Was I Wrong About It?


We are now six months after the release of Starfield, and given that it’s April Fool’s Day with no real news being made, I figured it might be time for something of a retrospective like this. Well, technically it’s six months and three weeks, but close enough.

When I ask “was I wrong about it?” this is not a “perhaps I judged you too harshly” conceit. It’s the opposite, really. I notoriously gave Starfield once of its highest scores, a 9.5/10 at release, and I still get that that thrown in my face all the time, as does my compatriot Gene Park, who gave it a perfect 4/4 at The Washington Post.

Was I wrong? Did I have stars in my eyes? Have my opinions changed since?

While I will stop short of saying more score was “wrong,” as it reflected how I was feeling at the time, and after I’d finished it (well, a loop or two), my view of the game has dimmed somewhat in retrospect.

A lot of issues I had with the game which I figured were easy quality-of-life fixes never were changed, and post-launch support for Starfield has been abysmal. It’s been almost entirely bug fixes, though one of my praises for the game at launch was that it was not a very buggy Bethesda game, as I experienced maybe a single bad bug in my 60 or so initial hours with it (I’m currently at 173 hours).

This is Bethesda-best combat, which may be a low bar, but it is what it is. Mechanically, I found this to be a very fun shooter, complete with anti-grav battles that I hadn’t seen much else like in the genre. This was a far cry from the Fallout series, and I didn’t miss VATS at all, which I always considered a stopgap for Bethesda’s gunplay behind horrible.

I liked exploration. I liked landing on a random planet and finding some truly bizarre alien monster I’d never seen before, or some impressive landscape worth screenshotting. I liked saving up for ships or hijacking good ones for myself. I liked the world in general, and I was always having fun. Hence, my score.

But now, the bad starts to show through more in hindsight. I’ve come to agree with the idea that the focus on Constellation as the main entity you join was probably a mistake, and the game is overly restrictive when it comes to allowing you make choices, including Bethesda norms like “being evil.” Even accidentally shooting a civilian will make every single Constellation crew member hate you, and piracy will make you rack up enormous bounties on your head, but in a more oppressive way than past Bethesda games. It’s telling you to be a very specific type of character among a cast of very overly kind companions, with few exceptions.

And of course things do run dry, eventually. I still haven’t been to all the worlds but eventually you realize you don’t need to. You will start running into the same outposts everywhere, where you can memorize them right down to their enemy spawn locations. One deserted moon, though beautiful, will look as good as fifty other deserted moons, so there’s no point seeing them all. I agree with the idea that Bethesda should have done maybe ten very dense, very interesting, very diverse planets rather than 1,000 where 3 are relevant due to single cities and maybe 50 are pretty enough to visit, but still empty.

I do think my score was reflective of my experience at the time, but if this is a game you’re trying to sink 100, 200, 500 hours into like many do with Elder Scrolls or Fallout, it just isn’t built for that, despite its supposed scale. The idea that playtime could be “infinite” with its New Game Plus loops was kind of a lie, as almost nothing changes and it’s a terrible genre to erase everything you’ve collected or built each time you do this (this is one big negative I put in my review even back then).

Playing this game on a larger, longer scale makes me realize more of its flaws. And many of those are significant. It feels like a game that has simply not kept up with the times, aging in both Bethesda’s engine but also their gameplay structure, though doing it less interestingly with their other series due to the prescriptive nature of how they want you to play.

I don’t change scores. I don’t regret mine. But yes, time and a hundred more hours played have made me see more clearly what Starfield lacks. And in the end, it’s quite a lot.

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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.





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