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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Starfield Review: A Stellar Space Epic

Starfield has finally been cleared for liftoff, here is my full review of the highly anticipated interstellar sci-fi epic.

Starfield keyart with astronauts, a robot, a massive city and the dappert tux and Starfield logo

Starfield has been in the works for over a decade, a project so ambitious even some within Bethesda thought it would never be made. Thankfully, it’s here and one of most fully fleshed out worlds I’ve ever experienced. Even though its the studio's first new IP since 1994, and their first original sci-fi RPG, it feels like a series that has been around for ages. It’s not just because it borrows (and improves upon) mechanics from other Bethesda games, but how painstakingly detailed the environments and lore are.

"...it’s here and one of most fully fleshed out worlds I’ve ever experienced."
An astronaut looks off into the distance for planets, mountains and snow on the ground

The team aimed to deliver a vast and immersive open-world experience with Starfield, and they have succeeded. You can explore hundreds of planets across different star systems, customize a fleet of ships, build outposts, and shape your destiny in a galaxy full of factions, quests, and uncover other secrets. So far, what I have played Starfield is a promise delivered, and even as I write this I can’t wait to go back and play more.

"So far, what I have played Starfield is a promise delivered, and even as I write this I can’t wait to go back and play more."

Does Starfield live up to its lofty expectations, or does it fall short of its potential? In this review, I’ll take a look at the game’s story, gameplay, graphics, sound, and replayability, and see if Starfield is worth your time in an an absolutely packed 2023.


Let’s make the jump to hyperspace and look at what makes Starfield so special.

Starfield Details

Platform(s): Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC

Developer(s): Bethesda Game Studios

Publisher(s): Bethesda Softworks

Genre: Action role-playing

Modes: Single-player

ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+


The (spoiler-free) storyline: Enter the Starfield

Starfield takes place in the 22nd century, where humanity has colonized several planets in our solar system and beyond. You play as a member of Constellation, a group of explorers who are searching for answers to the mysteries of the universe. Along the way, you’ll encounter various factions, such as the United Colonies, the Freestar Collective, and the Crimson Fleet, who have different agendas and ideologies. You can align yourself with some of these groups or remain more of lone wolf. You’ll also discover ancient relics and secrets that could change everything you know about yourself, and the galaxy.

"You’ll also discover ancient relics and secrets that could change everything you know about yourself, and the galaxy."

The story is well-written and captivating, with plenty of choices and consequences that affect your relationships and certain outcomes. Like a great novel the mainline story and side quests are hard to walk away from whether its finding out what happens next, or looking for better weapons and gear, I want to keep exploring Starfield’s universe. This all blends well with gameplay, as you can explore different planets and learn more about their history, culture, and environments.


Starfield offers a plethora of deep gameplay mechanics

The gameplay in Starfield offers a mix of first-person shooter, role-playing, and exploration elements. You can customize your character’s appearance, skills, perks, and equipment to suit your playstyle in a dizzying number of ways. When you first launch the game you are offered a selection of avatars that ready to use, or tweak down to the most minute detail. The same goes for spacecrafts which can be upgraded with different modules, weapons, and cosmetics to make it your own.

The combat is fast-paced and satisfying, with a variety of enemies to fight and a vast array of weapons to use. So far, I have found the combat a little linear, but overall still fun and interesting as I explore different areas and uncover more about the universe. When it comes to weapons, you can switch between different modes of fire for certain guns, such as burst or single shot, and use different gadgets and abilities to gain an edge in battle. There are also weapon and science tables where you can add upgrades like scopes, ammo capacity and more to your arsenal. I can’t wait to see all the rare pieces of weaponry and gear the community uncovers and customizes, so much has gone into building out all the different looks in the game.

"I can’t wait to see all the rare pieces of weaponry and gear the community uncovers and customizes, so much has gone into building out all the different looks in the game."

Just like previous Bethesda games, you can also use stealth or diplomacy to avoid or resolve conflicts, depending on your faction reputation and charisma. So far, I have gone with a morally "good" character who tends to steal plenty of sandwiches.

Intergalactic exploration is a strong point

The exploration is one of the best parts of the game, as you can travel between hundreds of planets using your ship and discover new locations, resources, and secrets along the way. You can land on any planet you see, and each one has its own unique terrain, climate, and wildlife. Some are more populous than others but there are quite a few major metropolises that are sprawling and teeming with characters to meet. You can interact with different NPCs, who have their own personalities, stories, and quests for you to complete.

