Starfield shines the brightest when it plays with the genre
Occasionally, while engrossed in playing Starfield, I find myself contemplating the intricacies of Black Mirror. Black Mirror has long held my admirat...
Occasionally, while engrossed in playing Starfield, I find myself contemplating the intricacies of Black Mirror. Black Mirror has long held my admiration, owing to its profound ability to depict science fiction narratives from a multitude of perspectives and themes. We have witnessed utopias and dystopias, scrutinized through numerous lenses, and critiqued a multitude of social issues, such that the versatility of the series no longer astounds me. We traverse across genres, ranging from horror to romance, drama to comedy. The anthology format of Black Mirror stands as one of its greatest strengths, as it exudes a remarkable flexibility, enabling exploration of a vast array of stories and universes.
Starfield is not so dissimilar. Due to the sheer vastness of its galaxy and the multitude of possibilities to encounter the unexpected within the expanse of space or across the far-reaching stretches of planetary surfaces, there are countless opportunities to astonish and captivate. The game accomplishes this in several evident ways - the planet Akila unmistakably toys with the notion of a space western, while Neon clearly embodies a more cyberpunk-inspired interpretation of science fiction.
However, I find the greatest joy within the game when its quests exhibit the audacity to deviate from the confines of pure science fiction. Just last week, I relinquished the role-playing aspect within the game, as I realized that by adhering to a virtuous character who sought to minimize harm, I was being severed from a significant portion of the gameplay content. Instantaneously, I affiliated myself with every faction within my reach and embarked on quest after quest, and it was during the inaugural grand UC Vanguard mission that I was utterly taken aback.
Naturally, I had already heard about this mission, as many individuals have written about it, but here is the summary: While visiting the UC Vanguard Museum in Jemison, prior to being inducted as a member, one comes across an immense figure of a Terrormorph, a biological weapon created during the Colonial Wars. This entity bears resemblance to a Xenomorph with a hint of Fallout's Deathclaw. It is colossal, repulsive, and, befitting its name, quite terrifying. Shortly thereafter, you are dispatched on a trial mission and set off towards a processing facility on Tau Ceti II to investigate the disruption in communication.
What you encounter is a scene straight out of a horror film. Corpses are strewn about, blood smeared across the floor, and the entire facility lays in ruins. Someone or something has fought its way through the establishment, leaving almost every person there lifeless. It is a scene of carnage. Then, from somewhere deep within the facility, you hear a chilling, inhuman scream. Through an intercom, someone instructs you to open a door on the second floor and avoid something that can hear every step you take. Your blood runs cold. Slowly and quietly, you venture inside.
Inside, a researcher named Hadrian informs you that a Terrormorph has inexplicably appeared in this settlement, against all odds, and has killed everyone. Your task is to obtain a tissue sample from it to determine how this is possible. However, that means you will have to kill it. It was at this point that fear began to grip me - I did not want to face this colossal creature, and I certainly did not want to do it alone. But Hadrian insisted that they needed to stay behind to activate the security systems, which would then activate the defense turrets. Meanwhile, you must venture forth and adjust the terminal to the correct frequency for the defense turrets to function. Convenient for them.
I comply with their instructions, and suddenly, the facility plunges into darkness. It is a security measure, indicating that the beast is on the move. Through a window, I witness the Terrormorph mercilessly tearing apart a creature. In that moment, without hesitation, I retreat. "You do it," I say to my partner, who has been watching me all along. I toss the controller aside and swiftly exit the room. Through the door, I hear them gasp, then scream in fear, and then scream once more. When I return, the Terrormorph lies lifeless, and I thank God that I didn't have to do it myself.
Starfield's utilization of classic horror tropes in this instance is by far one of the most intriguing things it has done - science fiction can only go so far when one refuses to play with the tools at hand. Starfield is a sandbox game, and with so many worlds, there are countless opportunities for entertaining and clever genre-twisting. I never expected my silly police job to lead me to have to kill terrifying, murderous beasts, but here we are. I was so unsettled that I had to leave the room, and for that alone, Starfield has earned my reluctant respect. At least for now, I'll let Starfield continue to accompany me on its journey.