Starfield is a pretty good game and one I can enjoy, but it is ONLY a pretty good game. It has missed the mark of being a great game. I came to the realization that they structured the game expecting us to play it again on a New Game plus mode, but I don’t think I’ll end up doing that. In fact, I’ve started granting myself extra skill points using the game console, just so I can experience enough of the game in this first playthrough to try everything out so I don’t have to play it over and again.
I’ve been enjoying the overall story and several of the side quests. The NPC interactions are fine and there are plenty of interesting characters to meet. I won’t say I completely agree with some of their decisions regarding the main NPCs and the story, but it is overall an interesting ride. There is plenty to do in the game and several quest chains like the corporate spy chain that I may leave for some other day. There are lots of little side bits to find and chase down should I choose to do so. The game isn’t merely a sandbox, I have purpose and meaning in what I do and who I meet. In that way this game is far superior to space sandboxes like No Man’s Sky.
So what do I think makes the game miss the mark of greatness? Why don’t I want to play it on New Game Plus mode? Little things add up over time that make the game feel less than polished, less than finished, and lacking in several quality of life features that would make playing it smoother and less frustrating. It has some great views, just like my penthouse apartment, but in many ways I can’t comfortably inhabit it.
Take ship building and modifying for example. I dabbled in it a bit, but it was just so clunky that I didn’t enjoy the time spent trying to updated an existing ship. I can’t even imagine putting in a bunch of time trying to create a ship, only to lose that time to unresolvable errors. It isn’t just that there is a lot of trial and error involved in figuring things out, as far as I can tell it is an all or nothing process. You can’t create a blueprint, save it, and then use that to put the pieces together later, assuming you can even find all of them in a single shipyard. I don’t enjoy trying to upgrade my ships either because I am not far enough along in their skill up mini game to have access to upgrades. I finally cheated in some skill points to unlock Ship Design and Ship Engineering, only to find out that I have to kludge my way through several upgrades to rank it up. I’ll probably use the console commands again to cheat my way into being able to accomplish what I want to.
Base building and apartment decorating are equally clunky and frustrating. They feel tacked on to the game and sadly lacking in fine tuned controls. I have been saving a bunch of nifty mementos and decorations picked up in my travels for the day I could use them to decorate an apartment or a base. First of all, you have to drop them on the floor and I’ve had several of them vanish through the floor. Then you have to try to get them to fit onto shelves in places like the bathroom. I stopped trying to decorate the kitchen counters, bathroom shelves or put anything on tables. After a plethora of “floating” error messages, I’ve simply given up.
I’m not especially OCD, but the rotation method of placing furniture and workstations, where nothing lines up with walls and getting it to rotate the amount you want, is painful. I’ve just given up on placing workstations inside habitat buildings and thrown them on the ground outside willy-nilly. I’ve already mentioned several times how odd it is that they only gave us one type of door, and it is an airlock. I kept thinking that if I updated my outpost skills and research, I’d get to build some of the more interesting buildings I’ve seen in cities and outposts. As far as I can tell we have a very limited set of habitats regardless of research. I’ve played plenty of small indie games where you build housing, and all of them have managed to provide a grid, snapping options and decoration hooks.
Then we have weird bugs, like people walking around in their underwear. Or quests in the log with markers pointing to NPCs who won’t talk to us. I regularly have to log out and back in because invisible people are using my workstations and blocking access. After one initial cargo run, my cargo ship just sits on the pad not doing anything. I’m also pretty sure that thermal values for apparel and spacesuits are of no value, because it doesn’t matter how much I improve my thermal stats, I end up with frostbite ALL the freaking time. Heaven forbid we actually needed these suits to protect us from the cold of space. And forget about having your own sealed air supply, you still get toxic gas if you walk to close to vents. I had to use console commands to get rid of a persistent Freezing Rain debuff. I have to scroll through SO MUCH CRAP just to find medicines to fix random environmental damage. The inventory system needs a lot of work and ways to sort, filter, subdivide and split out food from meds.
Our main companions say some really nice things and interact with the world around us and around them in some interesting ways, but after a while it actually becomes jarring to hear the same soundtrack repeat. If they are going to inhabit the space around us and talk a lot, they need to have a LOT more to say. And please, make your active, non romance, companion stop being a creeper and stand right next to your bed when you wake up from a nap. As for romance, as Cora said (before she just walked out of the house), weddings are boring and you don’t get a honeymoon. Not that any game really gets romance completely right or avoids awkward interactions, but this was kind of anti-climactic. I had to cheat in my own fancy clothes too, but I couldn’t get rid of that damn hat.
As I said, it is the little things that keep this game from being a great, high-quality experience. They aren’t enough to prevent it from being an enjoyable and interesting game overall, but it missed the mark in several ways. Once I’m done with the majority of the quests, and finally build my beach house inside a security perimeter of enough turrets to actually work, I’ll be done playing this for a while. I’m also going to cheat unlock some of the skill ranks because seriously, the way they do the skill up process works for some skills, but really doesn’t work for others. And we don’t get enough skill points to dabble in things like botany. I’ll probably be willing to pick it up again someday when they put in snap to grid and actual sliding doors, but I’m not clamoring to do a NG+ anytime soon. At least I do intend to finish playing through the entire story, which puts it ahead of The Outer Worlds.