Hello, in my first take on a video game review (I am not only a WordPress Expert, but also a passionate console gamer, who has a PSX, PS Classic, PS2, PSP, XBOX 360, XBOX One, and Xbox Series S at my disposal) – I’ll do my best in describing my personal experience with Starfield. I enjoyed playing the game on my budget console, that is Xbox Series S. I am at the end of the main story, having completed lots of side quests and having traveled a vast amount of planets during my journey – with around 40 hours into the game – I guess, I can share some of my thoughts with this masterpiece 🙂
Also, I am a long-time Fallout fan – having completed Fallout 2 more than 11 times, completed Fallout 3 several times, Fallout New Vegas, and finally Fallout 4 – the game reminds the latter a lot. It has similar controls, and similar experience, i.e.: character creation, dialogues, base building, and shooting experience. In the end, both are Bethesda games, so the general feeling is pretty similar.
Note: Some of the pictures I post here, may contain spoilers, consider this review non-spoiler free. Also, all of the pictures have been taken directly from the game on my Xbox Series S, either through the built-in photo mode or directly through the Xbox screenshot module.
Expectations vs Reality
The first time I heard of Starfield was at the XBOX FanFest, which was conducted on the 11th of June in Warsaw, Poland – a courtesy of Xbox Poland and Piotr Szychowski. The event was huge and full of Starfield adverts, and a lot of gameplay was being presented on HQ tvs. Needless, to say there was no option to test the game at that time. I expected a dynamic RPG shooter with great graphics and interesting space traversal. Find below my favorite picture from the event 👇While I was taking a selfie, someone took a picture of me doing so😊
So, after the event, I had some initial thoughts about the game:
- I expected a great shooting experience
- I expected Bethesda’s style of dialogues
- I expected modern graphics
- I expected great cosmos traversal
- I expected a lot of bugs xD
I tried the game for the first time through Xbox Game Pass early access – having played for around 5 hours in a row. I managed to get a general feeling of the experience and to be honest I got super confused. At first glance, the game was pretty overwhelming. Once you are done doing your character you are basically thrown directly into the action without any obvious explanation/mechanics tutorial. This makes the first experience a bit frustrating, although similar to real-life experience, I presume.
The game is packed with endless menus: the mission, character, and planets’ menus are all huge and it takes a bit of time to get used to managing them. The planets’ / quick travel menu is confusing at first glance as you have to click through the menu multiple times to get back to the pause menu which seems a bit odd. Also, a lack of any mini-map – information on what you have to do or where you have to go is quite confusing. In Starfield you have to rely on your scanner to get to your destination – a rather unintuitive scenario – I imagine people in the future having way better maps than we have now ;).
Needless to say, the first 15 minutes of the game were action-packed, as after a brief introduction we got attacked by the ship of pirates. On the contrary to the above-mixed feelings, I loved the dynamic shooting experience, and I enjoyed the great graphics (despite playing the game on the weak Series S) – I think that artistically the game is gorgeous and I got super excited about what to expect next.
Impressions after first 5 hours
The game had little to no bugs – which was a breathtaking experience given Bethesda’s previous “failures”.
After having done a couple of introductory missions and getting to know the base game mechanics I decided to stroll around a bit. In the end, my character was a professor, so I thought – why not go to different planets to explore them? I landed on Gagarin, which is one of the first planets in the Alfa Centauri star system, I turned on the scanner and started building my first base – despite having no experience with the system yet, the experience was quite similar to the Fallout 4 base building, so I felt home (or I thought so).
Basics of the base building
The base building system – gives one the ability to set up an Outpost on most likely any planet and to a huge extent on any place you are at the moment. One needs to fire up the scanner, press the X button on a gamepad – and is presented with an extensive menu of base structures. Similarly to the aforementioned, the menu is rather confusing and doesn’t tell you what to do or how, also there’s no guide to be found within the game menus which makes the whole process quite annoying, as it requires a lot of trial and error to understand it better.
Finally, given the lack of resources necessary for base building during the early playthrough it doesn’t feel plausible to setup the base so early – strangely enough to do so you are encouraged by one of the first side quests. So, I set up a simple Outpost, got frustrated, and decided to do something different next.
Strolling around the planets and scanning fauna, flora and the resources
I have to admit, I felt super confused and frustrated after the first 5 hours of my gameplay. I am not sure whether or not this was caused by the size of the game, lack of any useful tutorials, or confusing and huge menus, so I decided to do something different. With me still being on Gagarin I decided to stroll a bit and play with the scanner, a new feature to the Bethesda games – Fallout 4 alike.
In a nutshell, one gets to move around the planet to scan fauna, flora, and resources – it’s an interesting mechanic if you fancy being an adventurer who’s interested in different biomes, animals, and resources. The mini-game is pretty simple – you have to get close to the specimen, and upon pressing A you obtain information about it. The more specimens you scan, the more details you reveal until you have gained all of the data and reached 100% of a scan. The scan can be done once per every being, so it may take a while to find all unique creatures/resources around any given planet, as some are quite rare to encounter – say there are two fish on Gagarin, who are super hard to find. Needless to say, I find this mechanic pretty interesting and rewarding.
Furthermore, going around the planet with the scanner gives one a lot of useful information about the resources to be obtained from any fauna or flora specimen, say some animals tend to be super aggressive, some not, some plants give one useful resources – with any given biome being scanned 100% this may help one out in seeking needed resources later on in the playthrough. Not only that, the Bethesda graphic designers have made sure that the planets vary in biomes and living beings, thus every planet you land on gives you an alternate lifeforms – which given the amazing artistict design of the game is an interesting way of spending your time, playing the game.
