Starfield Is The Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None

With mediocre combat, sluggish story pacing, and hilariously bad exploration, Starfield is a game with many flavors but none that stand out.

Story Highlights

  • Marketed as a game with true exploration, Starfield missed that mark with uninspiring fast travel features, random terrain generation, and tons of walking.
  • Starfield’s ‘low IQ’ AI made the repetitive combat extremely dull and spongy.
  • The already slow-paced story gave little incentive to keep investing in it.

After investing dozens of hours into the universe of Starfield, I can say with surety that this is indeed the Bethesda formula that many players have been fond of for a good decade. Starfield has a great and multi-layered story filled with amazing characters, a huge scale, amazing environments, and an overwhelming amount of mediocrity and sluggish gameplay surrounding the entire experience.

Players can have a very open-ended approach to how they want to proceed with the title, but unfortunately, wherever you do end up going, the entire approach just seems very linear. When exploring planets, I would usually walk into an ambush, talk to some quirky characters, and make a quick skill check, but no matter what I did, it always spiraled into the same multi-planetary descent, which gets stale after about the first 40 planets.

The Deceit Of Exploration

When it comes to its exploration, Starfield falls flat on its face. Arguably, its greatest feature is diving and exploring its vast solar systems and actually going to each planet in one, with the trailers clearly stating seamless traveling throughout the universe. Unfortunately, the exact way that this system works wasn’t revealed until its release, and it disappointed me and many other individuals alike.

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The first thing to point out is that no matter what, the fastest and often only way to get to another planet is via fast travel. The entire point of planetary travel is to be able to fly to and from planets in the game seamlessly, but that part just doesn’t exist. This completely breaks the immersion for a game that’s centered on the idea of boundless exploration.

The next extremely disappointing factor, and honestly one I was absolutely hyped up for, was planetary exploration. Now, I and many players expected this to be like No Man’s Sky, a randomly generated planet filled with unique creatures and points of interest. What we did end up receiving was a system based on temporary seeds.

This system essentially made every planet have a different layout every time you landed on it. This caused a different experience on the same planet every time. On paper, this sounds unique, but in actuality, this just made the promise of ‘true exploration’ a pure facade. 

Starfield
Starfield

Surprisingly, this isn’t even the worst part of the planetary exploration; that would go to the boundary of the significant seed that you are currently roaming. If you try to leave that boundary, you receive a prompt telling you that you cannot leave the area, even though you can see an entire plain in front of you, just waiting to be cataloged.

A Flurry Of Starfield’s Dull Combat

After hundreds of combat encounters on ships and on-ground, it always felt solid, not refreshing, just solid. I see a new enemy type, and I’d simply shoot it to death; I see a ship, I target its engines and board it. It felt like a mix of Prey and Fallout, with a blend of Call Of Duty in the mix. It’s fast, keeps the player moving, and mixes it up with new environments and settings. But the cons are just as significant.

Before we go further, one thing to always remember is that Starfield is a Bethesda game, so I went in with the idea that bugs would be somewhat prevalent. What I didn’t expect was extremely buggy surfaces, glitches, and other anomalies that really made me wonder if humanity had ascended the stars or just regressed beyond recognition.

Starfield
Combat

The most degrading part of the experience was the dumb AI. If you moved even a bit more efficiently than the general pace of its combat, the AI just can’t compete. It almost feels as if the only limiting factor to this is the health of enemies or their level. If they are tanky, then it just becomes a fight of endurance every single time. But this would have been acceptable if the AI wasn’t so clunky and ‘low IQ.

Todd Howard himself spoke up about the supposedly dumb AI. As reported by Gameranx, Todd Howard exclaimed, “It’s very easy to make the enemies really, really smart or end up in the situation where you’re forever just jousting. It turns out you have to make the AI really stupid… they should fly, and then they need to turn, basically like, ‘Hey player, why don’t you just shoot me for a while.

Another thing many players have been doing is comparing the combat mechanics of Cyberpunk 2077 versus that of Starfield, and the community doesn’t need to go in-depth to see which game is winning here by a landslide.

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The combat system’s simplicity, coupled with AI limitations and unsuitable environments, makes the overall experience sluggish and genuinely boring. A rework based on changes in AI systems, map designs, and the awful leveling system may just be what the game needs to push this aspect to something I can sit down and properly enjoy.

Wait, There’s A Story?

Honestly, I got lost during the main story multiple times, and the biggest reason for that was deviations through side missions which went and spanned over multiple hours, having almost zero ties to the actual story, and this is actually the best representation of its story, essentially be a driver, zooming through solar systems and talking to people and all the unique interactions they have to give.

This ‘deviation’ was the most interesting part of the story, as I went through multiple solar systems, all stuck in their own problems, and showed me the true scale that the game was discussing. But when I did try to play the main story, its slow pacing and generally bland characters really bugged down the experience. 

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Another thing that bothered me throughout my playthrough was how much talking was in the game. Even Fallout 4 did not contain this much unnecessary and boring dialogue. Also, it did not help that these characters look at you from the same angle as everyone else; some people even call the game ‘Starefield’ with the amount of staring into your soul these NPCs do.

Anticipation ran high, with everyone expecting something truly extraordinary. Yet, when the moment arrived, it was just a jump of hype, nothing more. The difference between what they thought and what actually happened was really noticeable. It just shows that sometimes, when you expect a lot, you might end up with less than you hoped for.

Another huge problem the game faced was the expectation of the community as a whole. After the Xbox showcase events, the community started hailing Starfield as the new stand of Xbox, the next generation of gaming, all before its inevitable release. But when the game was out in the wild, comparisons were made, and the reality of the game was much different than what Bethesda had initially shown.

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In conclusion, it is an average game for the average player. People into RPGs will enjoy its setting but not its sluggish gameplay; people into stories will enjoy its vast side-missions but not the main story; people who enjoy combat should try some other titles. With Bethesda so well-versed in the RPG genre, it is a surprise that Starfield ended up barely hitting the mark players had set, even if that mark was too high.

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Ahmed Shayan is a News Writer on eXputer with decent experience writing about games. He’s a machine learning enthusiast with a passion for a plethora of gaming genres. Ahmed is fond of Soulsborne games in which he has invested more than 3,000 hours! You can follow Ahmed's gaming activity on his PSN Profile.

Experience: 1.5+ Years || Mainly Covers News Stories on eXputer

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