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Starfield | REVIEW | XBOX SERIES X

Updated: Jan 4

''BY THE NINE DIVINES''

 

Developed: Bethesda

Published: Bethesda

Genre: Action Adventure

Release Date: Sept 6th, 2023

Platforms: Xbox Series XS / PC

*REVIEW copy provided to me by BETHESDA*


Starfield is the next big open world action adventure that is developed and published by Bethesda. Coming off a recent streak of fun titles they've published such as Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo, Bethesda decided it was time to stop milking good ol Skyrim and finally create something brand new for the first time in a billion years. But, does this title live up to the hype known as Fall Out and Elder Scrolls? or should they hyperdrive speed away in embarrassment? Only one way to find out, so lets go!


 


 


STORY:


Set in the year 2330 - a distant, but still imaginable future where humanity has developed settlements on other planets, step into the role of the main protagonist, who stumbles onto an alien artifact while out in space. After making contact with the members of Constellation, they become part of something much larger – a quest to answer some of humanity’s biggest questions.


''THAT'S MY SHIP NOW, PUNK!''

 

GAMEPLAY:


Where oh where to begin. This is my first time in awhile trying to review a game of this size and structure, so to get through it I'll probably have to wing it a bit just to be able to do the game justice and be as fair and objective as possible for all of its positives and negatives. Sure I've reviewed monster games like Hogwarts Legacy, a game that I dipped into for roughly 70 hours, but Starfield? it's a whole different beast. You hear that? ''Awoooooooo'', that's the sound of the beast. When booting up Starfield for my first time, I felt I was in for a pretty intriguing experience, one I haven't gotten since Elder Scrolls Oblivion. I know a lot of people keep saying this game is like if No Man's Sky, Fall Out and Skyrim had a baby or something, but I couldn't disagree more. To get the pitchforks out of the way ahead of time, I really wasn't a fan of Skyrim, I know, huge cardinal sin, but I found both Oblivion and even Morrowind significantly better. Why? well for one thing I can shoot an arrow into the sky and have it land straight on a poor guy's bald head or torture the Adoring fan by finding intriguing ways to kill him, like running him over with Shadowmere, who I actually lost by accidentally locking him inside one of the Oblivion Gates... while he was wearing the $20 horse armor. Oh yeah, I was pissed. Adoring Fan.. man oh man, how I enjoyed hiding your body under a bridge and knocking you off mountains, good times, good times. But were not here to talk about Adoring Fan or Oblivion, even though he's actually in Starfield too and just as annoying as ever. As I was saying, people tend to compare Starfield a lot with Skyrim, when to me, the game structure wise and fluidity to me leans more to the way Oblivion plays, for better or for worst - because believe me, there's plenty of better and ''for worst'' to go around in my experience with this title.


Going into Starfield and starting the game up, it felt like through the hype of it all, that there were some pretty high expectations for it, especially when compared to previous entries into Bethesda's IP's Elder Scrolls and Fall Out, and now being a brand new IP, the pressure is and was on. From the get go, you will notice a bit that Starfield might not exactly revolutionize how action role playing games shape themselves or even that it pushes the Bethesda formula further, and honestly that's ok, because even if it doesn't completely flip the genre on its head, it still achieves it by adding to the normal formula, tweaking it and executing gameplay and exploration that is on a pretty intense scale and scope, in the vein of titles like No Man's Sky, in its current state. Yeah, you knew right away I didn't mean when it launched didn't you? all those false promises and every word being ''no'' to features in the game - yikes was it a mess. After you start your game and create your character, remember one thing, traits matter, a lot, and... I mean A LOT, with some even affecting features in the game and whether you can witness something your first playthrough or not, ala the Adoring Fan. Yes that's right folks, that annoying little turd brain is locked behind a trait skill that you can ONLY pick at the beginning of the game, and if you don't pick it as one of your traits when you start, tough cookie kid, no adoring fan for you. Sadly this happened to me, so what did I do? well because my sadistic side of me loves torturing people in games, like Pac-Man 2 The New Adventures when I beat up that smug face of his or again, messing with the Adoring Fan in Oblivion - long story short, he got what was coming to him. But enough talking about conduct that would get me in trouble if gaming followed the rule of the land with the Geneva Convention, lets... just talk about the dang game all ready, alright? good.


