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Starfield

Starfield

It's finally time to explore space in Bethesda's first all-new game series in over 25 years. We check out if the space adventure lives up to its promise...

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Should I be a religious fanatic? A person who has been experimented on and has alien DNA in their blood? Or maybe I have a luxury home somewhere out there among the stars? Creating your character in Starfield feels like a powerful decision. It's here and now that I decide who I want to be for hundreds of hours of space adventures, and there are plenty of options to choose from.

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The environmental variety in Starfield dwarfs any other RPG I've ever played.

In the end, I've come up with a person with traits of an 80s rocker and 70s adventurer, and I feel satisfied. I think to myself that I'll try to focus more on the story this time than I usually do in Bethesda's role-playing games and start the adventure.

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There is always something special about playing Bethesda's adventures. There is just nothing like them. Sure, there are well-written and massive role-playing games with almost the same freedom, but then the production values are on a completely different level instead. Therefore, it feels half magical to take the first steps as a miner, a career that of course will not last very long as fate has other plans for my protagonist.

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Space travel is a large part of the game and feels decently realistic compared to, for example, Star Wars.

What meets me is a very beautiful, highly detailed game world that flows better than any other Bethesda game I've played on console before. Moreover, it doesn't take me long to realise that even the combat is impeccably designed. Sure, it's still a role-playing game at heart (you can even select visible numbers to instantly see how much damage your attacks are doing), but it feels like a really good action game whether I'm engaging in frenzied shooting or trying to stab some unsuspecting space pirate in the neck with an axe.

In short, it's a very good first impression. Initially, I actually manage to stick to the plan of trying to focus on the campaign, which I basically decided to skip telling you about. This is partly to save you spoilers and partly because there are probably no role-playing games where the main story is as unimportant as in Bethesda's creations. It's great and well written, but here you can have amazing adventures without playing the main story for even a second. But already after playing about two hours I have a huge list of missions and tasks waiting for me. Some elderly man is talking about trees in the giant city of New Atlantis, a person in the slums suspects someone is stealing electricity, and someone else wants me to scan a distant planet.

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Many cities are absolutely huge and there is never a shortage of things to occupy yourself with.

Those who know their Bethesda games know that the missions are often surprisingly long and well-written and soon I find myself pausing the main campaign in favour of other things. The possibilities feel semi-infinite. There are plenty of planets to land on, there are lots of space stations to visit, and the space outside the most inhabited worlds is full of traffic. Some of the ships are friendly (whether you want to be friendly back is of course up to you), while others are pirates, which often leads to battles I would compare to Star Trek rather than Star Wars. You get to move around parameters that adjust how much energy each aspect of your ship has, and you can acquire new ones as well to suit your style. Or maybe be a space gangster who steals handy pieces of equipment? I've been flying around with what can best be described as a transport ship to fit all my loot.

The many adventures quickly take me around to several interesting places in the galaxy. I quickly fell in love with Neon, a sort of giant fishing rig on a water planet. Here the world has gone cyberpunk with slick haircuts, greedy giant corporations, gang wars, corruption, graffiti and of course neon signs. There are several fantastic adventures and a really interesting world to explore, and I'll spare you the details to let you discover how hard life can be here on your own. Another favourite for adventuring is Red Mile, as those who like the Hunger Games will quickly feel at home in this casino world, set on a permafrost planet.

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All planets serve no purpose to the story, but you are always free to visit only the worlds you want.

My personal favourite so far is Akila. This can best be described as the wild west in space. The founders of this city are former earthlings who conservatively hold on to their traditions, thus creating a rather natural extension of a sci-fi southern town. In addition, the people who live here are very fond of Earth artifacts, which in itself creates a kind of strange nostalgic comfort.

Of course, this is just a drop in the ocean of this absolutely gigantic adventure. We're talking hundreds of hours of adventure where the concept of "creating your own entertainment" is actually true. If you like the idea of building a bunch of outposts to get a good flow of raw materials, maybe buying/selling spaceships, stealing everything you can get your hands on or just discovering and looting abandoned space bases after failed colonization attempts - you'll do just that. At no point does Starfield try to get you to play a certain way, but simply informs you that options are available. If you then want to do something completely different, it's up to you.