The above mechanic and planet traversal is one the first rewarding and interesting features of the game – the planetary systems are gigantic, the number of planets to go to is vast and it seems that each has a slightly different biome and looks. This, for an adventurer like me, who loves games with artistically interesting graphics was a huge plus and made me want to finally play more, despite my initial frustration with the game.
Note: The traversal is way easier if you progress through the main story, say around 10 hours. You’ll have better gear and more perks which will let you traverse the planets faster. A rocket engine will help you move around the planet quicker and if you invest in some perks, say zoology you’ll progress with animal scanning way faster. I encourage you to spend the first 10 hours of the game learning its mechanics and gathering money, this is easiest done through the main story.
Note 2: Spoiler ahead!
On top of the above, traveling around the planets has some extra pros to it. Some planets have certain unique buildings, like an Abandoned Mecha Factory on one of the planets or a destroyed London on Earth – although to find some of these places you need to speak to a specific person to give you an intel. Traveling around the planet and looking for these structures makes the play more rewarding than expected. These structures seem to relate to the history of humankind and give one more insight into the plot of the game.
A sample playthrough of mine, around 7 hours into the game
A neat thing is to fly to a random planet from a Solar System of choice, find below my video of me flying to Earth to discover what’s in there. Some of the structures are hidden, until you find out about them though.
Once I was done with biome scanning and random planet traversal I went back to some of the more complex game functions. The next part of the review will cover the basics of ship editing.
Editing Ships and cosmos traversal
Why investing money in ships matters
Getting familiar with the game, its mechanics, and all of the systems took me around 10 hours to fully appreciate or rather understand. The game has a rather demanding entry level, which to some casual gamers may not be that good, to others it may actually be rewarding. Lately, most of the games are pretty easy, so I consider this a plus after it’s similar to real-life experience – we barely ever get anything for free.
Anyway, the next thing I threw myself into was shipbuilding. To Fallout 4 fans, this was a new mechanic. Basically, in nearly every city you land, you get to speak to a qualified spaceship technician who offers you ships for sale as well as gives you access to the ship customization screen.
If you fancy flying around and enjoy fighting against enemy ships – and also, you fancy being an architect of your own spaceship then I highly recommend this mechanic – it’s easier to understand than Outpost building, requires no resources to improve your ship (the money is the only currency here) and to be honest it’s fun, once you get to know it.
To me, who has chosen the Wanted Trait this was actually a need, as I constantly got attacked by rather demanding Bounty Hunters, to whom I have lost numerous times or had to escape through the means of Gravity Drive.
Basics of the ship building system
Once you open up the ship building menu you’ll see a rather easy-to-understand and read menu, which:
- lists all your credits to the top and the price of each component or upgrade
- an option to choose between upgrades or a manual ship customization
- means of browsing the ships you own
I’ll briefly focus on the manual ship customization here, which to me is the most interesting part of the customizations in the game. You get to visually place ship components on top of one another in a relatively simple-to-use manner and the only cost associated with ship building is the in-game currency. This is way easier to gather against the Outpost Building resource gathering. There are a lot of cosmetic parts to apply to the ship that alter its looks. In the end, you use the ship all the time, so I encourage you to give this a try. Also, there’s a lot of room for nice screenshots to take here. Not only that, I think this part of the game has an educational value and I’d recommend it to the youngsters.
How to use the menu
Upon pressing X, while in the ship customization screen, you’ll see a number of different part categories, each of which but one affects your spaceship effectiveness. Say, a better cannon will make it easier for you to conduct online battles, while a different cockpit, will increase your sight (while in the first-person view).
I believe that the best part here are the crew hub modules, which give one access to a vast range of different rooms, some of which allow you to mod your weapons, perform a research, or improve your suit – again, compared with Outposts, this costs you only money – hence, it’s a way easier way to have a fully functional, flying Outpost, instead of building one on a planet looking for resources.
Finally, if you focus solely on your ship looks, feel free to preview the structural category of the ship customization screen and play with colors of each part. It’s useless, but you can make your ship look great and appreciate your creation 🙂
P.S. Polygon has written an interesting tutorial on how to use the Ship Building system – feel free to give it a try here.
Part 1 – Conclusion
At first glance, Starfield may be overwhelming and confusing. The game learning curve is pretty demanding, not to say, the game at times is confusing and frustrating. Needless to say, once you progress through the game, gather resources, and money, evolve the character, and understand the game mechanics – Starfield is rewarding and fun to play. In the above review part 1, I covered the basics of the game mechanics and my personal impression of the first 10 hours of playthrough.
In my humble opinion, the game is amazing – it’s huge, overwhelming yet, once you appreciate the tiny little details and realize how much effort has been put into the game you start appreciating it. The game offers a lot of freedom and multiple ways of playing – you can be an archeologist and go around the planets analyzing different biomes, you can be a space pirate or you can just push through the campaing clicking through the menus like crazy 😉There’s a lot of interesting stuff to do here. I think that’ll be my go-to game during the winter season 🙂
In the next part of the series, I’ll cover the following details:
- Battles both on foot and in the cosmos
- Planet Traversal
- Graphics in details
- Pros and cons of the game
A compilation of the best screenshots I caught so far.