It’s tough knowing where to start, but as big as it is, Starfield is at its best in the little moments where you pull at a thread and reveal a large tapestry of wonder. Spending time with Starfield’s character creator gives you an idea about some of the lore along with what you can expect to be doing in your hundreds of hours with it. You’ll pick traits and a background that’ll help you shape the person you’ll be. Do you crave to catalogue and understand all walks of life, learning about the uncharted biomes and creatures that hide in the furthest reaches of space? Do you wish to scour the galaxy and hunt down the various scum and villainy, or crave to join those criminals and become rich beyond your wildest dreams?
Starfield starts off slowly, as you find an artefact that holds greater meaning. In doing so, you join a group of explorers called Constellation, and throughout the main campaign you’ll find more of these mysterious objects and realise you’re not the only ones who are looking for them. It’s a standard story made infinitely better by the cast of characters you’ll meet. It wasn’t until I was around 20 hours in that I realised how much of a hold these characters had on me. After a huge decision I had to make, I felt the repercussions on a deeply emotional level. I won’t say I regret what I did, but when lives are at stake, the burden still weighs heavy on my heart.
Endless possibilities await outside the main story, but it isn’t until you’re out there in the claustrophobic caves, dense spacestations, ramshackle settlements, or bustling cities that you realise just how grand Starfield is. Sure, you can travel to endless planets and visit moons to run around on and explore, but that’s where it’s less appealing. It is in the moments you create on your own, when Bethesda gives you a canvas for you to paint your own picture upon. Some of my favourites revolved around supplying drugs to a lowly criminal in order to help a popular DJ; a deal gone wrong making an entire ship filled of guards attack me and my companion, and a conspiracy involving a council member..
You can find quests and activities everywhere: whether overhearing a conversation, chatting with a stranger, or even looting a corpse and finding a note. These all vary in length, however, some can lead to impressive rewards and bags of credits. Faction missions have to be some of my favourite, where you can join everyone from the criminal organisation known as the Crimson Fleet to law-abiding rangers known as the Freestar Collective. There’s just always something for you to get stuck into, making the most of your skills as a gunslinger or negotiator, tough guy or pacifist, or whatever kind of player you are.
Some have multiple outcomes depending on your ability in certain situations, and by completing quests, exploring planets, and discovering lifeforms, you’ll earn XP to learn or upgrade new skills. These come under five distinct categories: Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Tech. Some of them unlock new abilities like using a jet pack or engaging thrusters on your ship, while others improve you persuasion and intimidation during conversations, proficiency with different weapons, and the effectiveness of med packs and other aid. There are 82 in total, giving you a ton of choice, and they can all be ranked up to make them even more effective.
It’s a lot to take in at first, especially because of how much there is to do. Getting familiar to space travel and how to set a course to specific planets; controlling your ship and knowing how to dock on a nearby ship or station, fire your canons and missiles, and activate your grav drive; managing your inventory and weight; swapping out frantically between weapons and how to equip them during a fight; learning what all the stats mean across spacesuits, helmets, and packs; applying aid for burns, contusions, freezing, or replenishing health; and once you’ve grasped the basics, it’s time to understand the complexities of outpost and ship building.
There isn’t a ton of explanation as you play, although there is a helpful guide within the menus that breaks down everything you can and can’t do, and how to do it, but I don’t recall being actually told it exists. Bethesda wants you to find things out for yourself and I get that, but with so many systems to familiarise yourself with, some in-game guidance would have been appreciated. By spending time looting and fighting, flying, and exploring, everything starts to become clear organically. You’ll find your path and live out your dreams; it just takes a little time. When it does click, you can relax and appreciate how incredible the world of Starfield is.
I’ve had so much fun exploring the intricacies of certain cities, all with their own politics and hierarchies. It’s the characters and how I communicate with them, listening to their stories and understanding relationships while making my own when I’ve enjoyed Starfield the most. That’s not so say I haven’t had a blast buying new ships and assigning my crew, engaging in dogfights with huge warships in space, or delving into the deep crafting systems there are. Some things I’ve spent very little doing, such as outpost building, but that doesn’t mean I can’t, or won’t at some point.
There’s something for every type of player. Those who enjoy FPS shooters or the RPG fanatics among you. Those that spend hours building bases to the finest details, or those just wanting to enjoy a fun story with great acting. Bethesda has nailed the smallest detail and has filled Starfield with secrets and opportunities in every place possible. It’s ambitious and engaging, filled with countless mechanics that can be explored as deeply as you want. You can play Starfield however you want, and it’s incredible just how free you are to live among the stars.
Perhaps the greatest achievement for me is how rare Starfield has bugged out or glitched on me. For a game so large, I’ve only had a handful of weird NPC movements or bugs, and none of them have impacted anything I’ve done on a gameplay level. There are so many load screens which appear whenever you enter or leave a shop or building, or travelling from planet to planet, but the way your photos taken in photo mode appear make the waiting more bearable. They aren’t long waiting times to be fair, but there is quite a lot of them.
For a game as big as Starfield, these issues are a drop in the ocean. I’ve not had this much fun with a game since last year’s Elden Ring, and that sense of discovery I felt playing FromSoft’s epic fantasy has returned. I’ll be playing Starfield for a long time, and I can’t wait to discuss with friends some of the discoveries and memories they’ve made. It’s a beautiful looking game that surpasses what has come from studio before, leading the company in a positive direction for the future. There’s no end to the kind of person you can become, and if you’re still on the fence about it, hop off and download this to your Xbox right now.
Complete freedom to be who you want
Superb writing and voice acting
So much to do with no pressure
Overwhelming at first
Lots of loading screens