Here in Starfield, the game commences with you as your created character being employed as a miner on a far distant planet, being taught the ins and outs of labor on how to acquire resources by using your cutting laser, one of which will be vital to keep as your journey unfolds in order to mine rare minerals and even story based items with. But of course, you know stories like this, its never just super easy, right? While you're mining your way through caves, you unearth a strange and celestial like enigmatic artifact that has become not only a mystery to the rest of the galaxy, but extremely rare. Upon touching this artifact like you've been dared to ''touch the butt'' like in Finding Nemo, your body has a vision. Is it the future? is it the past? what did you see?. After going through this transcendent like experience and trying to come to grips with the power that now is flowing through your body after touching the artifact, now the true adventure begins when you're approached by Barret, a member of an exploration organization known as Constellation. Choosing to join this organization is when the main story officially begins and you enter the VAST universe of Starfield, one that offers cosmic exploration, mystery of the universe's past, meeting new friends , foes and allies, romance system, in depth character and ship customization and a story that may start slow, but ends with a revelation that things are much bigger than they initially appeared to be. ''That's what she said''. what? - Once you're fully introduced to other members of the Constellation and make your way to New Atlantis City, a city that left me in awe with its scale and how amazing it looks, you're handed an astronomical amount of freedom, minus story based systems that you cant get to just yet because you do not have an upgraded ship capable of a Hyperdrive to make that leap to ludicrous speeds - but when you do? oh man, it looks pretty dang awesome. I cannot stress enough the sheer scale of this game at its core. By opening up your galaxy map screen, you're able to see the map system based off galaxy you're currently in with 3D models of the planets and their moons, or closer up view of the star system itself which allows you to go along set paths of star systems to immediately hyperdrive warp speed to it. However, with a slight catch - you need the right amount of fuel to make that jump and your Grav drive upgraded either via using your ships skill points to raise levels of your shields, missiles, lasers by manually adjusting your levels. All of these are key to use together because you WILL get attacked while in space, but luckily for me, I'm better than Anakin Skywalker and showed everyone that THIS is pod racing. ''Take that you slime ball!''. Ok no, I'm sorry, you know me and driving, it totally didnt end like that.

 

''CANT LET YOU DO THAT, STAR FOX''

 

When you first begin moving through the main game story, at first it might seem a little bit too straight forward. Hey we got the coordinates of where this artifact is, take your ship, warp to that area and bring it back so we can add it to our piece of the puzzle of the map room in The Lodge HQ in New Atlantis. But no, it's not THAT boring, trust me, because you aren't the ONLY one after these ancient artifacts that hold mysterious powers, nope, because there is another group of people that are after the same thing, seemingly divine beings known as Hunters and Emissary, both of which also have their own plans on how to use them - for better or for worse. Traversing through this story, you will go across the vast universe seeing landmarks of New Atlantis which is a thriving tech city, Akila City that is in a barren desert who get by anyway they can as they live their daily lives fighting off hordes of monsters, Neon City that is steam punk and rave filled lighting that is home to some of the most dangerous people in the universe, as well as the most potent drug named, Aurora, this games version of Skooma. Neon City is probably the place where I got myself into the most trouble just because of that drug alone. During your playthrough, one of the missions in Neon City requires you to try to acquire some from a local Nigh Club and manipulate your way into a deal with other clients. Which I have to say of the night club, this place is whacky as all heck, everyone dancing their booty off to club music with 3 dancing aliens on a platform in middle of the room that took me off guard at first when seeing it. But the bigger reasons why I got into trouble? well... I kind of sorta became Walter White and got arrested for drug smuggling. Oops. A mission you acquire at one point, wants you to infiltrate an opposing organization to learn their secrets and find the traitor who tried to ruin your company. Easy right? well... kind of, that is until I was like ''JESSE, ITS TIME TO COOK'' and instead of doing the job I was hired to do, I instead got active ingredients for crafting and used the work machine to create more of drug named Aurora. My batch was 99.1% pure, the best in the galaxy, however.. I may have forgotten I had it on board my ship and was scanned before entering a neighboring star system and was immediately arrested and thrown in jail. Oh well, at least it wasnt a ''STOP!, YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE LAW'' moment like Oblivion, but... I did have my moments.


