It’s never easy to review a game like Starfield. It’s not just the fact that it’s a massive RPG with seemingly endless things to do, but it has also had a special aura around it ever since its reveal in 2018 that gave gamers the belief that it would truly stand out as a game changer – something that was especially emphasised when it officially became an Xbox exclusive. It was hard not to succumb to the hype surrounding it, and, even years before release, it was believed to be something very, VERY special.
Does it live up to these hefty expectations? I’d certainly say so, with Starfield undoubtedly a fantastic sci-fi RPG that’ll keep players thrilled with the sheer scale of what it offers. However, it isn’t quite the ‘game changer’ many would’ve hoped for, with it bringing some limitations that will quell the hopes of those looking for a seemingly infinite universe to explore with endless possibilities.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Starfield takes place in the year 2330, with humanity having left the scorched remains of planet Earth and ventured out into the stars to set up new settlements across the universe. You take on the role of a player-created miner working on a seemingly innocuous job, only to have your world turned upside-down when you uncover a strange artifact that gives you a mesmerising vision made up of lights and sounds. It turns out these artifacts serve a greater purpose, and, after getting recruited into a prestigious group of space explorers known as Constellation, you venture across the universe to discover more in a bid to unravel their secrets.
What follows is a momentous journey that’ll send players to all corners of the universe as they look to solve the grand mystery, but that’s just scratching the surface of what thenarrative offers. Much like other Bethesda games, the greatest strengths of its storytelling fall outside of the main questline, whether that’s when working undercover to bring down a group of space pirates known as the Crimson Fleet, tackling the impending threat of vicious alien creatures known as Terrormorphs, or simply uncovering the truth behind what can only be described as Starfield’s Batman (yes, seriously). It’s all complemented by some excellent writing that’ll truly grab the player’s attention, whilst the sheer depth of the lore ensures that the world is believable and that there’s always something new to discover. Plenty of themes are explored, and whilst politics and religion feel like they’re at the forefront, Starfield also leans into plenty of other interesting and exciting topics that ensure the universe is full of surprises.
What makes the storytelling of Starfield so damn impressive is the impact the player can have on it. Each quest you uncover has a goal you can complete, but more so than not, you’ll be able to decide how you want to approach it. One early example comes when helping a scientist clear his debt: do you pay it for him, do you hack his debtor’s computers to get rid of his debt, or do you clear a lab of enemies to retrieve his invaluable research and use that as a bargaining chip? There’s technically no right or wrong way to achieve your goal in Starfield, but the path you choose can change how that story thread will progress and how your surrounding characters will view you. But that’s what makes every aspect of the story so tantalising – you’re shaping it in your own little way, with no two playthrough of Starfield ever feeling the same. Heck, you’ll even unlock different options based upon the traits you gave your character at the start of the game or the decisions you make, with so many possibilities offered that are based around the setup you established. There’s plenty of fun to be had when shooting baddies or exploring planets, but my absolute favourite thing about the game is that it lets me live out my intergalactic adventure in my own little way.
“Xbox players have been waiting for that killer, unmissable AAA hit for a while, but in Starfield, they finally have it.”
When it comes to gameplay, there’s a LOT going on in Starfield. Everything feels good with the basics, whether that’s when running around busy city-like locales, jumping and boosting your way through some rocky planets, or engaging in gunfights with the endless hordes of enemies that’ll look to bring you down. Gunplay feels especially satisfying and weighty, with the variety of weaponry on offer opening up plenty of different possibilities for the player, whilst the enemy AI is smart enough to ensure that showdowns bring with them plenty of thrills and spills. Don’t get me wrong, enemies will have their stupid moments, but for the most part they’re pretty effective and can take players down if they aren’t too careful. There are a lot of things to exploit in the environment to help you out though, which could be as simple as popping a shot at an explosive barrel (of which there are PLENTY) or instead something that’s directly tied to the mission itself. Either way, the gunplay feels great and ensures that Starfield’s more exciting moments always hit the mark.
