I have to admit, I approached playing Starfield with a certain amount of trepidation. In fact, I’d go as far to say I was nervous. It might sound silly to most – the idea that playing a video game would cause any kind of anxiety sounds ridiculous, but let me explain.
I am not an “RPG” guy. As I have got older, my time increasingly more precious (and seemingly more scarce), the very idea of devoting hundreds of hours to a massive, complex RPG would always put me right off. And I have tried with every Bethesda RPG before this one – Morrowind on the original Xbox, played for a bit, got overwhelmed, bounced right off it. The same story goes for Oblivion, for Fallout and yes, even for the much beloved Skyrim.
But Starfield? This is different. I was brought up on sci-fi. Star Trek, Asimov, you name it – I love the genre, and the fact that Starfield lent so heavily into this semi-realistic “nasa-punk” theme just had me salivating at the possibilities. But…what if it happened all over again? What if I got a few hours in and just…bounced?
To be absolutely transparent, it very nearly did happen again. I received Review code, booted up the game, and played through the first 5 hours of Starfield. The stage was slowly set, my purpose in this world painstakingly revealed, then they hit me with it. Levelling. Skill Points. Crafting. Ship Building. Outposts. Missions! Side-missions!
My mission menu grew at an alarming rate, and as I got ready to go to bed later that evening, I could feel that familiar sense of being overwhelmed all over again. There was too much of everything, my focus being pulled in too many different directions by a myriad of systems layered upon systems. Maybe I would have to just admit to myself, that I will, no matter the setting or genre, forever not be an RPG guy.
When I booted the game back up the next day, I made myself focus on the golden path only, at least for now, with the caveat that if I was genuinely intrigued by a side-mission or objective, I was allowed to explore it if I wanted to. Otherwise, focus on the main story and get a handle on the sheer scope of the game.
Thankfully, it worked.
I’m now about 20 or so hours into the universe of Starfield, and I am loving it. It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up until 2am on a school night. It helps I think, that outside of it being an RPG, it’s also a wonderfully responsive FPS – at least on PC. I can play on my Series X just fine, and it looks great in 4K with all the HDR trimmings, but I won’t lie. The 30 FPS cap hurts. Just a teensy bit. At least, it’s a very stable 30. But all of the gunplay feels so good; the weapons, each new one being so different and versatile, and oh…is that weapon upgrade bench I can see over there?
It’s not just the incredibly solid gunplay. As I’ve taken on space pirates, alien beasties, mercenary groups and wronged infantry units, I’ve really started to warm to the universe in a way I haven’t with other games of this scale for a long time. Everything in Starfield feels beautifully realised, the textures and lighting coming together to create an incredibly detailed and believable world.
Equally, the challenge of Space Combat in my home-ship (lovingly coloured in the ship builder as an homage to Starbug) is quite involved, as I manage my various ships systems to take down the enemy, much like in Elite Dangerous. Being able to choose as to whether I destroy the ship outright, or to target systems and then board and kill/loot the crew is forever thrilling and I can’t wait to see how it evolves later in the game.
There are a tonne of other touches that I absolutely adore – the travelling insurance sales ship I encountered, offering platinum cover for a price (they seemed disappointed I didn’t want to hear more), the tourist tour guide in space that wanted to ask a genuine Captain some questions about adventuring in the cosmos has all got such wonderful heart to it. Hilariously, I’ve often gawked in delight at all the different doors that have been designed, the airlocks and hatches all animating and moving in just the right way. Best space doors ever I think.
I’m still warming to some of the characters and companions that Bethesda have designed this time around, and I’m pleased to be genuinely intrigued with the overall mystery of the McGuffins we’re tasked with chasing down all over the galaxy. Who left them, what are they, and what will happen next?
My time with Constellation, despite having 20 hours under my belt, still feels like it’s just beginning. I’m just pleased that finally, this time, I’m not bouncing off the atmosphere and into deep space – at least, unless I choose to explore in that direction.
If you’ve been a long time fan of these sorts of games, my friends, you’re in for a treat. If, like me, you’re not an “RPG” person – I still suggest you give the game a shot with Game Pass – follow the golden path, and once you feel settled in, don’t be scared to step off and explore. You never know what’s out there.
I recommend you check through all of our coverage of Starfield, including Jesse’s incredibly deep review – the team at XboxEra have gone all out to bring you the best gameplay and footage we could.