Starfield‘s long-awaited reveal has shown that Bethesda is pulling out all the stops for their new sci-fi RPG, but is the game doomed to repeat history and fall into a similar trap to No Man’s Sky, and even Fallout 76, destroying Bethesda’s legacy in the process?
One of the gameplay features that has caught the eye significantly is the game’s ship incorporation. In Starfield, players will have the ability to create and fly ships to engage in heated combat, explore space, and reach a litany of varied planets.
However, it won’t just be a tiny sprinkling of new lands to explore — Bethesda climbed to the top of the mountain and proudly proclaimed that Starfield will have in excess of 1,000 planets to seek out, settle upon, and scavenge. This feels eerily familiar, and if Bethesda isn’t careful, they could end up damaging Starfield, and their own reputation for good.
Is Starfield the new No Man’s Sky?
It’s the age-old argument of quality over quantity and this is precisely the problem that Dying Light 2 faced earlier this year when the devs boasted about the game having 500+ hours of content, and many people, ourselves included, debated about the practicality of this.
There’s no finer example than Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky which was hyped up to the moon to be the ultimate sci-fi discovery game as you sought to uncover the fascinating wonders of the game’s 18 quintillion planets (and that’s not an exaggeration).
Ultimately, reviewers found most planets to be uninspired, devoid of any life, and repetitive, with a fading sense of curiosity as the game wore on.
During Bethesda’s presentation of Starfield, Todd Howard, Bethesda’s Executive Producer, and Game Director stated that there were “over 100 systems, over 1,000 planets” and that he and Bethesda “Can’t wait to see what you find.”
Therein lies the problem. The stigma of “many planets to explore” and “too much content” already exists and that precedent instantly casts a seed of doubt in the minds of potential buyers.
A person is realistically going to struggle to fully explore every planet. Bethesda is known for its rich world-building moxie and desire to get players to explore every facet of their creation.
No Man’s Sky had practically infinite planets, but they were probably very similar in terms of enemies, and resources, and varied slightly in their terrain.
You can’t do that with Starfield. Now, there’s an argument to be had that this will encourage the community to bound together as 1,000 planets can easily be accomplished if the game sells well, and secrets can be shared on the internet.
But is that how we have to enjoy a game? Let other players explore it for us?
The official reveal naturally threw up a few planets for us to see in action, particularly, some key ones with missions and main cities, but the vast majority of them will be dull, lifeless, and, in Bethesda’s words: “barren, but resource-heavy ice-balls.”
Call me crazy, but is it just me who doesn’t find the sound of exploring “barren” planets appealing? Should we really have to trudge through less engaging planets to get to the good ones?
You can’t have every world be a vivacious vacation resort teeming with life and art-worthy backdrops rife with fun things to do, but toiling away traveling to planet #316 to find a giant rock with some supplies on sounds a bit lackluster and dissuades me from seeing what #317 has in store.
Make no mistake, you’ll need to savor and soak in the first few planets because unless Bethesda has some mighty tricks up its sleeves, repetition and tedium could potentially start to set in — quickly. I just think less content in the form of a smaller number of fully explorable planets all overflowing with history, life, and personality to be a far more tantalizing proposition.
Starfield needs to be a masterpiece for Bethesda’s sake
Starfield is being touted as an innovative, all-encompassing, open-world experience with so much gameplay, but having it for the sake of having it shouldn’t be the MO.
The reason gamers can sink hundreds and even thousands of hours into their favorite online multiplayer game is that they know what they are getting. Starfield is going to need to hit the most glorious of home runs in all departments, be a 9/10 game minimum, to ensure players stick around and invest the hours Bethesda wants you to invest into the game.
At the end of the day, this is being considered Bethesda’s magnum opus in some corners, and the scale and magnitude of the vision would justify this notion.
But there’s absolutely no escaping that a majority of these planets will feature procedurally generated elements and reoccurring enemies and the question will be “how long until you’ve truly seen everything?”
With only a few minutes of gameplay, players are already questioning the viability of a silent protagonist in 2022 for a long game such as this, and are also wondering if Bethesda is going to cut corners with Starfield.
The company’s other fleshed-out universes, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls are traditionally epic open-world forays, but ones that usually come with glitches and bugs that can dampen the enjoyment. The most notorious entry comes very recently in Fallout 76, a rushed, untested, unmitigated disaster that seriously dented the relationship between the company and fans.
This could be the final nail in the coffin for the company’s fans if the game fails to live up to the hype and Starfield needs to be as close to perfect as Bethesda can possibly get.
Once the realization that No Man’s Sky was a soulless universe set in, the hype, the hope, and the heart of No Man’s Sky quickly left and it took years for the game to finally build a foundation and accrue a solid player base.
The difference was that that was a new entity entirely, whereas Bethesda have been building open-world games for nearly 30 years and fans are still scarred from Fallout 76 and an underwhelming Fallout 4.
Starfield seems to be much more than No Man’s Sky from the outset, but Bethesda needs to be careful as the game is already in danger of being consumed by its grandiose ambitions and could end up being lost in space.