Once a distant star on the horizon, Starfield arrived on Xbox and PC on September 6, with a five-day early access period for those who shelled out for the deluxe edition. It’s now been in the hands of gamers worldwide for a little over a month, with folks pouring over its vast world and searching every nook and cranny for loot, side quests, and more.
As expected, a game as massive as Starfield has a ton of stuff going on (there’s 1,000 planets, remember) so a month later, folks are still discovering all sorts of unique quirks, charms, and more than its fair share of weak points to point out, celebrate, and critique.
Read More: 28 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Playing Starfield
Buy Starfield: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop
Whether or not Starfield will be as memorable as Skyrim or Fallout remains to be seen, but within its first month, here are some of the highlights.
Starfield earns praise, with some caveats
Following its announcement in 2018, the hype for Starfield was real. Promising a scale way beyond what Bethesda delivered with Skyrim and Fallout 4, Starfield would mark the first original franchise for the studio since the ‘90s and take the Bethesda RPG format to a place it’s never really been before: space.
Read More: Starfield Isn’t The Future Of Video Games, And That’s Okay
Since the highly anticipated game launched, the reactions have been largely positive, but there are some fair criticisms of its structure and the meat of more than a few of its premiere questlines. In Kotaku’s review of Starfield, I praised its scale, scope, and capacity for gorgeous vistas, but criticized a pervasive shallowness in the game’s settings, narratives, and woefully repetitive environments.
In general, Starfield really hasn’t convinced us that it’s a vision for the future of games, and in fact, it seems to be little more than an iterative improvement on what Bethesda has delivered before, for decades now at this point. But whether you see that as a reliable go-to experience of the kind we know from Skyrim and Fallout or a failure to improve upon a tired formula is what makes Starfield 2023’s gaming Rorschach test.
Read More: Starfield: The Kotaku Review
The game currently sits at a Metacritic score of 84, sharing similar ground with well-received titles like August’s Armored Core VI, but falls quite shy of bigger blockbusters like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
Player reviews via Steam certainly have their knives out for this Bethesda entry though, often describing the game as “disappointingly average” and “wide as an ocean – shallow as a puddle.”
Starfield’s scale and scope finally in player hands
It was understood early on that Starfield would be enormous. Bethesda touted the impressiveness of the game’s scale and talked at length about how the survival mechanics wouldn’t bog down the fun of Starfield’s core experience. as they do in other space games like No Man’s Sky
Read More: A No-Fuss Guide to Starfield Space Travel
Starfield’s reception amongst those not in the industry and casual players has also been mixed. While many of us have found a calm, contemplative beauty in the game’s endless planet simulation, others have tested just how traversable Starfield’s galaxy really is, and discovered that fast travel is technically not mandatory; you can fly across a solar system if you’ve got literal hours of real-world time on your hands to burn. And you can speed up space travel with a mod if you’re so inclined.
The scale of each individual planetary zone you can land on, however, has brought up criticism from players concerning the jarring lack of vehicles. Bethesda explained that while it did consider vehicles, it instead wanted to prioritize the on-foot exploration experience. Besides, if you did have a space rover, you’d be in for a bumpy ride with all of the dead animals everywhere.
Read More: Starfield’s Fast Travel Cheapens Space’s Impact
Not everyone’s been sold on Starfield’s size and scope, or how it’s presented. That said, we have caught sight of more than a few interesting things out there in the void. From Star Trek vibes to Dead Space-esque scares, to a planet very familiar to Halo fans, to a galaxy spanning beer run, there are more than a few fun surprises to be found in Bethesda’s space sim. That’s in addition to stuff fans have created on their own, like this awesome selection of space ships from other sci-fi franchises recreated in Starfield’s ship builder. And if you don’t fancy yourself a ship mechanic, the game is more than happy to provide some pretty sweet space rides of its own, such as the Razorleaf, a reward for tackling the Mantis quest.
