StarField

Starfield is an FPS/RPG set in 2330. It's first original franchise from Bethesda in decades.
80/100112390
Platforms
PC, XBOX X | S
Publisher
Bethesda
Rating
Mature 17+
Genre
FPS, RPG, Sandbox, Sci-Fi
Release date
September 6, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Gameplay
90%
Graphics/Visuals
85%
Sound/Music
75%
Story/Narrative
70%
Replayability
90%
Performance and Tech Issues
85%
Non-Wokeness
65%
Rating Summary
Starfield marks Bethesda's return to single-player open-world RPGs, immersing players in a space-faring adventure filled with mysteries, battles, and choices that impact the fate of mankind. The game introduces a fresh UI and tight FPS controls, offering multiple play styles and a unique skill progression system. While space combat is well-executed, players may encounter crashes and clunky shipbuilding. The game also incorporates "woke" elements, including mandatory pronoun selection and an emphasis on same sex romantic options and anti-capitalist narratives in the storylines.

Bethesda’s long-awaited return to single-player open-world RPGs, Starfield takes players to the stars to solve mysteries, do battle, and try to survive an existential threat to mankind. Will you be a pirate or fight them? Will you save the universe or leave it to its fate? As the player, you will decide everything except whether or not to announce your pronouns.

Platform Reviewed:

PC

Build:

NVidia RTX 3090 Founder’s Edition (not overclocked)

32 GB DDR3 2666

Intel Core i7 4.4 GHz

Windows 10 22H2

Samsung EVO 970 SSD

XBOX One Wired Gamepad


The Good:

  • Tight FPS controls
  • Fresh UI (not just re-skinned Fallout)
  • Multiple play styles (explore everything, just chase the dot, bit of both)
  • Clever hybrid progression system
  • Boost packs!
  • Space combat is simple but well-implemented

The Bad:

  • Still crashes whether you need it or not like every other Bethesda game
  • Shipbuilder is clunky and poorly documented
  • Gets boring traversing empty landscapes
  • Missions get super repetitive towards the end

The Ugly:

  • Suffers from a mild infection of the “Woke Mind Virus.”

 

Starfield

Mysterious artifacts are being discovered all over the known systems. They bend gravity and distort space, and for you, the player, they impart unintelligible visions, but their true nature and purpose are unknown. However, when brought together, they respond to one another like pieces of a whole. As you search for the artifacts, you’ll encounter exotic landscapes and hostile alien wildlife, navigate asteroid fields, and political intrigue with equal peril. You’ll shoot, talk, or sneak your way in and out of danger until the assembled artifacts bring you face-to-face with the ultimate decision not just about your own fate but the fate of mankind itself in this expansive star-faring adventure.

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Starfield is an open-world first-person shooter (FPS) and role-playing game (RPG) set in a post-Earth future where mankind has spread to the stars and brought all his faults and virtues along for the ride. Player choice takes center stage in this epic galaxy-spanning adventure, where players will create their own custom avatar, buy, build, and modify their own spaceships, build their own settlements, and forge their own way across hundreds of planets on the ground in zero gravity and in space according to their own play style. Players will have to decide between combat, diplomacy, deception, or stealth as they navigate the epic narrative toward its galactic conclusion.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

The first thing that stands out is the new user interface (UI). While it has some similarities to the Elder Scrolls and Fallout UI, it feels very fresh. The circular display in the lower left shows health, O2, and local gravity (as well as adverse conditions, if there are any). Stamina is now displayed as O2, and it depletes if you sprint or try to run while carrying too much mass. This is, of course, affected by gravity in a somewhat intuitive way, but it opens up more player choice than simply making it so you can’t run if you’re over-encumbered.

The first-person shooter controls are very well implemented – the best I’ve ever seen from Bethesda. They’re tight and snappy and give you a sense of accuracy that was definitely lacking in Bethesda’s prior efforts.

Starfield’s skill progression is a pretty clever hybrid of the “do it to learn it” and the “spend skill points to learn it.” You spend skill points to unlock a skill and additional skill points to upgrade the skill, but in between each level, you have to complete a challenge before you’re allowed to upgrade. For example, to get from “Pistols 1” to “Pistols 2” you have to kill 10 enemies with a pistol.

The skill system seems designed for specialization, as there were only enough earnable points to unlock about 12% of the skills on the first play-through.

