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Starfield Review

Starfield Review


This review contains heavy gameplay spoilers and minor story spoilers.

The most difficult aspect of reviewing a game like Starfield is figuring out just where to begin. The sheer scale of the game and the number of its intertwining systems make the task daunting. I like to categorize my reviews into subsections, but very little about Starfield can be accurately spoken about in a vacuum.

Much like Fallout and the Elder Scrolls, there is a unity in its design that makes every individual mechanic connected. Not necessarily to each other. In fact, sometimes aspects of the game are frustratingly disconnected from each other in irritating ways. But they are a unified part of delivering the overall experience of playing a game where at any given point, you can play it your own way whilst encompassing your vision for your character. There may even be a term for it, something called, a role-playing game?

You can find a video version of this review on YouTube!

The player waves toward the screen while standing in front of a space ship
I rarely use photomode in games, but something about Starfield’s overarching theme lends well to it.

It’s a common term to be sure, but one I’ve never fully agreed with for most games. Only a handful of games truly feel like role-playing games to me. Most of them, are Bethesda games. When I think of roleplaying. I think of tabletop games like D&D or Pathfinder, while a dungeon master might have an overarching story for the players to follow, the characters within them, and the decisions they make are up to the players.

A Dungeon Master doesn’t hand out character sheets that read Geralt of Rivia, or Cloud Strife. They simply set the stage, and the players do the rest. In Starfield you may be a member of Constellation, but the rest is up to you.

What skills you’re good at, who you value as friends, which factions you align with, or where you go is all up to you. You could play 80 hours without ever touching the main quest if that’s what you want. You could lose days of play time simply surveying planets and building outposts, or never bother with either.

Maybe you painstakingly decorate a house with the loot you find or snub your nose at the idea. You can buy or steal the ships you pilot, or build one by connecting the parts like Lego. Explorers and thieves, pirates and bounty hunters, miners, and soldiers. Whoever you want to be, you can be in Starfield. If you get bored, the other options are always on the table.

A neon lit up city street from a town built within the innards of a fishing platform
Neon is one of the settlements found in Starfield with a devious underbelly beneath the bright exterior.

Every star in the sky can be a light-year’s distance away from one another. But when we look up at night, they all come together to give light to the infinite expanse upon which we gaze.

Every quest, planet, and game mechanic make up the lights in Starfield’s sky, some may shine brighter, while others fizzle out, but each one makes the experience complete. Sometimes by simply being an option, even if it’s one you never choose to explore yourself.

Gideon’s BiasStarfield Information
Review Copy Used: NoPublisher: Bethesda
Hours Played: 80+Type: Full Release
Reviewed On: Xbox Series XPlatforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S
Fan of Genre: YesGenre: Open World RPG
Mode Played: Very HardPrice: $69.99

A Light Speed Mistake

I actually hated Starfield at first. I rarely fast-travel in open-world games, and never in a Bethesda game. Journey before destination. The problem was, that for a while, Starfield only ever felt like a destination.

This was partially the game’s fault, as its introduction to traveling is done via fast traveling in a menu. I bounced between planets at the speed of light, literally and metaphorically. I’d complete a quest in a cave and zap back to Constellation’s Lodge light years away.

It made the immense nature of the game feel compact and claustrophobic. I felt like I was playing the game through a menu and questioned what my ship was even for. It made any activity I wanted to do, feel like I was checking off a list, whether I was doing a quest or attempting to do my own thing.

The Planet Jemison in Starfield
There’s no getting around it, you have to go through a bunch of menus and loading screens when traveling between planets and systems.

I never fast-traveled in Skyrim except to High Hrothgar, because screw the 7000 steps. But the reason I play that way is that I would miss the adventure along the way. The random encounters, the resource gathering, and the overall atmosphere of the game. The exact things that help make Bethesda games immersive. After a while, I decided to try again. I made a new character in Starfield and started over.

By messing around with both the ship controls and the menus, I found that while you can’t remove it entirely, the extreme end of fast travel is optional. In fact, fast traveling actually bypasses some of your ship’s jump restrictions entirely breaking the mechanic. I found that instead of teleporting to my destination, I could jump from system to system en route, then land and exit my ship. Some of this still had to be done via a menu, but I could also do some of it via my ship, like jumping to nearby planets.

While planetside. I always had the option to teleport back to my ship if it was really inconvenient. But I was also free to run back on my own. All of that changed a few things for me.

A spaceship flying toward a moon
While you can’t fly freely between planets, pilloting a ship you designed is still a lot of fun.

First, I actually got to use my ship. That meant I came across random encounters, be they pirates, asteroid fields I could mine, derelict ships, or even star stations I could dock with.

