Starfield has gotten me so excited that I am now even more thrilled for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
Starfield resembles some of the finest science fiction narratives I have ever encountered, distilled to their most fundamental elements. The potential...
Starfield resembles some of the finest science fiction narratives I have ever encountered, distilled to their most fundamental elements. The potential within the world crafted by Bethesda is tremendous, but the guided player experience is not the optimal approach to engage with the game. In order to avoid spoilers, given its early stage, I would simply state: you have witnessed all of this before.
Ultimately, the greatest stories you will experience in Starfield are the ones you create yourself. And that's perfectly alright. Bethesda's worlds provide ample room for exploration and whimsy, but darn it, I yearn for a classic, brilliant quest. Will I remember any quest from Starfield, akin to recalling Brendan, the sentient vending machine from Cyberpunk 2077? I doubt it.
At certain junctures within the intricate main quest of Starfield, the narrative resembles the ebb and flow of The Expanse, while at other times, the repetitive nature of the tasks becomes suddenly apparent: a significant number of Starfield missions entail elaborate collection assignments that take place in a multitude of vaguely similar locations, requiring the defeat of a series of vaguely similar foes.
I do not wish to be overly disparaging, for there were indeed missions within the main storyline that were cinematic and likely among the finest in terms of visual and auditory design that I have ever witnessed in a video game. However, the issue remains that they still lacked a great deal of originality. Much of this can be attributed to the presence of poorly developed and forgettable characters throughout the entirety of the game.
Curiously, Starfield lacks much of the unique character development present in previous Bethesda games. Your robot companion Vasco may occasionally deliver some form of amusing remark, and Sarah Morgan may giggle primarily at a foul-smelling fisherman, but where are my M'aiq the Liar and Nick Valentines? Even Preston Garvey, a character I disdain, had more nuances than the strangely ordinary stereotypes that form the backbone of Constellation, the team you spend most of your time with. Even in the vastness of space, I have encountered very few memorable characters. I cannot even think of one that I could mention here, despite playing the game incessantly for the past two days.
The majority of them are science fiction clichés that I have already seen dozens of times - the ship captain burdened by guilt from their past, the wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, the spirited youth who speaks of magic, religion, and emotions. Occasionally, one catches fleeting glimpses of what Bethesda, as a studio renowned for having one of the most extensive and profound selection of iconic characters in their body of work, has established. However, most of the time, Starfield comes across as mundane. Tidily sanitized.
The pleasant side of the future, brimming with smiles and handshakes. Somehow lacking in texture, like the faded lunar landscapes through which you wander aimlessly. This extends to your dialogue options as well: play it nice and sweet, persuade people, attack anyone you see, or speak like a sweaty, angry teenager. There is little nuance in what you can say or do during these quests. The freedom of space ultimately feels rather constricting.
Due to this sanitization, many of the quests are rather underwhelming. Everyone is damn nice in Starfield. It's a ruthless world teeming with pirates and snake worshippers, yet all you have to do is utter a few sweet words, and even the wildest general or gang leader crumbles like a puppy. Even on the romantic path with Sarah Morgan - one of the better quests I have witnessed in the game thus far - the ultimate declaration of affection is delivered with glassy eyes and a twitching mouth.
It is disappointing. Where Starfield truly shines are in those moments when you stumble upon a drifting wrecked ship, a burnt-out space casino, or an ailing settler huddled in a dark cave. These are stories that unfold organically, allowing you to experience them according to your desires, without being confined to either being the nice guy with overly saccharine phrases or snapping at people like a fourteen-year-old edgelord.
All of this unexpectedly got me excited for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, not only to relive some of those vibrant moments (Brendan, the Delamain storyline, or the romance arc with Judy) but also to experience new ones. The game understandably faced criticism upon its initial release, but over the following months, I fell in love with its world and storytelling. The depth of the characters and the original ideas make Starfield look like a baby's first attempt at science fiction.
Comparing the two is not entirely fair - Starfield allows for a much more organic storytelling approach than Cyberpunk, but I simply can't wait to be shocked, stabbed, and poked in Phantom Liberty instead of being gently and numbly caressed by our good old Todd.