The game is full of choices and consequences, as your actions and decisions can affect the world, the factions, and your character in various ways. The game is also very replayable, as you can experience different outcomes and endings depending on your choices and actions. Not only that, I can confirm the existence of a New Game+ mode. On the negative side, the game suffers from some technical issues and bugs that can, at times, hamper the gameplay experience. The game can also have glitches such as clipping or floating objects. The AI can be inconsistent and unpredictable (but not in a good way) sometimes making puzzling decisions in certain situation. For example, standing out in the open during a firefight. Some of Starfield's missions can also feel repetitive and tedious at times, and certain planets are a little more bland and empty than others.

Visuals and graphical performance

Starfield’s graphics and performance are impressive and incredibly polished for a game at this massive scale. The game is capped at 30fps on the Xbox Series X|S, but it's still visually stunning and the difference in frames hasn't detracted from the experience for me. The planets I visited are beautiful and realistic, the alien flora and fauna have plenty of variety. For example, a planet I visited had a colder winter side that didn’t see much sun, it was darker and blanketed with snow. The opposite side of the same world was green and lush, a total contrast and a testament to the detail Bethesda has a deep commitment to.

The game runs smoothly for the most part, with only occasional hiccups (a frame or two dropped) in densely populated areas like New Atlantis. The level of detail is amazing, from the intricate design of the weapons and spaceships to the clutter and debris on a forgotten outpost. The game also handles draw distance very well on the Series X with no noticeable pop-in.

Photo mode is available at launch in Starfield

I've spent hours using photo mode to capture all the beautiful scenery in Starfield. The mode is easy to use and has many options to customize your shots. There is even a photo gallery to organize and look back on all your captures. Having played all of Bethesda’s previous titles, I can say that this is their most polished and refined game yet, especially considering the scale and scope of the game world.

"Having played all of Bethesda’s previous titles, I can say that this is their most polished and refined game yet, especially considering the scale and scope of the game world."

Starfield’s audio and sound design

The audio and sound design of Starfield is also top-notch. The music is composed by Inon Zur, who also worked on Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. The soundtrack is varied and fitting, with different themes for different planets, factions, and combat situations. Some of the tracks are memorable and catchy, such as ‘First Flight’, which was featured in the Starfield Direct, it rises in the background of key moments in the game and sounds epic. The sound effects are realistic and immersive, from the roar of the engines and the blast of the weapons to the ambient noises of the wildlife and the weather. The voice acting is also excellent, with different accents and dialects for different characters and regions. The facial capture is vastly improved over any other Bethesda title, but still leaves a little to be desired when conversing with character. Outside of that, the dialogue performances are clear, expressive and convey the emotions and personalities of the characters.

Starfield: The Best Bethesda Game Yet

Starfield is a game that delivers on its promise of a vast and immersive sci-fi adventure. It’s a RPG that lets you explore a galaxy full of wonders, mysteries, and dangers, where you can create your own character, their background, spaceships, and more. The game is polished and refined, with gorgeous graphics, fluid performance, and amazing sound. It’s also full of variety and replayability, with a dynamic storyline and different outcomes. The game also features a rich and diverse lore that creates a believable and fascinating sci-fi world.

"The game also features a rich and diverse lore that creates a believable and fascinating sci-fi world."

Starfield is not perfect, as it also has some technical issues and bugs that can affect the gameplay experience. It's a game that will appeal to fans of sci-fi and RPGs, as well as fans of Bethesda’s previous games such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. You'll get out of Starfield what you put into it, and it has plenty to offer and then some. I highly recommend checking out Bethesda's latest epic it's an incredible feat.


Starfield PROS

+The story and lore are rich and diverse, creating a believable and fascinating sci-fi world.

+The gameplay offers a lot of freedom and variety in how you approach each situation, with multiple outcomes and consequences.

+The graphics are realistic and detailed, creating a stunning and immersive sci-fi world.

+The sound design and voice acting are high-quality and immersive, complementing the visuals and gameplay.

+New game plus offers a ton of replayability in an already vast universe.


Starfield CONS

-The game suffers from technical issues and bugs that can hamper the gameplay experience.

-Missions can feel repetitive and tedious at times, offering many "fetch" quests


Gameplay: 8/10

Graphics: 8/10

Sound: 9/10

Replayability: 9/10

Overall Rating: 34/40 (85%)

A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.

 

About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina

Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on multiple social platforms with the handle @dapper_tux via "X", Instagram, Threads, TikTok and join in on the fun!

 

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