Going into Starfield, I was fully ready for a ridiculously woke experience. I think we all knew that was coming, and that’s just whatever. There’s nothing much to say about the fact that virtually every NPC in the game is nonwhite, and that they seem to purposefully make them all as ugly as possible. It is more interesting that, totally outside of anything political, the game is horrible. This follows an ongoing trend of major game studios releasing games that are both very woke and very bad.
I understand that many people don’t want to play a game that is woke, and I would generally agree with that. However, there is no reason, necessarily, that a game being ethnically cleansed of white people would mean it is necessarily a bad game. And yet, every game we’ve seen over the last several years that follows this model just so happens to be a very bad game.
Starfield feels less fresh than Fallout 4, which was released 8 years ago, in 2015. You’d expect something to have improved, and you would expect a company like Bethesda to be attempting to match or surpass the visual fidelity of games being released by other major studios. It’s clear that they did not even try. Instead, the visuals are ostensibly identical to Fallout 4, but it is certainly arguable that the changes that were made make the experience worse. The framerate is worse and the physics somehow seem worse, with the ragdoll mechanics upon death looking like something from the Nintendo 64. Bizarrely, the entire game is covered with some kind of misty blur filter that is designed to distort the graphics and make it less obvious how crappy the textures are.
I am able to think of several games released by small indie studios that look better than Starfield. An obvious comparison that comes to mind is The Ascent.
That game has very different gameplay, but the character models, assets, textures, and so on are all much better than what we see in Bethesda’s latest offering. Although it is a separate issue than graphics per se, the art direction was also much better in The Ascent. A big problem with Starfield is just how bad all the designs are, which comes down to hiring bad artists for the concept art.
Of course, while you expect good graphics from $70 AAA games – and should be able to expect a graphical leap from a major release from a company as established and well-funded as Bethesda – graphics have never been particularly important to me. The garbage quality of the visuals is simply the first thing you notice about how poorly made this game actually is.
Again, there are ostensibly no changes since 2015. That is how the game is presented – “this is a 2015 game being released in 2023. We used the same engine, and basically did everything exactly the same.” But everything about the experience has been downgraded.
In terms of the mechanics, the “RPG style” leveling up system is worse than Fallout 4’s (which was itself worse than Fallout 3’s). The dialogue trees have less varied options.
The quality of the dialogue and voice acting is also significantly worse than that of Fallout 4, with every interaction and every character being so utterly benign as to appear like a parody of “bad Bethesda writing.” Quickly, you realize that nothing any character says in the game is interesting, and that your responses do not matter as the outcomes are the same regardless, so you just start skipping all of the dialogue. It is also tiresome to sit and watch these horrible character models, which do not have any of the expressiveness we’ve gotten used to seeing on characters over the last ten years or so.
It would be impossible for anyone to care about the story. The attempts at world-building are… well, honestly, I don’t even know if you could say there is an attempt at world-building. It’s literally: “Hello, you are the chosen one. Now, let me introduce you to MacGuffin. Become the savior by doing the MacGuffin. Experience more half-assed attempts at boring, dried-out tropes along the way in this tedious retro gaming experience.”
The drop in writing quality from Fallout 4 or Skyrim is astonishing. Both games were glitchy and problematic in a lot of different ways, with stale gameplay even when they were released, but there was a good bit of heart put into the storytelling and world-building. We all likely have good memories of those games, despite their problems. I cannot imagine remembering anything from Starfield.
The writing quality was the most insane part to me. People have been saying that the current version of Bethesda’s Creation Engine was out of date since even before Skyrim was released, so these people obviously knew that they were going to be releasing a game that would not feel new or interesting, especially after the release of games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Elden Ring (or anything else from From), anything Sony has released in the last decade, or even Ubisoft’s very modest, repetitive offerings. It seems that it would be very obvious to make up for graphics/gameplay failings in the writing department, and it is very clear that there was no attempt to do this. The dialogue is like it was written by Indians from Fiverr or pre-ChatGPT AI (ChatGPT could have written dialogue 1,000x better than this).
Starfield’s director, Todd Howard, is certainly aware that Fallout: New Vegas, a game that Bethesda contracted out to indie studio Obsidian, is widely considered to be much better than his own two Fallout games (3&4), primarily because of the superior writing. Josh Sawyer, who directed that game, is still around. Presumably, he could have been hired to write this game. Of course, there is an entire list of writers who would have done something that would have made an impression.
The quality of the art direction is also astonishing. This is another place where creativity could have overcome bad graphics, and it’s like they did not even try. The ships, aliens, buildings, and landscapes are all generic and totally uninspired, again as if they were designed by low quality AI.
I spent a little over two hours with the game, and I am struggling to think of a single positive thing to say about it.
The encumberment meme is real, by the way. I need to let anyone who hasn’t played it yet know that. You are immediately encumbered in this game, and instead of being slowed, like in every other game ever, you start to lose oxygen. I have no idea why they set the starting carry weight so low, but it actually seems as though they wanted to let everyone see this new cool idea they came up with, where when you’re encumbered, instead of slowing down, you lose your oxygen. Then, of course, leveling up your carry capacity gives you a reason to engage with the otherwise pointless leveling system.
Furthermore: this “upper whites of the eyes” thing is also real. These screenshots that are going around everywhere are not even super-selective. Throughout the game, these brown people are walking past you and showing you the upper whites of their eyes.
I don’t know why that is happening. I just can’t even understand how something like that would ever go to press. Needless to say, we didn’t have that in Skyrim or Fallout 4.
