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Starfield – Review

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Xbox’s most anticipated game in years has finally arrived and it’s reaching for the stars… While everyone has been preparing for lift-off, we’ve spent the last week sailing around the universe to discover if Starfield is a small step for games or a giant leap for gaming kind.

as always, our reviews are spoiler free, but we will cover the first half-hour in the next paragraph.

Starfield begins with a fairly short introduction which sees our main character as a miner.

You’ll soon discover an artifact and encounter a strange galaxial vision which leaves you unconscious. When waking up you get a chance to customise your character and select their background as well as up to 3 traits, these are optional but do give some nice bonuses at the cost of a few caveats, such as having your parents still alive and regularly appearing in game rewarding you with items and fun conversations, but at the deficit of paying 2% of your credits each (in game) week.

Back on the surface, a constellation regular Barret arrives to collect the strange fragment, only to bring some pursuing pirates with him, which promptly introduce you to the combat mechanics.

Before you know it, you’re off to New Atlantis one of the main cities (Central hubs) in the game, to deliver the artifact to the faction known as Constellation, you’re quickly enlisted to help them find more of these mystical shards and uncover the mysteries behind them which sets you on a mission to explore the universe.

One noticeable aspect is, there’s no real dawn, or walkout moment, after emerging from vaults and dungeons in previous Bethesda titles, I was expecting wide vistas or gigantic star-scapes to introduce me to the freedom of Starfield and while you’ll see plenty throughout the game, that early “wow” moment came too late are far between to feel as significant, so it felt like I was thrown into it without any real fanfare.

The main story line follows the path of constellation’s search for these artifacts, but will introduce you to various major hubs (like New Atlantis) which are scattered across habitable planets in numerous solar systems, it’s worth taking note of a few of these, though you’re likely to end up sidetracked and veering off on another mission.

Anyone who plays the first 5-10 hours and concentrates mostly on the main storyline will have reason to feel a little disappointed, there’s a definite flat spot that’s pretty dull and repetitive, but around half way through, there’s a few twists, turns and tough decisions and it does improve drastically towards the latter half, upon completing the main storyline you’re given the option to continue… We won’t spoil anything but the choice is between staying in your current game or starting “almost” fresh, similar to a “New Game +” mode,

On my second playthrough, I stuck to the storyline, with only a few completed questlines in factions and romance, I entered the “New Game” and it’s safe to say, I’m pleased I did, you’ll still have access to all the original missions and maintain your skills and level, but there’s a mixture between what’s carried forward and what’s given new in content and conversations that makes it all worthwhile.
One conversation you’ll have with Sarah early on is about preferring the destination or the journey, and Starfield rewards both aspects, so while the journey continues after the destination, the unity of the paths you’ve taken make that destination even more impactful.

I’ve probably done a pretty good job of making Starfield sound like a 20-hour game, but that’s where the side missions come in to play and there’s ALOT to soak up, regardless of whether you tackle them straight away, or come back later.

The universe of Starfield has five major factions, and there’s also a selection of four characters that you can romance.

Whichever of these you opt for, whether it’s romancing the cagey chief of Constellation – Sarah, Joining the Freestar Rangers or infiltrating the Crimson Fleet, you’ll have another selection of missions to work through, most of these quest-lines will add another 10+ hours each, and seeing them through to the end usually rewards you with new characters or some high value items to make your journey across the stars that little bit easier.

The secondary missions where constantly engaging and combined with the second half of the main story, the dry patch of the main quests was soon forgiven and every step you take to building your character whether through side quests, romances or factions will stay with you and be smartly rewarded later on.

Onto actual gameplay and mechanics, Starfield will feel pretty familiar to anyone who’s played a Bethesda RPG before, ther’e s a little emore fluent gun-play, which I enjoyed, especially when you’re utilising boost packs and environments, though I’d personally say it feels closer to Oblivion, rather than Skyrim or Fallout. The Role-playing element is deep enough that you’ll get joint pain in your knees If you fall a long distance, which will affect you when kneeling, or picking up a nasty lung infection of you constantly over-exert yourself and use up too much oxygen, but it’s all delivered in quite a simple way, I cured a few ailments early on, such as burns and an infection, but thanks to acquiring a few skills, I was soon able to heal myself from most afflictions.

The skill tree is split into sections concentrating on areas such as physical abilities, scientific and weapons and while the skill tree can’t be reset, there’s no level cap, so you could literally learn every skill, but it’s worth working out what suits your play style and concentrating on those areas first.

Each skill has mini challenges as well, once you’ve learned the security skill, you’ll need to pick a few locks before you can rank up with another skill point, which rewards you with better lockpicks (Digipicks) and allowing you to challenge more difficult locks which usually conceal higher value items.

These skills cover literally everything you can imagine, from extra weapon power or health, to the weightlifting skill that allows you to carry more items, this turns out to be one of the most valuable skills, especially once you’ve sprinted around with 75% weight to level of up, as you’ll often find yourself filling your inventory on a single mission when picking up weapons and suits, they might be worth a few thousand credits, but they’re damn heavy.

The downside to this is finding somewhere to sell your wares, and this throws up two small issues, firstly there’s no maps for the cities, it’s fine when first visiting as you feel like an outsider in a place you e never been, but even the main hub of New Atlantis took me far too long to memorise where each vendor was, and to make things worse, they never seem to have a lot of funds, so you’ll need to find a few different ones, or spend time sorting weapons in once place, armour in another and dissecting your inventory to make as many credits as possible, I’m sure we will get a local map added at some point, but it’s just a minor inconvenience until you learn your surroundings..