Eventually, you’ll gain the ability to build a settlement – which is a sort of home base you can use to store things and create a custom set of facilities. This is an optional activity – the game never requires you to build one. If Minecraft, Factorio, and other “builder” games appeal to you, settlement building can be a great diversion from questing.

Getting Around

In one of Bethesda’s more novel decisions, gravity plays a large part in how you’re able to explore. Go somewhere with low gravity, and you can suddenly jump ten feet in the air. Travel to somewhere with high gravity, and your character can barely get off the ground. Boost packs, a kind of power-assisted jump, also open up a lot of vertical possibilities – everything from restoring your ability to jump in high gravity to nearly being able to fly in low gravity.

The world of Starfield is pretty large – there are hundreds of planets orbiting 120 stars and a lot of ways to get around. Once you’ve visited a place, you can usually fast-travel back to it, and you can fast-travel from nearly anywhere. However, getting there the first time can sometimes feel more like a chore than an adventure. Overland, you’re often traversing almost completely empty landscapes for 10-20 minutes at a time. Additionally, Interstellar travel can be almost as bad. You’re often forced to stop off at unexplored star systems on your way somewhere else. Sometimes you get attacked or sucked into a side quest when you go to these places, but just as often, there’s nothing really there, and it’s just a waste of time.

Space is the Place

The spaceship combat controls are straightforward and intuitive. There’s an element of strategy to transferring power between systems – do you want to risk weaker shields so your lasers can do more damage? 

You can upgrade and customize your ships, but it feels like a half-baked experience. For example, nearly every ship comes pre-installed with weapons and reactors that are superior to anything the vendors had to sell. The ship-building interface is about as intuitive as AutoCAD, and for some reason, there is no tutorial explaining how exactly to use it. 

There’s a point in the game where the player is forced to use the shipbuilder to attach some new components to a ship, but the game does nothing to explain how. Of course, the Internet is your friend in this situation, but it’s still a glaring oversight in the design.

Black, White, and Gray

There’s a pirates vs. navy faction questline that defines the whole Starfield experience. It offers mystery, intrigue, exploration, danger, and a huge payoff. However, where it truly shines is the tricky choice at the end. Moral conundrums are a staple of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles. In the first games, players had to choose from ideologically disparate factions. It wasn’t a matter of which faction was the most good or the most evil that made the choices hard; that part was obvious. What made the choice hard was whether you wanted your character to be good or evil.

With each successive game in those series, the writers messed with that formula by populating opposite factions with equally awful people. By Fallout 4, every faction was evil in some way. By contrast, the factions in Starfield are morally distinct. For instance, the pirates aren’t misunderstood heroes fighting for freedom, and the navy isn’t a group of secretly corrupt warmongers; you know exactly which side you’re choosing when you make the choice. This is a much-needed return to form for anyone sick of being asked to choose between the proverbial turd sandwich and giant douche.

The Bethesda CTD Shuffle

An RTX 3090 should have had zero difficulty running this game in 1080p without HDR, but there are still areas of the game where performance visibly bogs. Crash to desktop (CTD) frequency was about what we’ve come to expect from Bethesda – about 15 to 20 times during about a 40-hour playthrough. The only other major performance issue or bug encountered was that multiple lines of dialogue or other audio would run concurrently – sometimes, it was impossible to make out the one you were supposed to be listening to.

In Summary

The main plot of the game is imaginative, if a little predictable. Without offering any spoilers, the most noteworthy aspect of it is the way they managed to incorporate the concept of “New Game+” into the central narrative. 

There’s a spark of discovery that hasn’t been evident since Oblivion, where you notice something as you walk past on your way to the next part of your mission and think, “Hey, what’s that?” and two hours later, you’ve had so much fun exploring you’ve almost forgotten about your original mission. You can “just follow the dot” if that’s all you want, or you can dive in and get lost in an enormous game world.

Starfield is a worthy addition to the Bethesda family of celebrated first-person RPGs and manages to simultaneously represent a return to form and something fresh. It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend it because of the woke elements, but it’s undeniably a good time.

 

WOKE ELEMENTS

While the woke elements in Starfield initially got a lot of press, they are not terribly distracting, and you can play a good portion of the game without them being thrown in your face or reinforced.

