Friday 29 March 2024

OT: Starfield


I finally relented on the Steam nagging screen, and am writing a review of Starfield, which I have been playing pretty much daily since it was released. I just noticed I'm writing an essay rather than a review, so figured I'll "own" it and post it here as well as give it to Steam/Bethesda.

Would you recommend this game other players? Yes.

There's some good gameplay in this, but around the edges. I wish the rating system on this had at least a "maybe" option as well as "yes" and "no". this is a 6/10 game (I'd rank Skyrim and Fallout 4 as 10/10 games, to compare).

The main quest is sterile and repetitive, and the main NPCs are on the whole obnoxious and unengaging. Companion AI doesn't seem improved over FO4: they are always just in the way, rather than being helpful. Too much dialogue is too repetitive. Note to the Bethesda scripting team: each canned script line should only be used once (maybe once per humanspace week or something, just not every time I come within 1m of the person). Silent NPCs would be better than irritating (and vaccuous) repetition. it detracts from immersion. Can't wait for Bethesda to integrate chatgpt-ish AI into NPC comms; it would mix it up a lot, and - I'm afraid - probably better than the current script-writing which is mediocre.

The faction quests are too short and linear, but more interesting than the main quest.

Inventory imbalance needs a look at. One needs tonnes of resources to play the game effectively as an outpost builder, but it's too hard to ferry about the place without mods to adjust / negate weight. It's not fun to be a cargo carrier (especially as the cargo capacity of ownable spacecraft are so low - at leat to start with, but they never get great).

Intersystem cargo transport is unusable on my rig, because as soon as I have more than one of them, the game blocks every few seconds (I guess it's doing cargo placement calculations? This only really needs to be done when arriving at an outpost, and could be rolled in to the load-screen-time, surely?), and it gets worse and worse with the more links added. I have read a lot of ppl have had this. The rest of the gameplay in the game is fine on this PC, so it's not just down to a badly spec'ed machine, I think: it's badly implemented code in the game. If cargo transport ran transparently in the background (like it does in FO4), then this would solve a lot of the inventory management issues. I just have a mod that zeros-out the weight of resources, so I carry them all around with me in my rucksack ;-)

Combat is fun, I'm not getting tired of that. And I like stealing the baddies' ships. That said, the need to use the scanner in combat to trigger some of the "social manipulations" is clunky. I know a lot of people have already told you that.

I also like planetary surveying (if a bit mindnumbing ;-), and I like building outposts, but they're a bit buggy. Still. After six months. But it's the part of the game I enjoy the most: finding the right spot to build, and then building. Object snapping could do with some work though.

The space part of the game is disappointing. There's no real travel, and no space exploration. It's just "fast travel exploration". Other games - even decades old - do this better.

I think the radiant quests in Starfield are fun though. It could do with a few more bases when doing the "kill the baddy" quests, but I'm not tiring of them yet. They are very "no-brainer", but it's telling they're more engaging than than the scripted quests. The scripted quests are a bit brain-dead and no real variation on "push the blue button so you can get to the red button… then to the yellow button…" sorta thing we had in Doom, 30 years ago. I know all RPG quests are basically like that, but it seems more apparent in SF than in FO4 or Skyrim. I think the level designers phoned-it-in a bit in Starfield.

I've played Starfield a lot (really a lot; less than I work and sleep, but more than anything else since it was released), but most of this is just as something I do with the sound off whilst I watch telly or YT, or listen to a book or use my brain and 50% of my attention for something else. This is a poor comparison to when I replay Skyrim or FO4, which I still actually enjoy.

I sure hope this is down to some vagary of the Starfield team composition or leadership, and not something that is going to bleed back in to the other franchises Bethesda own.

Right. I have some Ecliptic mercs to spacejack.