Thursday, September 28, 2023

"Starfield," Impressions: It's Okay

I really wanted to love, "Starfield." Instead I just generally like it. The company behind the game, Bethesda, makes good stuff, from Elder Scrolls titles to Fallout titles, and so forth. "Starfield," is their first new IP in 25 or so years and it sounded cool. Spaceships, quests, and more! I was hopeful even if I felt like I'd had diminishing returns with Bethesda lately. I adored, "Fallout 3," and greatly enjoyed, "Skyrim," then had a lot of fun with, "Fallout 4," even if I liked 3 a bit more. Now we've got, "Starfield," and it is more of the same with some new spaceship stuff. I wanted to relish the NASA-punk aesthetic of grimy ships, going to planets, exploring the universe, and such. Instead, I got a little of Fallout and a little of Skyrim with some, "No Man's Sky," thrown in too (a different studio, but there is a bit of a vibe). 

While I was playing, "Starfield," my wife saw it and said, "Haven't you played this before?" She didn't mean it in a joking manner, she just literally couldn't tell, "Starfield," apart very much from the other Bethesda titles she'd witnessed me playing at points over the years and knows I sometimes revisit old games now and then for some fun. It got me thinking, however, I have played this before. Even with the excuse that, "Starfield," starts a bit slow and then the main quest has some fun twists-and-turns, it is all pretty familiar. 

I'm not imbued with dragon magic, but instead some kind of space magic. I can join any faction and do all the quests before moving on to the next faction and doing all their quests with zero impact on the World at large beyond those siloed quest concepts (to the credit of, "Fallout 4," the main quests incorporated the factions/groups a lot and being tight with one could make another hate you). I can stumble on a random bandit den on a planet instead of in a cave--and this time certain things are procedurally generated on some planets so I can see the almost exactly same group of baddies in a single play session with just a planetary atmosphere making the difference. All of these complaints/observations aside, I have had fun and little magical moments do happen.

The moments of little whimsy make me have a fondness for Bethesda games. When I'm floating around above a planet and see other ships zipping around I can interact with to chat, trade, or threaten, it is a fleeting moment where, "Starfield," feels special and not just like another Bethesda game. Little jokes written/typed on in-game notepads can give me a chuckle and impart some personality in an otherwise oddly sterile and drab Universe. I like, "Starfield," I just wish it had lived up to my expectations of being an epic space jaunt that utterly wowed me a bunch instead of being another Bethesda game that does the usual Bethesda stuff with a touch of extra spaceship action. I've witnessed, "Starfield," being called, "Skyrim in space," or, "Fallout in space," and don't agree fully with that phrasing. It's, "A Bethesda game in space," and that statement summarizes it to a T, for better or worse. I haven't played a ton of, "Starfield," and I do plan to play more--I do! That said, I now have realistic expectations for the rest of the game as I continue my journey among the stars.

3 out of 5 Stars.

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