Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Starfield Review: A Bethesda Game Through & Through

  • Brand new universe to explore
  • Ship and character customization
  • Enough sidequests to fill a galaxy
  • Underwhelming space flight
  • Overwhelming loading screens
  • Outdated NPC behaviors and interactions

A PC code was purchased by SVG for this review. "Starfield" is available now on Xbox Series X|S and PC.

They say crime doesn't pay, but when your last pickpocketing spree landed you a job as a secret agent, it's hard to agree. SysDef told you it was prison or work as a mole inside the Crimson Fleet, and at the time, the choice seemed easy. Now as you approach a station called the Key, acutely aware that one wrong move will lead to the Crimson Fleet tossing you out an airlock, you aren't so sure. You initiate docking procedures, take a deep breath, and prepare to smooth talk your way through yet another dicey situation.


It's the year 2330, and humanity has sprawled itself across the stars. Just about anywhere you look, there's a new faction, ancient ruin, or hidden outpost to uncover. The stars are populated by all sorts of strange characters, and more than once on your journey, a chance encounter will send you flying off in an unexpected direction. "Starfield" has the capacity to be a joyous adventure through a newly imagined space-faring civilization, but despite all the good it has to offer, the game makes a terrible first impression.

If you're going to head out into the stars, you need to know one thing: "Starfield" is a Bethesda game, and that's a good thing. The developer behind some of the best RPGs ever created is back with a creation more than ten years in the making. "Starfield" has more of everything you ever loved in "The Elder Scrolls" and "Fallout" franchises, but that's where it stops. Bethesda had ten years to come up with some truly exciting innovations to its typical formula, but instead, it only doubled down on ideas that have worked in the past. But once you get over the initial shock of encountering something so familiar in a setting that's supposed to be brand new, you'll find that "Starfield" is as rewarding as any other Bethesda title.


Shoot and fly

The game's wonderfully brief intro reintroduces plenty of systems that will be familiar to anyone who's picked up an RPG this millennium. From its controls to its menus, "Starfield" plays almost exactly like "Fallout 4" without V.A.T.S. Luckily, Bethesda has streamlined the gunplay considerably. Combat feels better than it has in any of the developer's other games, but there's nothing here that will surprise, or even impress, people who play other modern shooters.


When you aren't blasting bad guys on the ground, you might be fighting them in space. A game called "Starfield" should definitely put spaceflight front and center, but it oddly feels like an afterthought. Without the ability to manually take off or land, ship flight becomes a series of short cutscenes and loading screens. The design is presumably aimed at helping you spend more time doing quests than traveling, but the balance could have been better struck. As it stands, what should be one of the most exciting parts of a space game is instead a bit deflating.

Once you're out in the stars, there's some combat and adventure to be had. Dogfighting in "Starfield" feels like dogfighting in almost any other space game, but like ground combat, it gets the job done. There is a boarding mechanic that allows you to shoot out an enemy's engine and fight your way through their ship, capturing it for yourself if you want. It's the one really exciting addition to the game's spaceflight, and it's absolutely thrilling.


Getting lost in the fields

"Starfield" isn't just "Skyrim" in space, and that's mostly because there really is a whole new universe for you to explore. The main story gets introduced quickly. There's alien artifacts, mysterious visions, and a group of scientists and space explorers that calls itself Constellation. Nothing about the story is immediately gripping — it begins with a variation of sci-fi concepts we've all seen before — but like any Bethesda game, the side quests are the real star of the show.


Dozens of quests will be thrust upon you in the first few hours of the game. You'll help a bartender steal illicit ingredients for a new drink. You'll potentially become a secret agent, a space pirate, or a cop. You'll explore vast cities on alien worlds. New Atlantis, Neon, Akila, and Cydonia are among the most memorable cities that Bethesda has ever created. Getting to know them feels a lot like getting to know Whiterun and Rivet City, but the process is kept enjoyable thanks to all the new lore and characters that fill the world.

Shoot for the stars

"Starfield" is a genuinely difficult game to review. Bethesda has given us more of what we love, but it may be a little too much. There's very few gameplay surprises or innovations to be found, but there's something about sinking into that old familiar gameplay loop that's a bit irresistible. It's like watching your favorite movie for the hundredth time instead of scrolling down to "What's New" on Netflix.


Anyone who enjoyed previous Bethesda games will find something to entertain themselves with in "Starfield," but only a very specific audience is going to fall in love with this game. Basically, if you grew up with dreams of being an astronaut and have spent the last couple years ignoring new releases in favor of replaying "Skyrim" and "Fallout 4," then "Starfield" is going to carry you to the furthest corners of your imagination. For everyone else, your mileage may vary.

A rollercoaster of highs and lows

As you spend more time getting to know "Starfield," the early disappointments slowly fade into the background, but a slew of smaller issues prevent the experience from being as immersive as you'd expect. The frequent loading screens aren't nearly as much of an issue as Bethesda's lack of effort in hiding them. For every interesting new character, there are a dozen repeat NPCs who spout off the same lines of dialogue in identical voices. All the minor and occasionally hilarious glitches you've seen in other Bethesda titles have crept their way into "Starfield." Altogether, the problems aren't enough to ruin the game, but they do make it feel like a relic of the past, as though Bethesda held onto an Xbox One/PS4 title just a bit too long.


At the same time, digging deeper into the game will reveal more of what makes it unique and worth exploring in the first place. Anyone who enjoyed building settlements in "Fallout 4" will find the outpost system deeply engaging. Top to bottom, the ship building system is excellent, if a bit difficult to parse at first. Where the NPCs leave something to be desired, the world surrounding them does not. Bethesda's art direction has never been better, and every new gun, ship component, and city you find in the settled systems looks great and helps bring you back into the world.

"Starfield" has so many tiny details that shine — time relativity on planets, the gravity mechanics, the sounds that ring through your ship in vacuum. It's unfortunate that engaging with so much of what makes the game great involves dealing with systems that are blatantly outdated. "Starfield" may be built on Creation Engine 2, but it never truly feels all that new.