Space exploration on the other hand is a little bit mixed. Maybe I’ve been spoilt a little by the likes of No Man’s Sky, but everything felt a bit more limited here, with travel between planets mostly boiling down to a bit of menu-swapping and hitting a lot of fast-travel markers. Sure, you can speed through the space around a planet’s proximity and there are plenty of things to do around you (I’ll always love hailing other ships and getting into a bit of trouble), but it lacks the sense of grandeur that I feel was initially promised. When you actually get down onto a planet and start exploring it and finding cool little secrets, yeah, everything is great, but that bit in-between where you’re flying between galaxies and actually locating planets? It’s a bit more automated and basic than I would’ve liked. There are some utterly mind-blowing sights to be seen in space though, so players can definitely expect to be impressed by just how majestic it looks, even IF they won’t feel quite as involved in the explorative elements.
At least the space combat feels great though, with plenty of strategy found as you partake in dogfights where you have to switch between targets carefully and prioritise your which weapons you use to exploit enemy weaknesses. Players have to shift their power reserves between multiple facets of the ship too, whether that’s with your weaponry to make them hit with a bit more power, your shields to give you more protection when taking shots, or your Grav Drive when you’ve got to speed out of harm’s way – it’s a small feature, but one that’ll make you feel like a proper space pilot. And, as mentioned, there are plenty of cool incidents that occur within space to ensure your time spent there is always exciting, so you’ve always got to expect the unexpected when you see an unfamiliar craft approaching…
Check out some screenshots down below:
There’s so much going on in Starfield that it’s hard to cover everything in a review – it’s just full of these wonderful moments that made the game a real treat to play through. Whilst I’ve touched upon how great it feels to visit a new planet you come across in a system, the actual satisfaction of REALLY exploring it, uncovering the peculiar locales it hides, and then uncovering the secrets or stories behind it always kept me distracted from following quest objectives for WAY longer than I’d like to admit. When I saw something new, I ALWAYS wanted to explore it, with so much to discover across the universe that adds a deeper sense of worth to your journey. I haven’t even mentioned things like the outposts either, which let you build your own little bases on these planets that you can develop to gather resources or simply act as a hub to store the goodies you gather. I love it when a game lets me set up my own little bases, and believe me, Starfield had me covered there.
Then there are other things like being able to purchase new ships or even customising your own from scratch. Whilst I’m not as creative as some of the folk I’ve seen online with my ship creations, it’s satisfying to create your own little masterpiece and see it soaring past the stars. Want a new ship but don’t want to purchase or create one? Take out the engines of another ship in space, dock it, and steal it for yourself. Starfield really gives the player plenty of freedom to do what they want, whether that’s by being someone who lives a good and honest life on the right side of the law, or by being a space scoundrel who takes what they want – whatever choice you make, it’s a ton of fun.
Engaging questlines that put you in a ton of unique situations? They’re there. A vast skill tree that gives you a ridiculous amount of substantial ways to improve your character as well as offering additional challenges to complete? You got it. A worthwhile New Game+ that’ll have you immediately hooked back in even after beating the game? Oh yes, expect to keep playing Starfield for a long time. Some of the best visuals seen in a Bethesda game? Yep – even IF they don’t feel quite as spectacular as other bit hitting console exclusives. Starfield really has a hell of a lot going for it, and whilst there are some imperfections I haven’t mentioned (an abundance of load screens is a bit of a pain given the fact we have SSDs on consoles now), there’s a hell of a lot to love about this excellent sci-fi escapade.
Starfield might have imperfections, but it more than lives up to the hype with its wonderful sci-fi world that gives players full control of their journey. The storytelling is rich with intricacies and depth, the quest design is brilliant and lets players approach each objective in their own way, there’s a vast universe to explore that’s full of surprises, and, most importantly, it gets all of the basics right to make for a very, VERY fun experience.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find space exploration a little disappointing with its automated sense of discovery, but it didn’t stop me from being fully invested in this sci-fi spectacle. And best of all? You can play it on Game Pass. Xbox players have been waiting for that killer, unmissable AAA hit for a while, but in Starfield, they finally have it.
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios
Platform(s): Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Xbox Series S, PC