As part of Bethesda
’s epic deep-dive into Starfield
earlier this year -- a 40-minute presentation that covered so much ground but felt like it only scratched the surface -- the team at Bethesda Game Studios
showcased the in-game shipbuilding and customisation tool.
In addition to being a planet-hopping RPG from the studio behind Skyrim
, where you can build relationships and put up a space outpost anywhere, you can also design your spaceship -- or ships. A fleet ready to command.
Still, despite the handy deep-diver, it was quite some hours before I decided to fire up the shipbuilder (which can be done at any major spaceport). The reason? I needed more cargo space on the ship I was given due to hoarding all of the resources for late-game crafting and deep-space architecture. Duh
. Like all complex systems, it took a little while to get the hang of the interface, with most of that time spent tinkering with options and getting excited about everything you can do.
Learning a new system and getting excited about the things you can do is a big part of Starfield, perhaps the biggest of the first 20 or so hours.
Fast-forward a few hours, and I was ready to pay for a brand new Grav drive (what makes interstellar travel possible), a new habitat module, multiple storage containers, and multiple new engines to accommodate all the extra weight.
After paying the bill and loading it back into the world, seeing the result was one of those quintessential ‘wow’ moments. What was a 3D LEGO
-like toolbox creation in a window was now a real ship with scale that I had personally modified, upgraded, and built. One that I could now walk around and take a closer look at.
Learning a new system and getting excited about the things you can do is a big part of Starfield, perhaps the biggest of the first 20 or so hours -- like the 40-minute presentation we got earlier in the year; even after 20 or 30 hours, you can’t help but feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can see and do in Starfield.
It is a feeling that hopefully persists for the entire experience because even at hour 30 (where I’m currently at -- Starfield, for me, is an experience to savour and not rush
), it hasn’t dissipated much. It mirrors the feeling of true exploration; something more than the repetition that can be the hallmark of many open-world games or RPGs. As the next title from the team behind Skyrim and Fallout, it’s reminiscent of those titles and yet still a very different beast.
It mirrors the feeling of true exploration, something more than the repetition that can be the hallmark of many open-world games or RPGs. As the next title from the team behind Skyrim and Fallout, it’s reminiscent of those titles and still a very different beast.
That said, the "quintessential" Bethesda introduction, which keeps you within a narrative-driven contained space before letting you loose on a giant world, is still here. Starfield's sheer scope is complex and layered, and Bethesda tries its best to add focus through the story. But it falls flat when there are simply too many directions you can go -- all found behind a load screen.
If there’s an area where Starfield feels a step behind, it’s because it isn’t seamless -- which comes down to Bethesda’s powerful but unique Creation Engine
tech. In Skyrim and Fallout, this equates to a load screen separating main cities and other interior locations like caves from the open-world; in Starfield, it means a load screen between take-off, landing for cities, towns, caves, mines, outposts, spaceports, orbital travel, ship-to-ship combat and more.
It’s a far cry from seamless and adds a layer of disjointedness to the experience that wasn’t present or as pronounced in earlier Bethesda RPGs. It’s not enough to ruin or otherwise seriously affect your enjoyment, and SSD storage technology inside the Xbox Series X|S
keep loading times down to a few seconds -- but it’s worth noting. Especially if you’re coming into Starfield expecting the same level of seamless travel found in No Man’s Sky
On the other side, Starfield is a step ahead in how it embraces its role-playing nature beyond joining various factions and being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when it comes to making choices that might affect the lives of others. The detailed skill-tree offers a long list of game-changing abilities to choose from, each feeling meaningful and useful, and there’s this level of diversity across the social, exploration, creation and combat sides.
It’s a far cry from seamless and [loading screens] adds a layer of disjointedness to the experience that wasn’t present or as pronounced in earlier Bethesda RPGs.
This then ties into what to do; even though Starfield features a compelling main story, alongside several fantastic side-quests and faction questlines to work your way through slowly -- you can just as easily spend several hours (like I did) exploring barren and sparse planets simply because it felt like a frontier that deserved discovery.
Ultimately, you can feel the thought and care poured into every corner of Starfield, from the lore to the discovery of the fate of humanity and its colonies in the year 2330 -- it’s science-fiction bliss. Ambitious, a little messy, but extremely impressive. It's big enough that I have no idea where it's ultimately going or what new surprises and mechanics I’ll discover next. Not many experiences can offer that after 30 to 40 hours, and in that sense, Starfield is every bit the milestone release we were hoping it might be.
More to come.