Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Starfield is not a good game

 Here are my thoughts on Starfield after eight hours of play: Starfield is not a good game.

 I had big hopes for Starfield.  Not out-of-this-universe hopes, but I really thought it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime game launch.  A launch you'd tell your grandkids about it (I am getting old!) like you tell your kids about World of Warcraft's launch.  Sadly, I was wrong about Starfield.

 Before we get to the bad I can at least admit that I dig the NASA-punk style.  Sitting down in the cockpit of your spaceship is an amazing visual feast.  Zipping around with lasers and ballistic cannons firing in space while all the screens and dials whir in your cockpit is awesome.  The spacesuits are slick.  Building exteriors are cool.  The few cities in the game are visually stunning.

 However, as far as nice things to say though; that's about it.  The game looks good some of the time.  I can't even say it looks good all of the time!  There is a lot of, to put it politely, grey-green-brown mush in this game.  Right alongside amazing starships and folks boost packing around in epic space suits is planet after planet of visual famine.

 There are so many things wrong with the game, but the biggest grievance I have is the number of loading screens and traversal via game menus (fast travel).  I recorded one such chain of events:

  • Menu to fast travel to destination
  • Loading screen into space
  • Menu to land on planet
  • Loading screen to land
  • Loading screen to exit ship
  • Walk short distance to building
  • Loading screen to enter building first room
  • Loading screen to exit first room
  • Loading screen for second part of building
  • Loading screen to exit back to first area
  • Loading screen to exit building
  • Menu to fast travel back to ship (walking is for suckers)
  • Menu to pick destination
  • Loading screen to launch into space
  • Menu to pick destination
  • Loading screen to travel
  • Menu to land on planet
  • Loading screen to land
  • Loading screen to exit ship

 That may seem extreme as an example but that is literally how you play the game.  Menu, load, menu, load.  Some will say "but you are supposed to do it the hard way and you will see the real Starfield, all the random encounters!".  Huh!?  Sure I can scoot around in space for a bit and fight a random pirate for the 10th time, but at some point I still have to go through menu + loading screen to get anywhere.

 The loading screen approach really kills the excitement for the game.  Other than the arcade-lite space combat system there is no point at which you or your crew is flying your ship.  Want to go somewhere on planet; it is menu > load > menu > load > hoof it out on foot.  They couldn't even bother to give us land vehicles in the absence of being able to fly our ship around the surface!

 To make the menu > load loop even worse the UI is trash.  So much so that one of the first mods for the game to gain traction was a mod for a better UI.  In a matter of days modders have better UI than Bethesda after how many years of development?  I admit that UI is a very hard item to get right, especially when the game crosses consoles and PC, but I swear to all that is noodly that if the Starfield UI swaps the function of a button one more time from one screen to the next I'm going to scream. It wouldn't be that bad if I didn't have to spend half my time playing the game buried in the damn UI!

 The story in Betheseda RPGs is something you either like or dislike.  I've never been a huge fan, opting to "click and get on with it", but there has always been a certain quirky quality to them that got me through.  Starfield's story though, barring some major improvement past where I am at currently, is a dud.  It is hard to follow and is nothing more than glorified fetch quests.

 Then there is the combat and general character experience/progression.  The gun play feels terrible; my pistol whip does more damage than 100 bullets.  Melee is garbage and has zero variety of choices.  Enemies are braindead; easily fooled or just outright skipped.  Ammunition is stupid scarce and you'd be better off just buying a new spaceship vs trying to buy enough bullets for one fight.  My best weapon is my freaking mining laser.  The progression makes no sense.  Loot drops way too much.  You can carry almost as much as your entire spaceship can... and inventory management is a nightmare.

 Systems are sometimes over explained, then others are not explained at all, and so few systems seem to connect together in any logical way.  Sometimes we say games are "made by committee" to indicate they are generic; Starfield is a game that feels "made by lots of committees that didn't talk to each other".  Every system is just mush and boiled down to basics.  As mentioned; space combat is arcade-lite. Researching, mining/gathering, ship building, outpost building, crews... all of these systems are feature incomplete and none of it makes any sense. 

 Oh and there is space magic.  Why? Who the freak knows.

 I am baffled by anyone playing this game that thinks its good.  I would never recommend the game and am very happy it was just a freebie with my GPU update (I had planned to upgrade anyways for New World).  I'd be seriously pissed if I spent money on this game (note: I did technically as I bought a copy for my 14 yo son; he seems to enjoy it but his context is Minecraft).

 Summed up: Starfield is like a box of random toys dumped in front of a kid with a parent trying to make up a story as they got along playing with them.  Starfield is not a good game.


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