And don’t forget, Starfield has some neat watering holes if you’re looking for a break from all the space-faring adventures and just want to sit in a weird space bar with a weird space bartender.
Wacky physics, fun mods, and other shenanigans
Starfield’s engine has a wildly impressive physics simulation. Granted, Bethesda games have always had pretty cool physics, but Starfield’s seems to be a bit more realistic and lively. This has allowed players to engage in some credit theft, but also has inspired some pseudo Rube Goldberg shenanigans. You can also just pack your ship full of junk and potatoes.
Like almost every Bethesda game before it, modders have taken to improving the rougher edges of Starfield’s experience. We’re still collecting a list of must-install mods for the PC version, but at a minimum you should consider installing StarUI as it profoundly improves the experience of a game that’s already encouraging bad habits for the digital hoarders among us.
Read More: Starfield PC Mod Dramatically Improves Inventory Management
Starfield’s mod scene is still quite nascent, and we know proper mod support for Starfield is on the horizon. That said, if you’re willing to mess around with some of the less-than-helpful mods, might we interest you in the most useless modifications to toss into Starfield’s code?
In more interesting news, one Starfield modder has taken to putting their DLSS (Nvidia’s AI-powered super-sampling tech that was excluded from Starfield’s launch due to an exclusive deal with AMD) mod behind a paywall. Now, the debate over paid mods is worth having and is not within the scope of this piece, but when you slap DRM and threaten to sneak malware onto pirated copies of a mod…that’s kinda, well shitty.
Read More: Starfield Will Get DLSS Support, An FOV Slider, And More In Future Updates
Hey, at least DLSS is coming to Starfield via an official update down the road.
We’ve also seen a fair share of silliness via exploits. Yes, you can actually rob NPCs of their clothes with the right technique and, at least for a little while, the game featured a damn mud puddle that’d just make it rain credits (it’s since been patched).
And in case you’re wondering, yes, Starfield has its share of bugs. I’ve seen a number of quest-breaking errors in my time with the game, while others are finding entire cities transported along with their ships. If my own nearly 200-hour playthrough of the game is anything to go by, save often, don’t rely on auto- and quick-saves. Starfield likes to break more often than it should.
Starfield is just getting started: DLC and more
Even after spending nearly 200 hours in Starfield, I’m still coming across new things. My opinion of it holds strong, but it’s nice to see such a large game continue to offer new experiences the more you play it.
As Video Games Chronicle pointed out, director Todd Howard stated in a recent interview that experience with previous games like Skyrim and Fallout has taught the studio to design with long-term investment in mind:
“This is a game that’s intentionally made to be played for a long time. One of the things we’ve learned from our previous games, like Skyrim, like Fallout, is that people want to play them for a very long time. […] How do we build it such that it is allowing that in a way that feels natural, and if people have played the game and finished the main quest, you can see that.”
The new game plus function is one of the most unique, and dare I say inventive, elements of Starfield. But Bethesda has indicated that certain elements of the game might change over time. We know that proper DLSS support and request features like an FOV slider are in the cards, but in the same interview, Todd Howard said that the studio might be looking at changing up how environmental damage works. In 2022, Howard also entertained the addition of a hardcore survival mode for those who desire a more punish-me-deep-space-mommy experience.
Read More: Starfield: Should You Rush Through The Main Quest?
Buy Starfield: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop
How the future of Starfield evolves beyond just repeat playthroughs remains to be seen. It’s hard to imagine the game will see the same kind of update support that No Man’s Sky has, but Howard has repeatedly stressed that this is a game that was designed to be played for a long time.
We do know, via the details in the premium version of the game, that a story expansion titled “Shattered Space” will arrive at a later date.
Hype and anticipation met reality when Starfield shipped universally on September 6. It’s more than capable of delivering a fun, can’t-put-it-down experience, though it has more than its fair share of problems and weaker points. The first month has seen a number of differing opinions flourish over Starfield and Bethesda-style games in general. But with promised new features, story expansions, and a growing mod community, Starfield’s story is far from over.