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Game review: Starfield (Xbox Series X)
Mon, 11th Sep 2023

When it comes to AAA first-party video games, the Xbox Series X/S generation has somewhat been a disappointment so far. The console came out in late 2020, and it launched with zero first-party video games!

The only notable AAA first-party exclusives I remember from the Xbox Series X/S library include Halo Infinite, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Forza Horizon 5. 2023 didn’t start off well for the Xbox brand, as Arkane Studios’ Redfall was released with a lot of disappointment. 

Thankfully, it now looks like we are finally getting some decent first-party Xbox exclusives with the release of Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield. This is the first Bethesda Game Studios game I have played since 2015’s Fallout 4. Yes, I decided to skip playing 2018’s Fallout 76 for obvious reasons…

I really loved Fallout 4, mainly because it had an interesting story with multiple different endings. With the announcement of Starfield, I was hoping it, too, would be a fun game for me to play. Well, the game is out now, and I can safely say it’s one of my favourite video games of 2023. 

The main reason I love Starfield so much is due to its engaging story and sci-fi space setting. If you loved movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar, there’s a lot to love about the narrative in Starfield. Not to mention, the game also features a cast of characters, all with interesting backgrounds. 

Starfield starts off with your mute character being a humble miner on a planet far away from current-day Earth. Your day starts off quite normally until you unearth a very interesting-looking artefact inside a cave. When you touch this artefact, you start to see some hallucinations similar to the visions David Bowman saw in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

After you pass out from the visions, your character eventually joins a space organisation called Constellation. This organisation’s members have also encountered a similar artefact during their space travels, and their goal is to find out what its purpose is. 

Without giving away too many spoilers, there are others out there trying to find the artefacts, and they have their own agendas. Unlike some gamers who have played Starfield, I was actually engaged in the story right from the beginning. It hooked me so much that I needed to know what would happen next! 

Gameplay-wise, Starfield is a big improvement compared to the stiff and slow combat from last generation’s Fallout 4. For example, Starfield doesn’t have the VATS system from Fallout 4, which slows down time. All the combat in Starfield happens in real-time, like other first-person and third-person shooters. 

There is a host of interesting weapons that you can wield during your galaxy-spanning adventure in Starfield. You can use pistols, lasers, shotguns, sniper rifles, melee weapons, and more. If you are carrying too many weapons, you can give them to your AI companion who will sometimes aid you in battle. 

Unlike in Fallout 4, there’s more than just boot-on-the-ground combat in Starfield. This is all thanks to you getting the ability to fly your own spaceship! Much like in a Star Wars video game, you can engage in exhilarating space battles using the guns and missiles that you have on your starship. However, you will have to make sure your shields are up because you can die up in space if you get too much damage!

Another thing I liked about general combat in Starfield is the fact that this game does not feature any weapon or armour degradation. I didn’t like weapon and armour degradation in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, so I’m glad this feature isn’t returning in other Bethesda games, too. 

Another notable thing about Starfield is that you don’t always have to use violence and mayhem to complete missions. Starfield also allows you to talk and persuade your way out of situations if you have good negotiation skills. Your persuasion skills are pretty rubbish at the beginning of the game, but you can improve on this perk when you level up later. 

Stealth tactics are also an option if you don’t feel like blasting your way to victory all of the time. What I like about stealth is that this game allows you to pickpocket most NPCs you see roaming around towns and cities. Some of the items you can steal include food, digilocks (to unlock doors), keycards, ammo, and more. 

Speaking of towns and cities, there are tons and tons of different planets that you can visit in Starfield. Starfield is, without a doubt, the biggest game world that Bethesda Game Studios has ever made. One of the coolest places you can visit in this game is a cyberpunk-themed city called Neon. If you liked the city in Cyberpunk 2077, you’d absolutely love the aesthetic in Neon, too!

While exploring the over 1000 planets in Starfield can be fun, flying around in space does not feel as immersive as it does in No Man’s Sky. Unlike in No Man’s Sky, you cannot seamlessly land on a planet when you’re up in space. You also cannot even fly your spaceship inside planets too. Travelling is via loading screens and fast travel which breaks the immersion of actually being a pilot in space. 

Starfield is also visually inconsistent because the graphics are far from the best I’ve seen from the Xbox Series X console. While some of the planets, like Neon, look great, others are very boring and lifeless. You cannot even traverse planets inside a vehicle like you can in other space-themed video games. 

However, probably the worst thing about the visuals in Starfield is the very outdated character models. Many of the NPC characters look like googly-eyed dolls, and they resemble the quality of an old Xbox 360 video game! It’s a shame because other recently released games like the Resident Evil 4 remake and Horizon Forbidden West have realistic-looking characters. 

Despite not looking like a next-gen powerhouse, I still had a lot of fun playing Starfield. The combat is better than Fallout 4, and the story and setting hooked me from the moment I started playing it. This game is recommended for those who loved playing previous Bethesda-made titles. 

Verdict: 8.5/10