- Starfield, the latest game from Bethesda Softworks, promises an expansive universe to explore, thousands of missions and sidequests, extensive customization, and more.
- The non-playable characters in Starfield are average-looking and the dialogue feels childish and overwrought.
- The game has glaring gameplay inconsistencies, with graphics that vary from beautiful to resembling a game from a decade ago.
- Starfield lacks vehicle options for planet exploration, making it a tedious experience.
- The game’s limited space travel and reliance on fast travel make it feel like a series of disconnected rooms without a cohesive world.
Starfield is the latest offering from the gaming giant Bethesda Softworks. The long-awaited game promises an expansive universe to explore, thousands of missions and sidequests, extensive customization of characters and ships, and much more.
I made previous attempts at open-world space RPGs like No Man’s Sky and the still-in-development Star Citizen. Both games, however, left me wanting more. So, when I heard the announcement for a new space exploration game from Bethesda called Starfield, I was excited.
As an ardent fan of the company’s previous games like Morrowind, Skyrim, and Fallout, I had high hopes for Starfield. It seemed like a worthy successor to other open-world RPG games from Bethesda, but with a refreshing space twist. Unfortunately, the game not only failed to live up to my expectations, but I now have no interest in playing it further. Here are five reasons why I refuse to play Starfield ever again.
1. Boring, Lifeless NPCs
One of the first things I noticed upon playing the game was how average the non-playable characters looked, felt, and talked. Sure, the graphics are great, and the textures are sleek, but even the essential NPCs feel like stand-ins.
Then, you get to the dialogue of these characters. The only unique aspect is a built-in persuasion system where different responses will get you different reactions, but even then, the writing feels childish and overwrought. More and more, I found myself clicking through story-relevant dialogue because the characters talked so much without saying much of anything.
The eyes of the NPCs alone are enough to tell you Bethesda failed somewhere along the line. Much like the eyes in a portrait painting, they seem to look nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. These dull, empty, sometimes bulging eyes are no doubt humorous. However, they feel like an artifact from much older projects, not a brand-new AAA release from one of the biggest names in gaming.
Plus, it really breaks the fourth wall when you shoot off a gun in a major city like New Atlantis. No one looks up or flees, no one even moves. It’s just business as usual. Compared to games released more than a decade ago, this oversight in Starfield is shocking and contributes greatly to its dead-world feeling.
2. Glaring Gameplay Inconsistencies
Another reason I refuse to play Starfield ever again is the inconsistency of mechanics and gameplay dynamics. I would find one aspect of the game that I liked, such as the small, interactive object details, only to turn my character’s head and find something I didn’t like, such as the buying/selling system.
The game feels slapped together, like a random hodgepodge of elements that never add up to a greater whole. What’s worse is how inconsistent the graphics can get. Some moments look beautiful, while others resemble a game from a decade ago. Draw distance on planets is shockingly low, too, with many textures only loading when I got close to them.
The credit screen at the end of Starfield is forty-five minutes long and a telling sign. That’s because nearly thirty different game companies had a hand in its creation. Turns out, Bethesda outsourced much of Starfield’s menial development work to random game companies across the world.
The lack of cohesion shows, too, with planets that seem procedurally generated, storylines rehashed from previous Bethesda releases, and complicated spaceship controls that seem to bear little resemblance to actual space travel.
Sure, the large emphasis on space exploration means that Bethesda did provide ample dynamics, customization, and depth to its space-faring vehicles. You can build ships and (sort of) traverse the stars, but vehicle travel ends there.
There is a swath of large planets and moons that you are forced to explore on foot. Besides commuter shuttles in major cities, there is nothing planetside for you to drive or maneuver besides your character’s feet. This makes the act of exploration, even in a major city with extensive shops, a tedious, thumb-numbing affair.
In previous Bethesda games, walking is, no doubt, a major component. In games like Skyrim, or even as far back as Morrowind, walking is exploring. You never know when you’ll end up in a battle or a funky side quest. But these older games also had a living, breathing world. This level of immersion is an image that Starfield projects, but can’t maintain.
My suspicions also tell me that the conspicuous lack of planet vehicles like rovers or cars provides a great cover for Starfield’s over-hyped but under-delivered adventuring. Bethesda sunk so much time and money into spaceships that it had nothing left over for actual terrain vehicles. Due to this, planet exploration becomes a slog.
4. Fast-Travel Limbo
Another reason I refuse to play Starfield again is due to the game’s limited space travel. For a world that boasts of near-endless odysseys through the stars, you can only fly your spaceship in the narrow orbit of celestial bodies.
If I saw a planet or moon I wanted to visit in the distance, I couldn’t fly my spaceship there manually. Nor could I control how my ship landed on its surface. Getting from here to there requires the ubiquitous fast-travel system. At first, this navigation seems convenient, but quickly becomes annoying.
In previous Bethesda RPG games, fast travel was the reward for finding a new place on your own. From there, you could travel quickly to all the places you had first discovered through trial and error. In Starfield, fast travel is the only way to travel.
This makes the game feel like a series of different rooms without a hallway connecting any of them. There’s no living, interactive map, much less one that can be traveled without a bunch of pointing and clicking on icons. It makes sense to use this element to travel across literal galaxies, but it quickly became tedious and made the few maneuverable spacecraft moments feel like a gaming lobby.
5. Seen One, Seen Them All
Speaking of planets, it is disheartening to find that all of them are basically homogenous. Sure, there are ones with different flora and fauna, and varied color schemes, but, ultimately, each new location felt like a retextured version of the previous.
Plus, actually exploring these planets is akin to crossing a wasteland. Pick any planet, be it a far-flung place like Dalvik or the now-empty Earth, and find a whole lot of nothing. There are plenty of pretty rock formations and even a resource point or two, but beyond that, it’s just miles and miles of empty land.
Compared to the diverse cave system in say, Skyrim, Starfield’s in-planet caves are quite cookie-cutter. Each one features some kind of mining outpost, a couple of loot boxes, and probably a dead body. Skyrim is similar, but each cave you enter in that game has the potential to unlock an exciting aspect of the story. In Starfield, the caves function as basically a junkyard for you to collect random items.
There is an unspoken guideline for open-world game developers called the “40-second rule.” This principle suggests that there should be something interactive for players every forty seconds of gameplay time. Starfield breaks this rule constantly. While things are jammed together in cities or settled outposts, the rest of the time, it took me up to five minutes to come across anything interactive.
I gave Starfield the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps longer than I should have. With each new mission or aspect unlocked, I had the increasingly sinking feeling I had played this game before. This isn’t necessarily a problem if the game is fun and dynamic. Starfield, however, requires an investment I wasn’t willing to make.
So much of the game feels like you’re just going through the motions. Talk to this person here, pick up this item, and orbit this planet before landing. It’s not that other games are much different in this regard, but something in Starfield seems to be missing. It’s a mundane, lifeless affair, with surface-level writing, underwhelming action, and a tepid momentum.
Mundane is an operative word here. In older Bethesda games like Skyrim or Fallout, I had to do the same kind of grinding to advance through their respective worlds, but it at least felt exciting. Starfield, instead, feels like one long waiting room. There’s no real mystery here, no great struggle or story arc that made me feel like I was discovering anything except a series of repackaged environments.
To be fair, the game is beautiful. Everything is awash with sharp textures and an illuminated luster, but style rarely trumps substance. You better like the style, too, because it takes hours of gameplay to get to any point that feels fun. I couldn’t bear the pointless grinding, boring story, and restricted exploration, and those are the reasons I refuse to ever play Starfield again.