Even when you're not getting into mischief like me, there's still a large quantity of quests to do that go beyond your normal storyline campaign, these are having to do with Miisc quest that are picked up from NPC's by just walking by them and having them initiate a conversation with you, which you can ignore their dumb butts, but still get the quest. You also have Faction Based quests that allow you to join with the UC to police the galaxy, become a Free Ranger that helps people in need, join pirates called Crimson Fleet if you wish to be a jerk, etc etc - all of these and more have their own long running questline, that's in the vein of stuff you remember from previous Bethesda games like The Dark Brotherhood. What's intriguing about getting arrested in Starfield though is the way its actually done and orchestrated. No longer will you just pay a fine and serve your time in jail, but instead, you're offered a deal by the UC themselves saying all your criminal activity charges will be dropped, if you agree to work with them as an undercover UC agent to infiltrate the pirate organization known as the Crimson Fleet and take them down. Should you not agree, well the book is thrown at you and to jail you go. I absolutely loved this take on the arrest system because it felt just like it would in real life, people getting cut deals by corrupt leaders in order to achieve their goal, and the quest line is actually pretty dang fun too. Misc missions are also good ways to pass the time, should you want to focus more on exploration and smaller themed quests such as going to planet and investigating an old refuge for someone who hasn't heard back from their friend in awhile, find and dispose of space pirates named Spacers who loot and kill, help citizens of Akila set up security systems to protect their town, explore vast ice planets, desert planets, rich green forest planets and even find Earth, a now dead planet that has become a ghost of its former self. Aww man, no more Little Ceasars, thats sucks!. But the REAL reason to do the Misc quests is to find secret temples of an ancient civilization that houses secret powers that only you can unlock. By using your scanner to sense abnormalities, collect power sources to activate the portal and then collect your power. These powers range from creating a gravity force around your body that lifts enemies in your area into the air with gravity, faster dash running, gravity and force pushes, etc, there are so many of them with each having their own unique purpose. It sort of reminds me of the power systems used in other Bethesda published titles like Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo.


Back onto the actual planetary exploration though, such as ship docking, dog fights in space, ship management and upgrading, landing sequences etc. You're probably going to hear a billion times about how comparable to games like No Man's Sky that Starfield is, whether its stepping foot on an alien planet for the first time or cruising through space, you might get a bit of deja vu, but only to an extent because a place where the comparison stops is its real time landing on a planet. Here in Starfield you can not fly in real time and go into a planets atmosphere and then land, nope, instead you're thrown into a landing sequences with cutscenes showing you heading to the planet and then the landing sequence cutscene right after. For me, it's not really an issue because while it can take you out of the immersion just a tad little bit, it makes up for it with things like Docking, dog fights and management. Wait.. how the heck is docking interesting or fun? well for many reasons actually, especially when dog fights and docking are used to coincide with each other. For example, as you fly through space, you will get communication transmissions from other ships in your area, some are nice and need your help to get their ship running and will ask you to spare some parts, or allow you to dock with their ship to go on board their ship and fix their ship yourself - however, others aren't so nice and will flat out attack you, thus making you have to defend yourself by manually raising your ships meters on the left side of your ships console for missiles, lasers and shield energy. You can use your ships default settings to raise your levels, go to cities to purchase parts, or find rare parts by looting in order to raise the levels of each usable part of your ship with its power and design, which again links directly back to dog fighting in space like Star Wars. These dang dog fights can be freaking intense as all hell, sometimes even frustrating when you're trying to move and fly around to get them in your sights but then you cant see them and start having your inner Star Fox moment screaming at them ''COCKY LITTLE FREAKS''. So... uh... what does that have to do with docking? simple, when you dog fight, you will be able to steal the other persons ship, should you have the ability to, and the same holds true for any ship you find when you're out and about adventuring. Exploring a planet and seeing a person land in the distance, go say hello to them like the friendly person you are or murder them in cold bold and piss off your waifu, Adreja, like I did when I was trying to romance her. She got so PISSED. ''I'm sorry Adreja! no! don't be mad, we'll hide the body together!''. I know what you're thinking ''So it's kind of like GTA in Space'' and ummm, yeah I kind of guess it is. But you don't have to be a jerk like me and steal ships, because rare ones like Razorleaf are found as rewards if you find one raiding a pirate base or officially purchase them from Ship terminals, which becomes mandatory to do mid game.