Trying to Think of Something Nice…
The mechanics of the spaceship flying are acceptable, I suppose, and wouldn’t necessarily be out of place in a much better game. The shooting also appears tighter than Fallout 4’s shooting, though it is still nowhere up to par with other games in the genre. The best thing I think anyone can say about it is that it was released without the standard level of bugs most Bethesda games are released with. They avoided a Cyberpunk 2077 style debacle, which is apparently now a major achievement for any large non-Japanese studio.
For the record, I think the game is much worse than Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk had all of those tech problems on release, but I went back and tried it a few months ago, and that is all fixed now. It is still a shitty game that is not worth my time, but it looks clean and modern, the world itself is interesting, and the writing quality and voice acting is acceptable. I guess this proves that CD Projekt really did screw themselves by releasing the game before it was finished, rather than by releasing a bad game, because the shill industry press is celebrating Starfield and even the Steam/Metacritic user reviews are nowhere near as bad as they should be.
Starfield proves that a major studio can release a horrible game and as long as it works, people will tolerate it. I’m not really sure how to analyze this. The bought-and-paid-for professional reviewers couldn’t defend Cyberpunk, and maybe it comes down to that – people actually believe this shill press, and it will let them imagine that a game is better than it actually is.
It’s truly incredible what these shills are allowed to get away with.
Honestly, those reviewers should be in prison for fraud.
In the Shadow of Baldur’s Gate 3
I never wrote a review of Baldur’s Gate 3, because I did not want to promote it due to political reasons. I did not agree with the hype surrounding the game, which had to do with the fact that you could make a tranny character. That said, if you do not choose to make a tranny character, there is very little that is objectionable in the game. Certainly, it is less politically charged than Starfield. (It appears as though Wizards of the Coast, who are the owners of the Dungeons & Dragons property whose license the game uses, came in after the game was finished and demanded that some tranny stuff be added, so they tacked it onto the character creation.)
It is also six million times better than Starfield. Despite the fact it was released by a relatively small studio, Larian, Baldur’s Gate has graphics that are so vastly superior to Starfield that you would assume that a lot more than a decade passed between the development of the two games. Larian motion-captured the characters, giving them all very lifelike movement and facial expressions which stand in such stark contrast to the uncanny valley people of Starfield as to be almost unbelievable.
BG3’s RPG mechanics are something no one has ever seen before, where there are seemingly millions of different paths you could take and wind up with totally different story outcomes. Everything about the world is interesting. The writing is on par with the best novels. And they took the time to hire a team of professional actors to voice the characters, which, combined with the motion capture and dynamic camera angles during conversations and cut scenes, makes the whole experience feel like a real movie.
The fact that Starfield still has that system of characters standing right in front of you, talking directly at you like a headshot – something that has existed at least since Fallout 1 in 1997 – is almost unbelievable.
Just go ahead and take a minute to compare this:
This is the only thing Starfield’s garbage 1990s dialogue system has going for it:
It would be impossible to go through a full list of the places where Larian bodied Bethesda with a game in the RPG genre released within the same time window. I think the combat system in BG3 is much more fun and interesting, but that is really personal preference (some people like first person shooting). But the biggest differences all come down to the level of immersion you feel, which is certainly the goal of an RPG.
We can consider the companions system. The companions system in Baldur’s Gate 3 is incredible, where you actually feel like you are traveling with a group of adventurers who have personalities and contribute to the story as well as being a crucial part of combat.
In Starfield, the situation is very different. The fact that they maintained the same companions system, without any changes, is also incredible. You talk to this character that is following you around, and they repeat the same dialogue over and over, and then when you end the conversation, they say “goodbye,” before following along behind you. They are just as useless as they always were in combat, and serve as nothing but an annoyance. They do not contribute anything. I don’t know if they’re going to show back up, but within my first 3 hours with the game, I’ve left both the main female character (English accent, I don’t know her name) and the robot character on planets to die without even realizing that it had happened.
All of the missions in BG3 are interesting, and even throwaway side quests serve some purpose in the larger whole of the story, connecting to other parts of the adventure. In Starfield, every quest is “hi, I’m so and so generic NPC, and I have such and such a generic problem. Can you kill someone for me? Oh, good, you killed them. Now you can join my group, and I will tell you to kill others. There’s some kind of ranking system or something. I hope you like going to locations and then returning to other locations afterward, because you’ll be doing a lot of that, random stranger I just met.”
You Only Have So Many Hours in Your Life
With anything you spend time doing, you always have to remember that there are only so many hours in your life. Boomers would say – while literally watching TV commercials in between their sports game ball-chucking scenes on TV – that all video games are a waste of time. I disagree. We need relaxation and entertainment, and video games are fine for that. Some people get addicted and play too much, but that happens with anything. As a basic matter, there’s nothing wrong with having video games as a hobby.
However, the time you spend gaming should also enrich you in some way, whether it’s by challenging your reflexes or strategic thinking abilities, or by telling you an interesting and thought-provoking story. Starfield doesn’t do any of that. It feels purposefully and maliciously mind-numbing, as if it exists only to waste time. I can’t imagine anyone with something else to do playing this game, so it therefore must be designed for people with nothing else to do.
I might spend another couple of hours on it, just for the sake of better understanding what exactly is going on here, and because the “holy shit, I just can’t even believe it” factor is worth something to me. However, this is a game that is asking for dozens or hundreds of hours of your life, and if that is something you’re willing to give to this game, you really need to reflect on why it is that you don’t have something better to do with that time.