Trans Agenda:

  • Character creation is 99% typical fare, with the exception that there’s now a non-optional pronoun selection requirement. You are forced to select preferred pronouns in order to continue, which includes the choices “he/him, she/her, ” and ” they/them.” No “zey/zim” or “clown/clownself” silliness, thankfully – at least not as of the release version. The game will no longer use female pronouns for your female avatar without being explicitly told to do so. As seldom as this actually comes up in the game’s dialogue, it would have been just as easy to never use pronouns to refer to the player character at all. Although subtle, this is absolutely an intentional encroachment against players who will not answer that question in real life because of the matter of conscience that it represents. 
  • While this is more of a comment about the community than the game, it bears mentioning that when a modder attempted to provide players the ability to skip this dialogue question, there was immediate vitriolic backlash. Nexus Mods instantly de-listed the mod, and the gaming press spent several subsequent days tripping over themselves trying to outdo each other with virtue-signaling declarations that anger and hatred were self-evident in the mere desire not to be forced to select pronouns and that such a desire was objectively bigoted. Perhaps Google just hid all of the contrary opinions, but there were no apparent publications or platforms that considered the possibility that not wanting to promote egregious self-harm and the destruction of women’s private spaces also comes from a place of compassion for fellow humans.

 

Gay Agenda:

  • Companions, which are non-player characters (NPCs) that fight alongside you, are largely optional but required for certain parts of the game. Some companions have romance options as you establish a relationship with them. Unfortunately, this isn’t like Total Recall, where they only ask you once what your sexual preference is. The game will repeatedly offer up same-sex romance options if your companion is the same gender as your player character. In one playthrough as a male character, the main male companion dialogue offered roughly five times as many opportunities to “[Flirt]” compared with that of the main female companion. If Bethesda really added a pronoun option for the purpose of supporting player choice, they should also add a choice that disables non-preferred romance options.
  • Romantic relationships make up only a small part of the game’s story threads, but the ratio of homosexual to heterosexual relationships between NPCs is about 3:2, and the heterosexual relationships are all defined by some sort of toxicity.

 

Anti-Capitalism:

  • Giving specific examples would involve spoilers, but suffice it to say that when the game explores the subject of capitalism, every executive business leader is painted as a greedy, unempathetic, murderous sociopath who lacks self-awareness. At least when Outer Worlds did this, it was tongue-in-cheek. Here, it’s as though the writers take it for gospel that that’s what every large business is actually like.

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Simon Westen

Simon is a science fiction author, tech blogger and retro gaming enthusiast. He lives in the US Midwest with his two sons and wife of 26 years. Though he doesn't consider it a religion, he is unabashedly Christian. His heritage is primarily Native American and Scott/Irish. He is an outspoken libertarian (in belief, not necessarily in party) and values the principles of freedom and individual sovereignty above all else.

11 comments

  • M.A. Taylor

    October 31, 2023 at 9:29 am

    5 out of 5

    Good review, but there is one woke element you didn’t mention: Girl bosses. They are everywhere. When you first start the game; the first characters you meet are Asian girl-boss and her bisexual foreman. Go to constellation – Lead by girl-boss Sarah and her stem poc sidekick. Leader of the UC? Female poc girl-boss. You find girl power posters everywhere. I even found a coffee mug that says, “Never Apologize for being a Powerful F*#king Woman”, (don’t believe me, google it.)

    Any males in a position of power is either evil, questionably competent, or a person of color.

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    • Kent

      November 1, 2023 at 3:04 pm

      Don’t say ‘person of color’, that’s woke talk. Just say a black or Mexican

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      • M.A. Taylor

        November 1, 2023 at 5:27 pm

        True, but with Starfield it often difficult to tell what ethnicity many of the NPC’s are. Many of them are so ugly it’s easy to question if they are even human. I could have used Mongoloid instead I suppose.

        Reply

  • Simon Westen

    October 31, 2023 at 9:56 am

    5 out of 5

    Thanks for the feedback. I definitely see where you’re coming from, but want to explain why I didn’t pick that particular bone. Our criteria for girl boss being Woke isn’t simply that there are women in positions of authority, but when this is grossly disproportionate to reality and when it’s justified by depicting males as unfit for leadership roles. Starfield does have a good number of women in positions of authority, however in my experience it was not completely disproportionate to reality, and the females in these positions of power were also depicted as flawed and unfit or unworthy of their roles – Masako Imada being one example. There were also several male bosses which were not toxic or incompetent. The leader of the Crimson Fleet is male, and very competent. While he’s an unapologetic criminal, he’s also very self aware and acknowledges as much. The leader of the UC Vanguard is also male, competent, self aware and, as far as the game is concerned, a man of integrity. While you’re correct, Sarah is the “Chair” of Constellation, the organization is run more like a collective with decisions often being led or even made by other members of the group, including Barrett, Sam and Walter, and often directly against what Sarah would obviously prefer, so, for me anyway, she did not come across as a girl boss.

