Why I Won't Be Playing Starfield

Why I Won't Be Playing Starfield

Bethesda: It’s not you, it’s not me… it’s both of us

Image credit: Bethesda

After years and years of hype and build-up, Bethesda's latest epic and one of the most highly anticipated games of the year is nearly upon us, with Starfield officially dropping on September 6, while people who pre-ordered the game are already playing - and by most accounts, loving Starfield, as reviews have also rolled in.

Currently sitting at an 88% average on Metacritic (meaning it ranks in the top 10 average PC game scores of the year), a quick scan of reviews has me asking one question - why? Why is this game scoring such high scores when some reviews more or less saying “yep… it’s a Bethesda game… AGAIN”.

Now what do I mean by that? Well, as someone who has been playing Bethesda games since the launch of Morrowind in 2002 (after which I also retroactively checked out Arena and Daggerfall), I’ve been playing their games for over two decades now and I’m left wondering - how is anybody still enjoying the “Bethesda model”, i.e. an overly ambitious, bug-filled RPG packed with forgettable, tedious sidequests, pointless loot and a milquetoast story.

In an age when Ubisoft are openly ridiculed for bloated open world games that recycle the “Ubisoft Formula” (with Assassin's Creed the main offender), I fail to see how this doesn’t also apply to Bethesda, whose innovation and creativity has been steadily waning for the last 20 years and seemingly peaked with Morrowind.

Let’s take the Elder Scrolls series as an example - with each successive entry, it seems that mystery and deep mechanics are being stripped out in favour of flashy spectacles, vast (often empty and largely pointless) open worlds and a general appeal to the mainstream consumer rather than long term gamers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of that, and Bethesda would be stupid to turn around and make some niche turn based simulation game or something else with minimal crossover appeal, but I just wish they would go back to their spirit of two decades ago.

A counterpoint to Bethesda could be seen to be From Software, the makers of Dark Souls, Elden Ring, Armored Core and more. The leap from Dark Souls to Elden Ring struck the perfect balance between innovation and familiarity, taking the Souls formula to a whole new level of exploration and freedom.

Meanwhile, Bethesda could be compared to Hungry Jacks/Burger King… if they only made Whoppers, with Starfield the latest “ultra deluxe double something something whopper”, joining a whole host of other Whopper variations… and after decades of Whoppers, I just want a new burger, which I also acknowledge is a completely subjective & taste based decision. With reviews calling Starfield “Fallout 3 in space”, “Skyrim in space” and “It takes what people loved about Fallout and Skyrim, and casts it across an enormous galaxy”, I’m not saying Starfield is a bad game per se, I’m just heading to a different restaurant.

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