Starfield Review: The best Bethesda RPG since Skyrim, but far from perfect

By FileTrekker 25 days ago, last updated 25 days ago

From the moment I emerged into the irradiated sunlight from the depths of Vault 101 at the start of Fallout 3, I've been addicted to Bethesda's RPG formula. The influence of Skyrim and its many re-releases on the modding scene and video game landscape speak for themselves. While Fallout 4 could be considered a misstep, I still found plenty to enjoy in the various side quests and DLCs.

Enter Starfield, a brand new IP from Team Todd that many have already compared to "Skyrim in space." While I wanted to avoid drawing such comparisons in this review, it's hard to avoid, but take solace in the fact that the tried and true Bethesda RPG formula is alive and well.

Immersive world-building

One of the strengths of Bethesda's offerings is their attention to detail and world-building, and Starfield is no different here; there's a rich, dense universe filled with easter eggs, hidden treasures and side-quests to explore - it's easy to get distracted by trivial minutiae as you explore the world and its various interactive elements. There's so much to see and do in Starfield that you'd be forgiven for missing the main quest entirely, at least at first - Bethesda themselves have stated the game doesn't really "get going" until after the notably short main quest has been completed.

One new aspect unique to Starfield is shipbuilding, which allows you to customize your ship in great detail by modifying the ones you have previously acquired or even building your own from scratch. By visiting the local ship tech at a spaceport or landing zone, you can upgrade ship modules, upgrade your weapons, customize everything from engines to cargo capacity, and much more. Of course, a ship is only as useful as the planets it can travel to, and there's plenty to do on extraterrestrial worlds once you get there - I found myself spending excessive time exploring worlds, scanning animals and searching for resources.

It felt like the game was actively trying to distract me from pursuing the main questline, becoming almost overwhelming with the sheer amount of extracurricular activities. There are hundreds of planets to explore, many of which are procedurally generated, meaning you could, in theory, explore forever, with plenty to do, without engaging in a single main or side-quest.

Perhaps my only complaint is the lack of consequences for your actions in quests, at least, as far as I've been able to ascertain. The main quest almost serves as a glorified tutorial that forces you to explore, while side quests seem largely self-contained and have little lasting repercussions on the game's world or lore.

Exploring Strange New Worlds

There are many vast, open worlds to explore in Starfield, many of which are procedurally generated, but despite this, they feel stuffed with things to do and quests to partake in. What makes these worlds particularly interesting is the distinct and unique feel that the various cities, settlements and factions in the game bring to the table, each having their own particular cultural idiosyncrasies, moral codes and character traits. Some major cities you'll encounter include New Atlantis, Akila City, Neon and Cydonia, and each has its unique cultural diversity.

Much of the themes explored in both the worlds you'll visit, and the cultures you encounter echo various real-world religious or political ideations, allowing Starfield to tell exciting stories that tackle issues in a thought-provoking way, reminding me of Gene Roddenberry's approach to storytelling in Star Trek at times.

Graphically, the game didn't fail to impress me overall, with excellent lighting, textures, and detailed worlds to explore, despite a few minor hitches here and there. Where it falls down is the sense of space exploration, which is essentially non-existent.

Instead of being able to fly between worlds, the space flight in Starfield serves as nothing more than a glorified loading screen, transitioning you between planets - with the occasional dogfight thrown in. This led to a feeling of planet fatigue after a while and detracted from the sense of true space exploration.

Traditional RPG Experience

If you've played a Bethesda RPG before, you'll know what to expect when it comes to character creation, although I'm a little disappointed that in 2023, we're still restricted to a relatively limited number of skin tones and hairstyles - although in reality I've never found it problematic, as I don't tend to spend a lot of time looking at my own character, instead sticking to first-person or cladding myself in the most inappropriately mismatched armour with the highest possible stats.

Alright, let's talk about quests. There's a good range of things to do, from your usual combat or fetch quests to engaging in heists or conducting investigations that often lead to exciting outcomes. As always, your approach to quests is left up to you - you can either go in guns-blazing, take a more diplomatic approach, or try to sneak through with stealth tactics. The persuasion system is key to taking the diplomatic approach. It is my preferred option to disarm a situation, but it does have some quirks in Starfield, being a little too reliant on probability checks that you, more often than not, fail.

Adding to this awkward interaction with NPCs is the facial animations, which are on par with Bethesda's previous titles but feel a little dated and jarring in 2023. Companions are equally puzzling, lacking character development, and, while generally useful in combat, aren't particularly noteworthy. Other mechanics also return, including the ability to overemcumber yourself, so you'll need to think carefully about the scrap you pick up and the items in your inventory, as carrying too much will affect your mobility and ability to fast travel.

Speaking of fast travel, I used it more than in previous Bethesda games. While I'm no stranger to the mechanic, I did find it a little immersion-breaking, but the sheer distance you'll need to cover in Starfield makes it a mandatory mechanic, thanks to the massive, open-world environments.

Combat Experience

The combat experience is enjoyable, with both traditional gunfights and the new ship battles offering a solid experience. That being said, I feel a few quirks and issues could be addressed.

Enemies are largely bullet sponges, which sometimes can make the combat feel a little bit too easy and even arcade-like, even on higher difficulty levels. Adding to the frustration is the weapon handling, which can sometimes be quirky and dependent on the weapon type. Disappointingly, there's also a distinct lack of unique or fun weapons, as I have discovered, with the weapon offerings being relatively bland and generic.

If you're not the gun-wielding type, then basic skills such as stealth and pickpocketing are locked behind a skill tree, and you'll need to grind to unlock and level up these particular skills, which will be very time-consuming. 

One saving grace, however, is low-gravity environments, which add an unexpected enjoyment to combat, perhaps by slowing things down a little and giving you more options for engagement, somehow making the action feel a little more polished.


Overall, Starfield is a return to form for Bethesda RPGs and is probably the most fun I've had since my original playthrough of Skyrim. It also feels surprisingly polished, especially given the expanded scope - I only encountered a handful of bugs in my time with the game, and none prominent or game-breaking.

Starfield offers an unparalleled sense of exploration and world-building that is unmatched by previous Bethesda RPGs, and it adds distinctly to the feeling of immersion, suffering only from the excessive loading screens and disappointing space transitions, which can lead to situations where you have to endure three loading screens to travel from one location to another.

There's a lot to get stuck into in Starfield, with highly immersive worlds, plenty of side activities to keep you occupied, and, while underwhelming, plenty of quests to complete.

It feels to me that the diversionary activities are the main focus of this game, furthering Bethesda's quest to build a never-ending role-playing experience. It remains to be seen how long these side-show activities can hold my attention, but in theory, Starfield could represent months or years' worth of content to enjoy.

Our Score: 8.5/10
How are you enjoying Starfield? Let us know in the comments below!


Read More



25 days ago

Thanks for getting this out! I can't wait to make time to sit down and give this a proper play through. I've not really spent time in a Bethesda world since Fallout 4 but I expect this game will change that!