More importantly, it changed how the game felt. Taking off, landing, and jumping between systems still offered pseudo-loading screens in the form of canned animations. But it gave me the feeling of moving between locations, rather than teleporting. That made a big difference in my ability to get invested in the experience, even if I was realistically doing almost the same thing as before.

Smelling Space Roses

Taking your time is somewhat necessary to enjoy a game like Starfield because it is in fact a slow burn. The sheer amount of things you can do is best enjoyed at a moderate pace rather than a hyped-up dopamine blast akin to flicking through TikTok.

People will say if a game takes hours to get good, then the game isn’t good. But I’ve rarely known that to be the case. It isn’t that Starfield needs time to get good. It’s that modern entertainment has trained people to have the attention span of a goldfish with an addictive need for instant gratification. And I say that as someone diagnosed with ADHD.

A foggy horizon on a distant planet with two explorers looking into the distance.
Even barren planets have a beauty to them.

A game like Starfield is not about instant gratification, it’s about being gratified the entire time, but at varying levels. It’s highs are higher because they aren’t constant. You have plenty of action, but they are broken up by chill moments of serenity and exploration.

Look at it this way. If you had unlimited access to a giant rollercoaster and rode it all day. The dopamine blast would be instant, but the effectiveness would fade after each consecutive ride. If you chilled out between rides to grab some ice cream and float down the lazy river on an intertube before hopping back on. You would enjoy that ride even more because you wouldn’t be dulling your brain’s sensitivity to it. Starfield is similar. Constantly rushing misses the point.

There’s a universe to get lost in and the game always makes sure you have several options at your disposal, be they a boatload of quests within each settlement, or simply things to do. You can land anywhere on a planet and a large portion around your landing zone is procedurally generated. You can go around mining resources, or surveying the planet similar to No Man’s Sky. But there will also be numerous points of interest around.

Maybe there is an old lab that’s been taken over by pirates, an old cave to investigate, or simply some aggressive wildlife to keep you engaged. Other ships may land nearby, and if you investigate you can have additional friendly encounters or fights. You can even board and steal the ship itself!

A snowy planet with a gas giant in the distance
Every landing zone populates the area with points of interest.

You might come across a totally random outpost with a generated quest or simply a shop. The thing is, it all feels pretty organic and is legitimately fun content to explore. The beauty of it is. That you can engage with as much or little of any aspect of Starfield’s content as you want, and at your own pace. You can build an outpost for an hour and decide you want to raid that nearby factory, or you can opt to leave that planet to do a few quests and then come back later.

I always felt it was best to simply let the game swallow me. Getting sidetracked in Starfield wasn’t a bug, it was a feature. For example, I’d find that I needed a type of resource for my outpost and decide that I might as well do a survey mission while I tried to find a planet with the stuff I needed. I’d jump into a system to survey, hear a distress call, and decide I needed to answer it.

After dealing with the distress call, I noticed that the planet had a temple, I figured I might as well explore it while I was there. Once that was done, I noticed my ship’s cargo hold was full, which meant it was time for a redesign. It was time to find a shipyard with the parts I wanted. However, I was too low on credits to buy the parts I wanted, so it was time to hunt some bounties for money. After turning two pirates into space dust, I noticed I also had a quest in the same system the pirates were. Obviously, I had to check that out too.

The desert city Akila in Starfield.
Akila City invokes the general atmosphere of an old western settler’s town.

Hours later I had totally forgotten about the resource I was initially hunting for. But that’s okay. When I was ready to resume my outpost building, it was there waiting for me. Unlike Skyrim where the end of the world was hanging over your shoulders, or in Fallout 4 where you had a dead spouse to avenge and a child to find. The stakes are lower in Starfield, you’re simply investigating some mysterious alien artifacts. You have plenty of rational story reasons to bugger off between main quests.

It doesn’t mean you HAVE to do everything as a single character, though you can if you want. You are free to simply go with the flow and do whatever you feel like doing at the time.

A Star is Born

Starfield has a pretty deep character creator that you could lose hours to by simply making your character look however you want. That said, there are options to customize your appearance mid-game. You also choose a background that features some starting skills and choose from some optional traits. Some traits can impact your experience quite a bit. For example, the traits I chose meant I was wanted, and bounty hunters periodically tracked me down.

The character creator in Starfield
You can definitely sink a lot of time into tweaking your character’s appearance.

I also took a trait that meant my parents were alive, I could visit them, and I’d occasionally run into them during my adventure. They even got me gifts, which included weapons, armor, and more.

Another trait meant that an adoring fan could join your crew and worship the ground you walk on. A neat call back to an earlier Elder Scrolls game. After character creation, there are five perk trees that fall into categories like social, combat, and science, and I don’t think there is a single line of perks in the game that doesn’t feel substantial.

