Starfield has an issue with fast travel
Players are not particularly pleased with the portrayal of space travel in Starfield, as it requires a significant amount of time for traversal. It tu...
Players are not particularly pleased with the portrayal of space travel in Starfield, as it requires a significant amount of time for traversal. It turns out that traveling from planet to planet across multiple light-years can take a while, even in the most robust spacecraft. As a result, more efficient methods are being employed to reach your destination without literally wasting days. This was always to be expected in an open-world RPG that aims to depict the vastness of space, but it also contradicts the design principles on which Bethesda has relied throughout its history. What remains when this is lacking?
As a result of the necessity to use menus to jump between systems and land on planets that are typically filled with procedurally generated elements like abandoned outposts or mines, the temptation to venture in a random direction and seek new discoveries is lost. In Skyrim or Fallout 3, it was evident that deviating from the expected path and wandering where the heart led would lead to new characters and stories that were deserving of their significance. The same cannot be said for Starfield, which is regrettable because the stories it has to tell are among the finest that Bethesda has ever crafted in its extensive history.
I myself haven't been up there yet, but I hear that space is quite vast. I have watched countless movies and read God knows how many books where people travel for decades in hypersleep while en route to distant planets. It was only with faster-than-light travel that it became possible to journey through different systems without relying on voluntary states of suspended animation. Starfield takes place in a time when much of this technology has been developed, yet it continues to evolve, presenting a range of peculiar aesthetic and mechanical ideas that evoke reminders of life on Earth.
Starfield has crafted a rather representative depiction of our universe, with a noticeable span of time between each distant star. However, in its pursuit of accuracy, it has compromised its own freedom of expression. You can no longer endlessly run for kilometers without an end in sight. Now, you will likely encounter a series of loading screens and mundane planets, interspersed with occasional moments of brilliance.
The grand cities like New Atlantis, Neon, and Akila are multi-layered hubs that can consume dozens of hours to fulfill tasks and get to know characters. However, they exist in isolation and are not as much a part of the sprawling open game world, but rather their own realms based on narrative themes and mechanical logic that often stray far from what Starfield strives to be. Years ago, Todd Howard stated that he and his team wanted to create the ultimate space game, but when aiming for futuristic realism, one encounters obstacles that fundamentally contradict the flawed yet still beautiful freedom that Bethesda is known for. I admire Starfield for trying out so many different things, but without compromising its scope, it could never be the successor to Skyrim or Fallout 3 that we had hoped for.
The planets themselves suffer from a similar sluggishness. You can bring up your scanner and jump to one of the symbols on your map as long as you're not overloaded and have previously viewed them. The lack of land vehicles only makes this more necessary, as nobody wants to repeat the same jumping maneuvers over several miles. I often resorted to the fast travel system because it was the easiest and least tedious option, but the idea of embarking on the journey on foot never crossed my mind because it's far too slow.
When an open-world game relies on fast travel out of necessity instead of providing sufficient reasons to be explored, it has failed in its ambition. Perhaps it will become more digestible as I acquire better ships and approach the fabled New Game +, but it is regrettable that the weakest part of Starfield is the exploration of the universe painstakingly crafted by Bethesda over the years. Anything that wasn't created with bespoke characters and quests feels truncated or rarely worth the effort of landing on a planet, only to be disappointed and take off again minutes later.
I don't know what could have been done differently, or if we simply expected something more accessible from a game that has emphasized the vastness of its universe since its grand unveiling. But it's hard not to wish for or be disappointed with Starfield when you see so much of it from the perspective of fast travel and loading screens. All the things you find between the fragmented freedom are spectacular, which is amazing, but it shouldn't have been the case with a studio that has kept us lost in its fictional worlds for years. By trying to make it more realistic, we ended up with something much lesser.