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Graphically, Starfield is very nice and detailed, although the frame rate should be better, and unfortunately there are also some bugs.

I also think the Starfield level system is really clever. While it's basically a selection of skill trees in a number of categories where you unlock things to gain access to new ones, a twist has been thrown into the mix. For example, if you want to unlock a trait (like my personal favourite, Persuasion) you have to complete a challenge involving it before you can go ahead and level it up again. This almost automatically makes you play in a certain way that suits your character.

I would also like to highlight a slightly smaller thing, which I still greatly appreciate. In recent years, it has become increasingly common for game developers to use mouse pointers in game menus for consoles. But controlling a mouse pointer with an analog stick is and remains a poor solution. Thankfully, Bethesda has chosen to invest in something of their own and except for the above-mentioned levelling, the menus are adapted for a controller, which makes them extremely fast. This is further accelerated by favouriting items so I can quickly access them by clicking a certain number of times on the D-pad. Very, very helpful and something I hope that more developers will follow suit so that we who play with a controller do not have to use a cursor.

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The different planets have radically different conditions with toxins in the air, gravity and other things.

As you can probably guess, I am extremely pleased with Starfield, which is also cleverly designed. It's sci-fi that always feels at least somewhat grounded in reality, which gives it a rather unique feel. Visiting the different planets is also epic precisely because they are so well done that they actually feel like real worlds. I know that some people worried beforehand that some planets are not important to the story and are more of a filler for those who want to see more of the universe. But just like everything else in Starfield, if you don't find something fun, then just leave it be. If you don't enjoy visiting a planet and seeing what an alternative world might look like (and maybe scanning some life forms and finding minerals), then go somewhere else.

Maximum score, then? No, even though I'm much closer to giving Starfield a ten than an eight, there are a few aspects that prevent me from giving the maximum rating. One is the technical aspect. There was some talk beforehand that Starfield for Xbox Series S/X runs at 30 frames per second instead of 60. No doubt I would have preferred the latter, but a steady 30 is better than I've ever played any Bethesda game at, and for me it was never a big deal. It's single player and a role playing game, it's not nearly as important with 60 FPS as in Call of Duty. But unfortunately, it's not stable 30, and on several occasions the frame rate has stuttered more than I think is okay.

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Starfield is included with Game Pass from day one.

The second problem is also of a technical nature. Bethesda has said that this is their most technically sophisticated and bug free game ever. And I agree with them. But let's be honest, it's not a super high bar. Starfield has some bugs. Even though in about 50 hours I've "only" had two crashes, I've also had a mission that was hard to complete, enemies that get stuck in the air, and things like dialog that loops and I can't get out of. I accept a certain amount of bugs in a game like this (I've never played a completely bug-free AAA-title), and there's definitely not many bugs - but it's unfortunately more than I what I would like to give our maximum rating.

That being said, a nine is absolutely perfect. This is a true masterpiece I have played almost every hour since I got it. Not because the job requires it, but because I want to. And now that the review is written I feel the same thing again, my fingers are itching to discover more planets, mysterious worlds and check out aliens that make Xenomorph, ET and Alf look stale and boring by comparison.

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One second you're visiting uninhabited swamp planets with monsters, the next you're hanging out in cyberpunk-scented cities.

There are simply few games that offer this huge quantity of content, but also back it up with quality. Timeless classics like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4 feel downright limited by comparison, yet share that wonderful sense of adventure waiting around every corner. Trust me when I say you don't want to miss this.

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09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
So much to do. Great battles. Excellent exploration. Very varied. Great graphics. Entertaining space travel. Well-written dialogue. Easy-to-use menus.
-
Inconsistent frame rate. Some bugs.
overall score
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Starfield

REVIEW. Written by Jonas Mäki

It's finally time to explore space in Bethesda's first all-new game series in over 25 years. We check out if the space adventure lives up to its promise...



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