At times it did feel like a bit of a trade off, concentrating more on heavier high value items, which enabled me to customise my ship multiple times, making space-fights a little easier. But I never found myself keeping resources, so I didn’t spend much time creating outpost’s, which I could have used like a factory to constantly generate more resources to sell on.

Thankfully there’s no right or wrong way with Starfield, you can go through the entire game without making a single outpost or crafting and upgrading weapons or space suits, if you want to sneak through a mission with a silenced weapon, utilising traps and environmental hazards you can, if you want to run in all gun’s blazing, as long as you keep some med packs handy, you can do that too.

Overall presentation of Starfield is better than I was expecting, some NPC characters can look a little odd, and some planets feel a little more barren than they maybe should, but when you take into account the sheer wealth of content, it’s pretty remarkable how good it looks at times, the game runs at a near floorless 30fps on both Series X and Series S, and while a few textures were considerably less detailed on the S, it’s a feat to see a AAA game running so well on the smaller sibling.

I did encounter a handful of frame drops, which felt like the game was loading for a split second before everything shot back up to speed, definitely nothing game breaking, we’re talking maybe 1 second every 10-15 hours of gameplay, my only other complaint reverts back to that 30fps, when the Series X manages as well as it does, I can’t help but feel like 40 or 50fps would be fine in most areas, so I’d love to see at least an option to unlock that framerate in a future update.

One area Bethesda has always been a little notorious are launch bugs, sure they iron them out soon enough, but Starfield is relatively bug free in comparison to any other Bethesda RPG I can think of, though it’s still far from perfect.

Yes, I had a character clipping through a door a few times, one woman sitting in mid-air a few feet to the side of the chair she should have been on, and a filing cabinet was dropping a beat as it constantly banged against a table but just like those aforementioned stutters, these bugs where so negligible and infrequent, the only people who will make a serious issue of them, are the people who are intentionally looking for whatever negatives they can find.

I did however have two “more serious” bugs. On the Serious X, a time related “skill” seemed to render my character useless, which forced me to reload the game – it was a skill I barely touched apart from testing, so it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game, but it definitely felt like a bug that should have been squished in testing.

secondly was a game freeze, jumping between menus, again it only required loading a saved game to fix it and thankfully auto-saves are frequent enough that I never lost more than five minutes of progress, but again it felt like a pretty substantial bug when anything else is so minor and easy to overlook.

Audio is one area that I had no major issues with at all, there’s hundreds and thousands of voice lines, covering a wide range of characters, ethnicities, dialects, and emotions and the voice acting is generally very good throughout, my only minor complaint about the sound, rests with the music, the ‘theme’ would play regularly, and it just felt a little too repetitive, and sometimes this music seemed louder than it should have, sometimes drowning out NPC chatter.

It’s nothing that a quick slider adjustment in the options wouldn’t fix, but when the default controls where spot-on for every other area, it’s a little disappointing when you do need to make a change. Speech is the real strong point though and you’ll want to keep the volume up (or keep on subtitles) because there’s plenty of clues in the conversations around you.

With so much to do on Starfield, it can feel a little overpowering at times, there’s little in the way of handholding, so it’s likely to take some getting used to the menus and inventory, and areas like outpost and ship management feel more like trial and error until you get to grips with each aspect of the game.

Starfield isn’t a quick game though, and if you’re only thinking about investing a dozen or so hours, you’re really not going to get the same enjoyment from such a massive title, sure there’s the main storyline, the factions and romance quest-lines, and you might be able to rush through all of those in 50 hours, but most people will still be working through them after 100, maybe 200 hours.

Then there’s the small missions you don’t even know about, even after completion, heading to a distant star system for one random mission, I passed through another system I hadn’t visited before, just about to fire up my Grav drive to move on, a ship flew close-by, so I thought I’d hit “A” to radio through and say hello, I could have offered to trade, or threatened them and tried to steal their cargo or entire ship, but in conversation they told me about a distress call,

I decided to check out this planet and was met with a small (fun) community with a cloning issue, I then spent hours helping them out on another completely unrelated quest-line, which while very minor, made a big impact when a game can deliver such quality, long after the main and secondary missions, just because I had the time to check out a distress call.

Things aren’t limited to predefined scripts either, one ship, asking for Iron, there was no need to choose the specific planet, I just picked one at random and thought I’d look for Iron, instead, I found signs of life and various structures, after a little exploration discovered an old farm that’d been taken over by the Va’ruun faction which provided another hour plus outside of any quest-line in the hope of finding some more valuable loot, to sell so I can save up for that swanky penthouse in New Atlantis.

There’s Certainly a lot to like about Starfield and it’s these little extras that just pull you in more and more.

Take a moment to check out the pretty awesome photo mode and you’ll find your saved photos appearing as loading screens (as above), another is the Constellation robot Vasco, who has hundreds of names in his voicebank, so he will address you by your actual name, instead of Captain and if you spend long enough watching the stars, you’ll see every planet fully orbits its star with accurate lighting throughout, the attention to detail is on another level.
The variable weather, the different attitudes of the people around you, there’s so much content that pushes engagement through the roof.

It’s not without its faults. I’m sure a few patches and the promised mod support will make Starfield an even greater game over the next year or two, and anyone who enjoys Sci-fi adventure or RPG’s will be well rewarded if they invest some time into one of the most impressive games I’ve played in years.


Starfield reaches for the stars and delivers, bumpy asteroids and all.
If you’ve got the time to invest and an open mind to immerse into the universe, you’ll be treated to one of the best RPG’s in years.

Best of all, if you’re subscribed to Gamepass, it won’t cost you a penny.


Review by Lee Palmer



Starfield reaches for the stars and delivers, bumpy asteroids and all.
If you’ve got the time to invest and an open mind to immerse into the universe, you’ll be treated to one of the best RPG’s in years.


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