 

''IF I CANT HAVE YOUR SHIP, THEN YOU CAN'T EITHER''

 

So all that is cool right, basic mechanics of flying, docking, powers, quests, all really good stuff, heck even the dozens of ''WOW'' moments or ''holy crap'' moments you have during the main games story that throws you for a loop are awesome and genuinely engrossing. But what of the main form of gameplay such as the combat system, skill management and leveling system? Well like other Bethesda games you have played in the past, gameplay wise your missions involve you visiting designated destinations and locations highlighted on your map screen, albeit way more streamlined and easier to navigate on Starfield - these remain a constant like usual, however with some major tweaking to the enemy AI with your gunplay. Combat with guns is as smooth as ever, feeling quick, flashy and impactful as you craft new upgrades, use gravity to jump and float over enemies to do a cool skill shot kill, using environment to move from enemy gun fire, and so forth. Combat is more of what you'd expect with a Betheda game, but again, more streamlined, fluid and the use of powers you get from finding Powers at temples or by upgrading your skillsets with attributes that can give you more carrying capacity so you aren't encumbered and run out of oxygen to move better in your spacesuit, ability to stealth for pick pocketing, more health and weapon damage, increase in dialogue skills for better persuasion, making your ships weapons stronger by unlocking skills related to your ships and so on. But for me, what sets this game apart from previous Bethesda games, as far as combat goes, is the enemy AI this go around. Sure, its still not perfect with some enemies being dumb as heck and getting lost or stuck in a wall, but overall, the AI feels much more intuitive and more aware of their surroundings. Should you be on a floor above them shooting down on you, usually they'll stay behind an wall and shoot back over and over, but in Starfield, they will strategically move around to find the best spot and even try to flank you if you aren't careful. These suckers have gotten smarter, clever girl. On top of the skill points to boost player abilities the further you level, ship management and flying, powers to give yourself an edge, faction themed quests for organizations, misc quests that lets you help out civilians in need, smooth as butter gun play mechanics that gives you freedom to come up with your own way to play using powers plus gun fighting to form combination attacks - even beyond that, would you believe we STILL have more to talk about with the games mechanics? Oh ya, I can hear Lamb chop singing now, ''This is the review that doesn't end, yes it goes on and on my friend, GNC started reviewing it not knowing how big it was, and she'll continue reviewing it forever just because...''


The last mechanic I wish to talk about and one that I've spent hours upon hours on is the companion and dialogue system that is in the game. Here in Starfield, dialogue options that you pick matter, whether its persuading an NPC into de-escalating a conflict by scaring them or negotiating, persuading them or failing in a dialogue tree and having to go the route you do not wish to go in with relation to a specific character. When initiating a conversation with an NPC when you're trying to gather information or throw your weight around, you will operate on a karma system that gives you three chances to make good with an NPC before they get mad and attack you or blow you off completely. So.. what's so ''karma'' about this and why does it matter? well because you can totally tick off your waifu without even meaning to of course. As stated just a minute ago, you have a companion system, this system allows you to meet and recruit people either from Constellation themselves or from people you meet in your galaxy to join your crew, and once they're apart of your crew, you may allow up to 2 to 4 people to ride on your ship with you depending on ship size, send them out to outposts for defense that you built on distant planets, or select which companions will accompany you on your missions, wherever you may go. Bringing them along is now where the karma system comes into play, whether you bring along Sam, Sarah, Barret, Andreja, etc, doesn't matter who you bring along, every character have their own personalities and likes and dislikes based off your actions you take in and outside of dialogue. For example, Andreja is a hardened killer who kills who needs to be killed, she's sassy, blunt and likes intimidation, however she does not like to hurt innocent people - she hates it.


