In 2021, I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy. I firmly stated (and still maintain) that it was one of the greatest games ever made – up there with Street Fighter 2, Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye, Half-Life 2, and several others. Well, now, in 2023, I can add Starfield to that list.
Is Starfield Skyrim In Space?
In the early days, Todd Howard himself described Starfield as ‘Skyrim in space’. This, as you’d expect, caused much discussion in the gaming world. Some people loved the idea, others not so much. So, now it’s launched, is that the case?
Not at all. I mean, sure, it’s a Bethesda RPG that offers a great story, great customisation, and similar activities like lockpicking and pickpocketing… but that’s about it. Starfield is incredibly spaced out. There are 1,000 planets to see and explore, and many of them won’t have life on them. Similarly, while you can fly in space, a lot of the travel is fast travel cutscenes.
Starfield is a slow burn. A grand, sprawling space opera that takes you all over the galaxy. Mixed amongst that is the freedom to go explore, complete side and faction quests, build some cool stuff and truly immerse yourself in the stars.
A Shining Star In Storytelling
Bethesda knows how to tell a fantastically intricate story, and Starfield is no exception to this legacy. The main plot will take you around 30 to 40 hours to complete and sees you joining the explorers, Constellation, to unravel the mysteries of the universe and the strange artefacts that seem to call to the player.
But, alongside this, there are so many side quests ranging in variety and length. These can be as straightforward as adding textural flavour to city life – like fetching someone a cup of coffee for an overworked janitor. Then, there are bigger ‘guild/faction’ questlines. You can join the UC Vanguard and unravel a conspiracy that links back to the history of the UC. Become a Freestar Ranger and uncover corruption in the Wild West of the Freestar Collective. You can also be a corporate spy for Ryujin Industries, join up with the nefarious space pirates (Crimson Fleet), and potentially double-cross them.
The wonderful thing about Starfield is that this is just the beginning. With DLC planned and modding, a player can expect so much more story filling out this galaxy.
Customisation Is Out Of This World
Now, with any RPG, you expect a certain level of customisation, and Starfield really takes this concept and runs with it. As you would expect, you can design your character to look how you want in one of the most detailed character creation screens I’ve seen in gaming. There are presets, but it’s the fine-tuning that really makes this system unique. It’s also very simple to use, which is a bonus. As well as appearance, you can pick your traits and skills (more on that below).
But this goes further. With customisation available for weapons and spacesuits, you can really make your character stand out and feel unique, but most importantly, have gear that is designed around the playstyle you’re going with. Whether that’s adding a silencer for stealthy takedowns or bumping up the rockets for aerial pyrotechnics. The system is vast.
Want more? Well, you’re in luck because then we have ship customisation. This is possibly my favourite system in the game. As a Lego fan, this reminds me of childhood (and honestly, adulthood), where you take sets, mash them together, and build anything. That’s kind of the principle here. Add modules to improve the habitats inside, add weapons, engines, cargo and more. Need shielded cargo for smuggling? The shipbuilders have you covered. As you progress in the game and your skills develop, you’ll unlock extra parts. From iconic sci-fi ships to ducks – the shipbuilder will let your imagination run wild. Once your ship is ready, you can hire a crew for added stat bonuses.
Finally, outposts. Here, you can build a home, a mining facility, a place to store items and sell resources for money and XP. This system works like most city-building games with modules you can place, power, and connect together to build an amazing base. Decorating is also possible, as so many items are movable. You can collect them in the places you explore and style your space with knick-knacks, soft toys, books, games, plants, and so much more.
Traits and Background In Starfield
When you create your character, there are 17 traits to pick from. In total, you pick three, and these add stats, unique features, and flavour to your character. For example, you can pick Kid Stuff and interact with your parents in New Atlantis. While you send some money home to them every week, they will give you some interesting items periodically. Alternatively, you can have an annoying superfan follow you around, be a part of a religion or pick a trait to boost your resilience.
As well as these, you pick your background. The background gives your character a starting point; it can impact some dialogue but, most importantly, gives you your starting skills. Pick wisely, as some skills are more useful than others early on.
Combat Systems Ready
Now, while it’s possible to talk your way out of a lot of the fighting if you’re skilled in persuasion and diplomacy and want a pacifist approach. For everyone else, combat will feature heavily. Ground combat is exactly as you’d imagine; you can play in first and third person, and it works like every RPG. You have your weapon, health packs and throwables and will face off against other people and monsters of varying difficulty. Weapons are really varied, too; whether you want a laser pistol, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, machine gun or sword – there’s a wide selection to choose from.
Then we have space combat. Think X Wing or Squadrons in its style – it’s fast-paced dogfighting. During combat, you must manage your power, utilise your three weapon types and dodge incoming fire. It’s a true thrill.
Of course, you don’t have to destroy the ships you fight. Sometimes, it’s worth disabling them so you can board, loot and even take the ship for your own! The choice is yours.
When creating a game, the music is almost as important as the dialogue and gameplay. It can be used to set tone, create emotional responses, and so much more. Few games have soundtracks so memorable that you want to listen to them repeatedly; thankfully, Starfield’s does just that.
Inon Zur has created a masterpiece of beautiful tracks that create a sense of wonder as you travel through space, a sense of loneliness as you stand on a desolate planet, a sense of drama as you engage pirates in fast-paced combat and a sense of sadness at certain times. It’s dramatic, it’s perfect for science fiction, and it’s one of the best game scores I’ve ever heard.
