After literal years of waiting, we’ve finally gotten a first look at actual gameplay from Bethesda’s upcoming space epic Starfield. It seems the almighty internet is a bit on the fence about the reveals, both reveling in Starfield’s magnificent visuals, and hating on certain systems that might not be so fun (we’re looking at you, lasering resources).
But really, the concerns we have with Starfield aren’t in the actual trailer. There were a few things that might make or break the Starfield experience. And they weren’t in the trailer!
Starfield gameplay: prepare for jank
Let’s start with an obvious one: we didn’t see any jank, bugs or glitches in the Starfield gameplay trailer. Of course, Bethesda would have the density of a neutron star if they’d included that in the trailer. But needless to say, Starfield will inevitably ship with a bunch of problems, like many Bethesda games before it.
And to be clear, that isn’t a jab at the studio either; huge open world games are hard to make. Immense companies with decades of experience struggle with it, and Bethesda is no exception. So prepare for jank at takeoff, it’ll probably be a rough start.
To make matters even sketchier, Starfield will be the first Bethesda game running on the Creation Engine 2, an updated version of the in-house engine that powered games like Skyrim and Fallout 4. It’s hard to say whether a new engine would eliminate some of the problems Skyrim and Fallout 76 had at launch. Or it could make it all even worse!
Another feature that Todd Howard only positively addressed is the inclusion of over a 1000 planets in Starfield’s galaxy. Making a huge city or county is a giant task, but populating a planet with enough fun activities is literally impossible. So Bethesda opted for the only tool applicable here: procedural generation.
What that means is that Starfield’s planets are randomly generated (with strict parameters, we’re sure). This saves Bethesda literal eons of development time. But it also means that most non-story related planets are likely just boring as hell. You might find a bunch of resources, maybe a beautiful vista or two. Though after a while, we’re sure most players will just be visiting big cities and areas designed with intent.
On a positive note, according to Howard Starfield does contain more handcrafted content than any other Bethesda game so far. And apparently procedural generation also played a huge part in previous titles, Skyrim among those.
Segmented space travel
Another slightly disappointing fact the Starfield gameplay trailer kinda hid, is the lack of open world travel from a planet to space. Unlike games like No Man’s Sky, Elite: Dangerous, and Star Citizen, Starfield doesn’t let you take off from the ground and, say, fly straight to the moon. Those are two separate scenes.
Now, unlike those games mentioned, Starfield isn’t supposed to be a simulator. According to Howard, taking off from a planet into space ‘isn’t that important to the player’. On the other hand, Starfield is at risk of breaking immersion if you get a loading screen or a menu systeem before going to space.
Not on board with certain parts? It’ll be fine
At the end of this article, I would however like to get some nuance in here. While anyone has a right to have some concerns, it is easy to forget how Bethesda builds their games to begin with. Howard himself expressed that one could just play the 30 to 40 hour main quest line and do nothing else.
In other words, you don’t have to craft, build outposts, or level up obscure skills if you don’t want to. Starfield is a Bethesda RPG which inherently means you’ll have the power to decide what to do. I liked the building in Fallout 4 so much, I never finished the main quest, instead opting to completely rebuild (and overhaul) the starting town.
So if you want Starfield to be a Mass Effect-ish experience, you’ll be well within your rights to have that. You want No Man’s Sky with an actual story and engaging quests? Based on the gameplay, Starfield has that too.