The Digipicking minigame in Starfield
Digipicking is a nifty little brain burning minigame.

Even the combat tree, which generally gives damage buffs to certain weapons made a ton of difference. I played on very hard, and enemies went from bullet sponges to dropping in just a few shots once I got my skills up. Points into the Boost Pack skill means you practically fly with a decent boost pack, especially on low-gravity planets. Points in Gymnastics allow you to combat slide, while points in Stealth unlock the stealth meter.

Starfield’s take on lockpicking is the best iteration of the minigame I’ve ever seen, and without higher skills, you aren’t allowed to pick higher-tier locks at all. So none of that Skyrim cheese. Persuasion can play a massive role in quests giving you all sorts of outcomes if you pursue it. In fact, to my surprise, I obtained a socially oriented ability from a faction quest line and was able to use it to talk down an enemy in the final encounter of the main quest.

The player attempts to persuade Same Cole in conversation.
The persuasion system definitely feels akin to a table-top game, with hidden skill checks influenced by your choice of dialog.

If surveying planets appeals to you. The skills related to it make an impactful difference that you can feel, as you survey faster, easier and farther away so you don’t have to shove your nose up that alien spider’s butt to scan it. If you want to invest in crafting, it pays off in spades with your skills granting you the ability to customize your guns and suits to your liking.

There’s no wrong way to play, and the paths you choose will vastly impact HOW you play. There’s no level cap though, so with enough time you CAN get every skill, but it would take a very long time, and again, the journey comes before the destination. The skills you choose make your journey a unique one.


Starfield’s combat is excellent, and the options available to you vary greatly with your choice of weapons and skills. The way combat feels also changes based on how strong the gravity is on a given planet. For example, landmines can be thrown like frisbees with low gravity giving them a satisfying alternative usage.

Enemies generally react well to gunfire, they can staggered or even attempt to crawl away when downed. Boost packs can be detonated causing them to go flying and when outgunned many will even attempt to flee to a better position. They almost always attempt to take cover, and it’s nice to have enemies who actually value self-preservation, at least a little.

A gunfight amid a spaceship
If you board an enemy ship and take out the crew, you can take the ship.

Eventually, you even get access to powers that are essentially space magic. They strongly resemble the Dragonborn shouts from Skyrim, and many of them open up even more combat options. For example, the first one you always find allows you to turn off gravity in an area. That is extremely effective alone, but combine that with the old landmine frisbee thing I mentioned, and it’s even better.

Space Combat is equally as satisfying, but there is much less room for error, at least on harder difficulties. You can’t exactly take cover in space, and most of the time it’s gonna be you against multiple ships. You can alternate power between different aspects of your ship, such as weapons and shields, and with the right skill you can even enter a VATS-like targeting system to disable specific parts of an enemy ship, like say, the engines. That allows you to board them, and yes steal the ship if you want.

The player uses a space power in combat
Space powers resemble dragonborn shouts from Skyrim and add a new element to the combat.

The combat feels great. My only real complaint is the scaling. I play on very hard mode, and I actually don’t mind spongey enemies, I may even prefer them in a game like this. However, after a certain point, even on very hard, the challenge kind of vanishes. Unlike past Bethesda games, it seems like enemies don’t scale with you, at least not completely. Around level 30 I started mowing down most enemies with ease, except for the occasional elite enemy. It put a real damper on my enjoyment. Hopefully, a harder mode will be added in the future.

The Jank You Know

I definitely encountered a few bugs here and there. More impactful, however, was how many of the game’s systems strained against their own immense weight. Starfield works because every mechanism contributes to the experience. That experience is the ability to become immersed in the world and do what you want. Even if you don’t have an interest in a given aspect that Starfield offers, its mere existence helps solidify your own playstyle choices by giving you something to ignore in the first place.

The uglier side of this kind of design is that sometimes things can act strangely at best, or broken at worst. An example I mentioned earlier was how the fast travel, while probably necessary given the size of the game, initially turned me off from it. Its existence still breaks space travel by allowing you to bypass some of the built-in restrictions that would normally require an upgraded ship.

The ship building menu
Building and redesigning your own ship can be really satisfying.

The outpost system is another one. It’s a bit too self-contained. Outposts generate a ton of resources, but you only really need a ton of resources to build outposts. You essentially make outposts to facilitate making more outposts, that’s it. Outpost building is an activity you do because you want to, much like any type of decorating. There’s no real benefit to making them that affects other aspects of the game. It’s just fun to make and defend them.

By that same token, resources are priced far too cheaply relative to ship parts, weapons, and ammo. Buying resources to build outposts is far less satisfying than gathering them, yet it’s the most efficient way to do it. It’s something you have to willingly ignore to get the most out of the system.