I was fortunate to have been at the event where Inon Zur conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, and I was transported and blown away. Seriously, if you’ve not listened to the soundtrack without the game – do it. It’s perfect.
Voice Acting, Graphics And The World Of Starfield
Of course, music isn’t everything. To be a great game and a great RPG, you need strong voice acting, a world that feels joined up and the visuals to match. Starfield delivers on all three counts in spades.
Where voice acting is concerned, all the NPCs are wonderfully brought to life by the cast, with a few familiar, long-used Bethesda voice actors included. I particularly like how believable they are, how diverse they are and, more importantly, how natural they sound. At no point did I ever get bored or frustrated talking to someone and want to skip ahead. Even smaller NPCs deliver great performances, and this consistency ensures the immersion isn’t broken.
This level of immersion transposes through the visuals of the game. During the Starfield Direct, the style was described as ‘NASA-punk’, but it goes so much deeper than a futuristic NASA aesthetic. When you first arrive at the UC city of New Atlantis on Jemison, you’ll be drawn into the clean curves of the sci-fi cityscape before you. It looks pristine, futuristic, affluent. Feels like a capital city. It also feels alive with all the tiny details. This isn’t just here – but in every location you visit.
The mining colony on Mars feels dirty and rough around the edges. Akila City feels like a fringe world, with less polish reflecting the more relaxed nature of law and order. Even the randomly generated labs have life and character about them with the placement of junk objects like books, board games and more. The ships, weapons and spacesuits all feel worn and used in their design. Nothing looks perfect, but by doing that, it is perfect. It’s believable. I can believe that ship interiors look that way, that spacesuits look that way, that the worlds and the galaxy look that way. The detail is by far the best I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s up there with other major sci-fi franchises of different mediums – Star Wars, for example.
In Space, Watch Out For The Bugs!
Nothing is 100% perfect, and the same can be said for Starfield. Bugs aren’t just something you must watch out for in dark corners of space – but also very much present in the game. It doesn’t change my mind on the game or even lower the score because they’re not a big deal. But they exist. Credit where credit is due, though. It’s the most polished Bethesda launch I can remember, and I expect most of the oddities will be patched out over time.
From bugs when you exit ships to duplicated items when expanding the ship, these can sometimes be annoying. For the most part, the graphical issues and NPCs quirks can be overlooked. There have been reports of bugs breaking quests, and while not personally experienced, they should be watched out for.
A Few Hundred Hours Later…
I don’t think I can fully convey the level of enormousness that Starfield offers. You can just go off and explore to your heart’s content. Be warned, though, you’ll lose a lot of hours! The way the game captivates you and begs you to explore is really part of the fundamental heart of Starfield. For example, I took a bounty contract and completed it for some easy credits… But when I got there, I got a distress call, which intrigued me, so after killing the spacer, I jumped on over to this other place but noticed a ship land… Well, obviously, I wanted to steal it (sadly not stealable), but I did convince the captain I was the smuggler they were waiting for and got a bunch of loot for my efforts.
This is just one example, and the game is full of moments of this. There are many theories about playing the main quest, not playing it straight away, etc., but when it comes down to it – Starfield can be played however you like. Want to join the Crimson Fleet and be a space pirate searching the galaxy for ships you can take over? You can. Want to join the UC Vanguard or Freestar Rangers and protect civilisations? You can. You can even explore by yourself and build outposts and farm resources. Then, of course, there’s the main story. Starfield promises hundreds of hours of exploration, story, combat, resource gathering, and much more.
It’s also worth exploring some of the easter eggs that the game has. Be it walking on Earth to find the Shard, visiting the Lunar Module on the Moon… finding a ship with a familiar Alien… the galaxy has much to offer!
What’s Next For Starfield?
Now, you might be wondering just what else there is to look forward to after you’ve spent hundreds of hours playing the story, the side-quests, building outposts, amazing ships, and exploring all the possibilities of the galaxy (and some casual piracy along the way!). Well, Starfield has New Game +. This is a fantastic level of replayability as it offers some unique skills and options that you didn’t have the first time around. In addition, it allows you to play it a different way. Did you spend your first playthrough being the good guy? Well, now try it as a pirate. You’re only limited by yourself in this respect.
Of course, this is a Bethesda game, so modding is a big aspect. Bethesda games have fantastic communities of brilliant people who want to tell stories, make cool stuff, and even offer some quality-of-life advancements. If Skyrim is anything to go by – and based on what the developers have said – Starfield will be a modder’s paradise.
If all that wasn’t enough, Bethesda has DLC plans long into the future.
Final Thoughts On Starfield
Starfield is a wonderful, triumphant success in gaming. It’s literally everything I’ve wanted from an RPG. Everything a Bethesda game should be. Everything a sci-fi fanatic needs from a game set amongst the stars. With a beautiful soundtrack, fun, engaging gameplay, an Oscar-worthy story, and stunning visuals… Starfield deserves to be the game of the year.
Want More Starfield Content?
So, if you’re as excited about Starfield as I am, then you’ll be pleased to know I started a YouTube channel covering this game because it’s inspired me to create some fun stuff, do some cool things, tell some great stories and share my love of this game with anyone who wants to come along.