kingdom: you could just do the dungeons and follow the story to the very end, but that will be about 5% of your total play time. The rest will be spent exploring and fooling around. The same is done in Starfield, with the difference that you don’t have just a country to explore, you have an entire galaxy.

Even though a good chunk of Starfield is procedurally generated, there’s a lot to unveil in a lot of its planets. You can scavenge the abandoned pirate ruins in one planet to find out the location of hidden treasure on another. One sidequest which would seem completely menial in, say, Mars, would proceed to take me to the other side of the galaxy, just because I had stumbled upon some random audiolog which would unlock another quest elsewhere. You can deepen your bonds with the dozens upon dozens of teammates you can hire. You can visit museums about humanity’s past (or, in other words, our present) in one of the colonies. Hell, you can explore Pluto, which IS considered a planet in Starfield! Take that, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Sadly, you cannot probe Uranus. Believe me, I tried.

Starfield dinos

Two vicious dinosaurs against a schmuck wielding an old Beretta. Yep, odds are definitely in my favor.

This game is a death sentence to those with the attention span of a golden retriever at a park. In one instance, I was just minding my own business in a lush green planet, where I was given the task to survey its fauna and flora by a third party. It didn’t take long for me to ignore that quest and find an abandoned lab with a lot of dead scientists. I thought to myself, “pirates”. But nope. They had been murdered by dinosaurs, which then proceeded to try to eat me. Then there was the time I abandoned my dignity and tried to join the cops in a colony world with the vague hopes of earning said planet’s citizenship, and then be able to buy a luxury apartment.

In another case, I distracted myself from chasing down a bounty when I found out a suitable place to create an outpost where I could mine uranium without an issue. Or maybe the one time some idiot tried to scam me by trying to sell me ship insurance, only for me to channel my inner Mal Reynolds and just destroy his ship in the process. In one case, I spent two hours just messing with cooking, not because they were good items to have in my pouch, but just because I could make a damn pasta in a sci-fi game. There’s so much to do in this game, it’s almost overwhelming. But never repetitive.

Starfield scan

You can look for a random planet and start scanning it for lifeforms in a very chill manner, while listening to a podcast.

For the most part, I didn’t find any glaring problems with Starfield as a whole. That is, until I’ve reached the one part that really disappointed me: starships. One of the very few things I was really paying attention to prior to the game’s launch was the fact I could build ships like they were LEGOs. That means that yes, you can make the Serenity from Firefly, the Millennium Falcon, the Bebop, even the Enterprise from Star Trek. The problem came when I was told to pilot the damn things.

The main issue came at having to wield the ship’s controls on a keyboard. On a controller, I can assume that diverting power from one of the ship’s many stations (shields, engines, weapons, etc.) can be done with ease with the directional pad. On a keyboard, in order to do that, you gotta hold down the Alt key and use WASD, which also temporarily stops you from accelerating or doing barrel rolls. This is a major nuisance during combat sections.

Starfield Exploration

I’ve watched too many Aliens movies to know this ain’t a good thing to find.

Ship combat is also slow, uneventful, clunky, and to be honest, quite annoying. I was constantly stuck in loops, where both ships were trying to somersault the other, resulting in a never-ending circle of boredom. I thought I was going to experience some kind of high-octane dogfights while in space, but I just proceeded to skip these battles whenever possible. Given how expensive ship parts are in the game (both in terms of repair pieces or just modules to upgrade or build a new craft), I wanted to spare what little I had. I’d rather have a flying piece of junk than, well, nothing.

One could say “well, just use a controller”. You are not wrong, but the rest of the game works perfectly on a keyboard. Plugging a controller just to play “Poor Man’s Star Wars: Squadrons” for a few minutes at a time wasn’t worth the hassle. There’s also the fact that, for the most part, you can skip being in your ship altogether.

Starfield Barrett

Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But here’s my entire god damn ship. So fly it anywhere, maybe.

You have access to a starmap at any point in the game that isn’t a) during combat, or b) whenever you’re carrying too much cargo on your back. You can then automatically travel to another planet from there, essentially rendering ship sections almost useless at times. It’s almost like you have access to a teleport beam Scotty would use in Star Trek: just pause the game, access a starmap, and if you’ve visited a system before, boom, you can travel instantly, without having to bother with pirates or anyone else. When it comes to new systems, well, you might have to do maybe one or two additional visits to the pause menu’s star map, but the gist is the same. It’s not immersive at all, I know, but just like ammo names, convenience speaks louder.

Starfield Akila City

It’s like I’m in a Firefly setting. Stop playing with my heartstrings, Bethesda.

As you can see, with just one exception, none of the issues I have had with Starfield are deal-breakers. It is still a very impressive game, undoubtedly Bethesda’s most ambitious and polished title to date. It’s just hampered by a cargo ship full of small, but questionable design decisions that brought it down a few notches. Still, I do think they have managed to pull it off gracefully. It is a game you will easily be able to spend hundreds, maybe thousands of hours into, and just complete a tenth of everything it has to offer. It can be a swashbuckling adventure, the next big space RPG since The Outer Worlds, a space trading simulator, or even a straightforward relaxing exploratory experience to play while listening to a podcast. The decision is yours. Welcome to space. Enjoy your stay.


Graphics: 8.0

A strong art style contrasts with occasionally dated character models and assets. The lighting effects are impressive, however. The game managed to run surprisingly well, but at the cost of its dynamic resolution dumping its pixel count to Switch levels.

Gameplay: 8.5

Ground exploration and combat are fantastic. The character customization is deep. Its main faults are a thoroughly underwhelming ship movement and combat system, as well as a lack of a minimap, which would have been a blessing when exploring planets.

Sound: 9.5

A great soundtrack (the orchestrated intro theme is a highlight) and even better voice acting. If you’re lucky, the robot will call you by your name.

Fun Factor: 8.5

You can theoretically play it forever, as there is just an overwhelming amount of stuff to do, paths to take, and so on. This comes at a cost of a decrease in the scope of each of these activities. There is also a laundry list of small issues that annoyed me throughout my playthrough, though I still wholeheartedly recommend it.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Starfield is available now on Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Starfield was provided by the publisher.