You can hire all kinds of crew for your ship and even take them with you on adventures. However, the five constellation members that join you during the main quest generally have better abilities than anyone you can hire, and you don’t have to pay to have them on your crew.

The crew menu
Crew members have various skills, but your main story companions tend to be a cut above the rest.

There’s a lack of restricted areas, meaning you can pretty much waltz into the back of any shop, office, or building and no one will complain. It’s a bit of immersion breaking and it also makes most of one faction’s questline, one focused on corporate espionage, laughably trivial. They task you with planting evidence and performing sabotage, yet you simply walk into wherever you want to do what’s needed. No stealth is required. It’s weird and makes half of that questline really dull.

There were a lot of things in Starfield that I had to intentionally not exploit to get the most out of it, and that’s generally a sore spot for me. I don’t like having to house-rule my gameplay in a video game. However, my enjoyment of Starfield’s bigger picture tended to eclipse my misgivings while I played.

To Infinity and Beyond

Starfield was able to impress me on many points where I was most skeptical. I actually found the hundreds of planets interesting, even the barren ones. They all have little differences and quirks to them, and plenty of points of interest to explore if I wanted to. I’m still discovering new quests, events, and interactions, and I would wager that I will continue to do that for years to come, much like I did with Skyrim.

A spaceship battle using the players view from the cockpit
Space combat is as a whole, much more challenging than ground combat in Starfield.

Starfield doesn’t have the seamless nature that No Man’s Sky boasts but makes up for it with things to actually do and see. I’m always excited to document the fauna of each planet, for example. There is some slight crossover at times, but that’s to be expected, and even after all my playtime I still discover creatures I’ve never seen before.

Then there’s the end game, or new game if you will. I won’t spoil it, but Starfield features an ending and new game+ “mode” that’s really unique. Should you choose to begin new game+ there are new story elements, not just in that playthrough, but in future new game+ playthroughs. Furthermore, it poses some existential questions to you, the player, by supplanting your character’s experiences, and your own gameplay experience together, melded in a way that makes a few end-game decisions have a large impact in a very meta type of way.

That meta-narrative continues onwards into new game+ in ways that not every player will even comprehend. In fact, many players will inadvertently take on the spirit of the game’s other heroes and villains without realizing that they have done it. It’s exceptionally clever.


Starfield certainly has blemishes, but if you weren’t expecting any for a game of this scale, you were being naive. Bethesda games are something of an anomaly. There’s almost no other open-world game out there that can emulate the type of freedom that games such as Skyrim, Fallout, and Starfield give you. Most don’t even try. That’s a shame because it would be nice to get that Bethesda experience more than once every 7 to 10 years.

The Equinox laser rifle
Weapons can come with a variety of abilities, and with the right skills, you can customize them further.

Starfield will undoubtedly see expansions and DLC, but I’m 35, and the likelihood of me getting my hands on another Elder Scrolls before my early 40s is low. It can definitely seem biased to overlook Starfield’s shortcomings for simply being Starfield, for being a Bethesda game in space. But context matters.

Taking those shortcomings in exchange for the type of game I only get to play once every decade doesn’t sting quite as bad as those same shortcomings in the type of game that is on offer nearly every year.

If other open-world games offered me that level of freedom with the same emergent gameplay and interesting worlds as opposed to static checklists where the open world only exists for me to walk from A to B. Then I’d be less harsh on their shortcomings as well.

An alien bug in Starfield
There are plenty of creepy crawlie space creatures to encounter.

Until then, Starfield joins the ranks of one of my favorite games of all time by sharing the mantle with Skyrim. While some aspects can be improved, and I certainly hope that over time they will be. Starfield offers an experience that can only be found in the other Bethesda games that predate it. It’s an epic space adventure that offers you the freedom to enjoy its vast universe in whatever manner you choose to lose yourself in it.

I’m giving it my Golden Shield Award!

Golden Shield Awards
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  • Starfield takes Bethesda’s excellent open-world formula to the final frontier
  • Starfield embraces the very spirit of a role-playing game, allowing you the freedom to do what you want
  • Tons of quests and locations as well as solid procedural elements
  • Excellent combat, cool weapons, and awesome powers
  • Skills matter, and there’s a lot of them
  • Fun crafting, shipbuilding, and outpost systems
  • Great lockpicking and persuasion mechanics
  • Exploration is a lot of fun
  • Incredibly unique post-game
  • Difficulty settings present


  • Too many loading screens and canned animations, especially during travel.
  • Fast Travel bypasses some ship-related jump requirements
  • No way to respec skills without creating a new character
  • Quite a few bugs, but none that were game-breaking
  • The lack of restricted areas is odd and makes a couple of stealth-related quests dull
  • Some systems are poorly balanced relative to each other. For example, buying resources is too cheap and can invalidate gathering them.