Starfield's Scrutiny Puts Bethesda Under an Interesting Microscope

Starfield's Scrutiny Puts Bethesda Under an Interesting Microscope

Starfieldwas released last year, following a long period of rabid anticipation from all corners of the gaming ecosystem. But it did not land to the rapturous applause that many expected, instead meeting a more muted reception. Things may change with the release of Starfield's Shattered Space DLC this fall, but for now, it is not the universally acclaimed, earth-shaking hit that it was touted as.

Make no mistake, Starfield has many strengths. Its combat is easily the strongest of any Bethesda RPG, it has some lovely and original art design and a fairly strong main campaign. But it simply hasn't reached the heights of something like Fallout 3or Skyrim, which both revolutionized Western RPGs in the era of their release. Players' issues with Starfieldare myriad, but one common thread pops up in criticisms of the game: it doesn't do enough to innovate, technically or from a game design perspective. In many ways, Starfieldfeels like an off-shoot of Falloutor Skyrim, maintaining an iron grip on many of Bethesda's oldest game design conventions.

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As Bethesda's most recent release, Starfield has room to grow, but following in the footsteps of Fallout may be a long way off.

How Starfield Criticism Could Prompt Bethesda to Pivot with Future Titles

Starfield Has Been Picked Apart More than Other Bethesda Game Studios Releases

When Fallout 3was released back in 2007, there wasn't really anything else like it on the market. The same can be said for Skyrimin 2011. Bethesda Game Studios' RPG design, polished since the early days of the Elder Scrollsfranchise, had arguably reached its pinnacle with these games, which offer vast, sweeping freedom and engaging exploration. To top it all off, both games were set against enthralling fictional backdrops, making for immersive, unique narrative experiences.

But they aren't perfect. Much has been said about Bethesda's loose commitment to technical polish and performance, with glitches being a common staple of its biggest titles. But while janky animations and bugs were endearing to Skyrimfans in 2011, the gaming community's tolerance for such things has since dwindled, and Starfield's various technical issues, including an inconsistent framerate, especially on PC, and an assortment of glitches spanning the spectrum from funny to frustrating, haven't been given so much leeway.

Beyond bugs and technical problems, Bethesda's game design fundamentals could perhaps have used a punch-up for Starfield. For instance, Starfield's open-world exploration can feel unrewarding, as much of it is waypoint-driven and requires traversing vast, empty stretches of land to find anything worth engaging in. There's also a bevy of fetch quests and other paint-by-numbers side activities, which can make Starfieldseem bland and not enough of an evolution from the likes of The Elder Scrolls, which many argue has more interesting open-world gameplay due to its denser nature.

Starfield's compartmentalized map design has been the subject of a good bit of criticism, with many arguing that the game isn't truly "open-world," as it requires regular fast traveling and an abundance of loading screens.

Bethesda Game Studios Could Learn from Starfield

Starfieldis a disappointment for many, but it's far from universally disliked. Many gamers will swear up and down that it is one of Bethesda's best games or, at the very least, on par with its other, more well-received projects. In essence, it's not a disaster, and it would make sense for Bethesda to stick to stand by its design choices for future releases. After all, the best games are usually the ones with a strong creative vision, not those that are designed solely around customer feedback and criticism.

At the same time, there's always room for improvement, and it would be a shame for Bethesda to not heed at least some of the more critical voices around Starfield. Taking a hard look at some of Starfield's weaker areas, like its underwhelming exploration, lack of technical polish, and slightly toothless sci-fi world-building, could mean better Elder Scrollsand Falloutgames in the future.

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