As you go on missions, side quests or just journeying with your companion, you'll be able to converse with them and eventually striking up conversation that boosts your romance meter, eventually leading into a scenario to where you can marry them, if you're lucky enough to win them over with your actions. Its easier said than done, but it also actually works really well since the AI for your companions allow them to interact with you during your journey, find items for you, wear the gear you give them or weapons, and even respond to dialogue you're having with an NPC and giving their own input to the situation at handand listening to your every answer. Should they dislike your answer, they will let you know of this and ''Dislike'' your action, further ruining your reputation with them, and should you anger them too much, they will not want anything to do with you and leave your party as a companion and ally. Oh my goodness, this was so stressful, I started winning over Andreja well into the 50 hour mark of the game before I started messing up BADLY, killing people she didn't want me to kill, make decisions with dialogue that was TOO nice and not intimidating enough for her liking and even getting into the fight with Neon City police and scaring her off completely, eek. Luckily I had an auto save, I just loaded it back up and was A LOT more careful. I was THAT close to losing 50 hours of work on her character - I would've been more rageful than the kid that got his World Of Warcraft account deleted. Point being overall is that Starfield for companions adopts a nuanced approach compared to traditional karma systems, and this time actions are evaluated on a greater level, which allows you to be more immersed in your experience with a character as you learn their history and watch as they contribute to conversations and adding additional dialogue options depending on their skills and personality traits.

 

''PARADISE. EUTOPIA. WHERE EVERYONE LOVES HOUSE SHARK''

 

DISLIKES:


Uh oh. Yeah, it had to come to this. Nothin is perfect and that goes for Starfield. While there are many aspects that make Starfield amazing that range from stuff like its graphics, freedom and scale of exploration, fluid combat, great story narrative with twists.. while that's all good and dandy, there are quite a few gripes that I have issue with that range from small problems to bigger ones. Firstly, one is in regards to the companion system, while sure its really good, there are issues that stem from options of dialogue repeating itself that can make your companion feel like a robot from time to time or when they provide input for a mission, sometimes what they talk about in their dialogue does not pertain to what is currently going on in the mission itself, making things off putting and giving you a chance to ruin your built up karma with them. It's no Baldur's Gate 3 of dialogue, but it is what it is. Second gripe is some of the bugs I've encountered. What? bugs in a Bethesda game? I'm utterly shocked. Sarcasm aside, strangely enough this is one of the least buggy Bethesda games I've played in some time, which is insane given the scale of this title, but.. when the bugs do hit, you feel them. During my ventures to get powers in the sacred temples, both companions would clip into walls and spaz out like crazy all over the place and couldn't move until I either left the area or went through the power portal, on top of that, sometimes when you're in space picking your next target to warp to, the mission icon keeps showing up on planets that the mission doesnt even pertain to when you're just trying to jump to another star system, this gets frustrating and annoying really quick, especially when you are fighting with the game glitches and then immediately get attacked by a higher ranked ship than you because you took too long to get away. Last but not least are some of the major things I encountered during my playthrough that were more drastic than the others, the game's frame rate at times and game crashing. During runs to Akila City, I noticed the game seems very resource heavy in this particular area, so much so that you start feeling and actually see a significant frame rate drop that makes your character and the screen stutter step every now and then for about 3 to 4 seconds. But what makes it even more jarring that if you open your menu when you start hitting some frame rate drops, your entire game will freeze completely and do one of two things, boot you back to your Xbox Dashboard, making you lose progress, or completely lock up your console completely, making you have to hard reset. These lock ups happened to me in both Akila City and Neon City. Did it happen a lot? no, but the fact that it still happened is still an issue and a big one to me at that.

 

''NOW, WHERE SHALL I HIDE YOUR BODY THIS TIME?''

 

OVERALL:


At the end of the day, Starfield achieves a high rank in accordance to the role playing genre of open world games that makes it stand out from the rest of the pack, but its also not without its fair share disappointments like Adoring Fan being locked behind a trait you can only get at the start of the game, frame rate dips, game lock ups from time to time, some dialogue option repeats for companions, bugs that involve characters clipping into the wall, etc etc. However with a back and forth narrative that keeps you engaged in the story, top notch gun play mechanics, dozens of skillset abilities and ancient powers to find and equip, extremely in depth ship management system that lets you customize your ship by size, color and individual parts, awesome companions who are well written and have great back stories, Star War's feeling space dog fights that make you want to take Andross down, and the sense of adventure for an open world game of this genre that you will have a hard time finding elsewhere this year. Its simply a fantastic game, flaws and all, and one that you DEFINITELY need to play if you have an Xbox Series or capable PC. You definitely won't regret it. Well... unless your wife or husband is waiting upstairs for you, but you're in the middle of killing pirates, so you give them the old ''Two Seconds'' from Shaun Of The Dead and ultimately ruin their night. Do not do that, for your own safety. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChck says BUY NOW


 



 

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