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  • CE

    November 3, 2023 at 5:36 pm

    5 out of 5

    Bro this should be marked Woke not Woke-ish and definitely not “Worth It”. Sorry but gay couples/nps, girl bosses, ugly people everywhere and pronoun bs made this unplayable … and I loved all their other games. We play games to escape … this game makes an art form out of destroying that. Pure garbage and so glad I was able to return my copy on Steam and get my money back.

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  • Goqul

    November 4, 2023 at 9:23 am

    5 out of 5

    I heard it’s one of the wokest games ever made. I have been hearing the same from a lot of conservative YouTubers, but it’s a bit shocking to see why you have categorized it as woke-ish instead of woke. It should have been evident as soon as you come across the “pick your pronouns” screen. The reasons you’ve listed are alone enough to prove that this game is clearly woke. I’d like to read a Spider-Man 2 review if you’re interested in making one. I played the game, and that one’s got plenty of woke bs too.

    Reply

    • Micheal Everton

      November 6, 2023 at 10:20 am

      Well , all one has to do is look at and listen to creator Todd Howard. He is a poster boy for woke. He comes from the same social species stratosphere as do other wokeriffic organisms. Even before Starfield’s release critics called it and foresaw the wokery that was to come. Starfield is Todd’s baby. Every mother will nurture her baby in her likeness.

      Reply

  • Simon Westen

    November 5, 2023 at 7:50 am

    5 out of 5

    The title of “wokest game ever made” still belongs to The Last of Us Part II. If you read our criteria for what makes something “woke” vs “woke-ish”, it comes down to how pervasive and distracting it is. Are they slapping you in the face with pronouns, DEI rhetoric, homosexuality normalization, anti-capitalism incessantly? Are they making you play as someone who’s “diverse” and reminding you about it every five minutes or every time there’s a cutscene? Or if you let them get their slogans out of the way and check their boxes is there still some substance underneath it that makes the game seem almost normal most of the time you’re playing it? Starfield is definitely more of the latter and less of the former.

    But I digress; we’re dealing with subjectivity here and there’s no way to avoid it. Everyone is going to have a different level of sensitivity to these things, so while I stand by the “woke-ish” rating for Starfield, I do understand why you might disagree, and as you pointed out, by giving you facts the review should allow you to make your own judgement about whether you consider those things full-on woke.

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  • James Paul

    November 5, 2023 at 10:31 pm

    5 out of 5

    What a coincidence. I tried playing Starfield today for the third time until wokeness hit again and I quit. I was searching for a gaming version of “worth it or woke” site but couldn’t find any and was wondering if this site would start doing game reviews anytime soon. What a wonderful surprise when I got the email notification today!

    Thanks a lot for the detailed review and insights. Gaming is the only escape from the sad reality we’re living in these days and I’m really not able to tolerate much wokeness in games since it destroys immersion. I classify Starfield as woke, although I have only 7 hours on it.

    Please keep the good work, I really wish we had more content like this site on the internet.

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  • richard c klueg

    November 7, 2023 at 8:56 am

    5 out of 5

    Good review, and I agree with the “woke-ish” designation. Those elements are tacked on and generally easy to ignore as I go ahead and play things out. Actually, since it is a role-playing game, I play the role of a man who rolls his eyes and disapproves in the rare instances those elements intrude, … and just move along in the gameplay.

    Another element not mentioned was how religion is handled. The player is given the choice to express belief in God (who is left largely undefined), or to express religious skepticism. There are characters in the game who are serious about their religion, and you need to interact with them. Again, as you role play, it is open enough that the player may attribute his own stance to the character.

    Reply

  • Timnath

    November 22, 2023 at 10:31 am

    A couple woke items I couldn’t stop laughing at were the 40% obesity rate among the general population, and one of the main characters being a black Russian.

    Reply

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