We need to talk about Starfield's mission "Titanfall 2."
Starfield tells a great story, but even the biggest fans would have a hard time denying that the main quest mostly consists of artificial fetch quests...
Starfield tells a great story, but even the biggest fans would have a hard time denying that the main quest mostly consists of artificial fetch quests and similar firefights. Aside from what you're fighting for and who you're doing it with, Starfield doesn't particularly inspire with its quest design. Apart from a gripping heist mission in Neon, the absolute best mission in Bethesda's role-playing game comes from a very unlikely source - Titanfall 2.
"Entangled" is a story mission that takes you to the Nikila Research Station on a planet that seems like any other. You're here to find an artifact for Constellation, and I expected it to come down to landing, finding a cave, and stealing the space rock for the umpteenth time from a mineral deposit. But as I fly into orbit, a nearby satellite emits a distress signal that has been repeating for years.
I land and approach the intercom to offer my assistance, only to hear that nothing is wrong and the call must be an elaborate prank. Strange, but I push that aside and enter to speak with the responsible scientist of the facility. After a few steps, my whole world is turned upside down.
Moments after I introduced myself, I begin to flicker between different universes. Suddenly, the pristine scientific facility becomes a creepy collection of insect nests and destroyed offices. All the people I previously encountered have been reduced to skeletons sitting at their desks or hunched over counters, as if they were killed within seconds while going about their daily routines.
I fight against hostile creatures emerging from the walls and desperately search for an escape until, in an instant, I am safely back inside the facility. The man accompanying me is appropriately confused and asks why I was teleporting around the place like some sort of clandestine high-tech thief. It turns out there is a fairly plausible explanation, and this mission will soon follow in the footsteps of Titanfall 2's "Effect and Cause," as we explore the same location from two very different realities. One is safe and full of life, while the other is now just a shell of what it once was.
The jumping between dimensions happens randomly until you gain access to a device that allows you to do it at will. Not with the push of a button, but by seeking out resonance sources in the environment that serve as puzzle-solving elements and help avoid close encounters with giant insects and bloodthirsty robots. Your task is to reach the underground lab and put an end to the strange experiment causing this dimensional confusion by choosing which reality to save before it collapses. It's a great moral dilemma and a mechanical marvel that one would never expect in a Bethesda game. Only once does Starfield venture into something so unexpected, and it works wonderfully, with the dimension jumps lasting only a second as you encounter the same objects and puzzles in each variation, albeit in different states of destruction.
I often found myself in front of a door blocked by debris or facing an alarm system ready to unleash an army of turrets upon me. However, by jumping into another dimension, I could stay out of harm's way and find paths through the facility that would have otherwise remained undiscovered. I enjoyed how the loot doubled when I was clever enough to jump around at the right time, and how I could attempt to find individual solutions that no other player might have seen before. It's not just fun; it's also an outstanding example of environmental storytelling, showcasing the game's strength in handcrafted level design instead of a mundane procedural generation system. Only a human hand could have created this, with every object, corpse, and puzzle piece placed with a specific purpose.
The possibility of taking control of environments that would otherwise appear static in an RPG is extremely liberating and speaks to an approach in level design and storytelling that I wished to see more of in Starfield. I expected this quest to be yet another dull artifact hunt, but it evolved into one of the best levels I've seen this year. It constantly surprised me, required inventive solutions, and never once treated me like an idiot.
I could delve deep into the root cause of this dilemma if I wanted to, or instead draw my own conclusions from each new room I stumbled upon. It wasn't a bland task of searching or another forgettable combat encounter, and by drawing inspiration from one of the best shooters of recent years, Starfield managed to create something we have never seen before from Bethesda.