A safe, if not soulless, journey through the cosmos.

A character posing with hands triumphantly on hips as others around him clap for him.

Bethesda Game Studios releases are safe. They are familiar. You know almost exactly what to expect when a major new release from them rolls around. They instill a feeling of "I know this game won't be groundbreaking, but I know I'll have fun." Yes, there are some obvious differences, but the heart of each Bethesda game is almost universally the same.

The recent release of Starfield is no different. To put it bluntly: Starfield is Fallout in space. It is The Elder Scrolls but science fiction. Starfield includes so many of the classic Bethesda tropes that you know ahead of time what you are in for before ever launching the game.

That does not mean Starfield is bad, but it also is not out here breaking any new ground in the action-RPG genre.


Starfield is ambitious in its scope, exploring complex themes such as faith, atheism, morality, the point of existence, and our role as humans in the universe. This is a refreshing change from many other science fiction stories, which often focus on more simplistic good-versus-evil narratives.

The game's open-ended approach to storytelling also allows players to shape their destiny, but only to a certain degree. Many of the game's dialogue options still lead to the same outcome, giving players an illusion of choice. There are a few story beats where choices made by the player do have a meaningful impact on events, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

The main quest is somewhat predictable and the characters could be more fleshed out. The main quest follows a fairly standard "hero's journey" arc. You begin the game working as a simple miner, a literal nobody. Within the span of maybe 20 minutes, you are suddenly given your own spaceship and setting out on an adventure that nobody else in the universe is capable of undertaking.

A woman in a cowboy hat running through a science facility.A custom made character in Starfield named Bort.
The characters in Starfield are also a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are well-written and interesting, while most others are underdeveloped and forgettable. This sadly also applies to your main companions, whom you will travel and adventure with across several hours. While they do have dedicated story beats you can explore, they still come across as very one-dimensional. It is at least somewhat refreshing that your companions will chime in during some dialogue sequences, which gives them actual personality.

One of the things that I found most interesting about Starfield's story is the way that it explores the relationship between science and faith. The game's universe is full of advanced technology, but many people believe in a higher power. This creates a tension between the two ways of understanding the world, which is a theme that is explored throughout the game.

As is common with Bethesda's games, the main storyline does pale a bit in comparison to some of the side content. For instance, I found the storylines for the main factions to be far better written and more enjoyable from a gameplay perspective. They were more focused and the moment-to-moment gameplay felt more varied and interesting.

Technology and Visuals

While Starfield's visuals and graphics are undoubtedly impressive in many ways, there are also some notable shortcomings both with the engine, Creation Engine 2, and the lack of several common PC features.

The game can at one minute look almost awe-inspiring with these gorgeous vistas of planets set against a backdrop of a sea of stars. Then other times you see low-resolution textures, vast expanses of absolutely nothing on planets, and cookie-cutter research facilities that you already saw three times prior on other planets. NPCs, especially if they are just background civilians, are almost offensive with their lack of detail and animation complexity as they wander around aimlessly through cities and towns. The facial features of even the important NPCs are also lacking, resulting in this weird uncanny valley situation. The eyes feel lifeless, their skin often lacking in features and complexity.

One of the most glaring omissions is the lack of essential graphics options, such as a field of view (FOV) slider and texture quality setting. This is particularly surprising for a PC game, as it limits player control over the visual experience. I should not have had to edit a .ini file or download a mod just to get a FOV slider in a modern action game from a AAA studio.

Graphical options screen for Starfield

There are several things I should not have had to rely on a mod to accomplish in Starfield yet I ended up with several mods installed that directly related to something within the game's visuals. For instance, Starfield shipped only with AMD's FSR 2. There were no XeSS nor DLSS options included by Bethesda. While I cannot run DLSS on my GTX 1080 Ti, I would have at least liked to have XeSS as an alternative option as I've found it to look substantially better than FSR across several titles. So, one mod was installed just to use XeSS. Then there was the second upscaling mod that I had to install more recently to fix a moiré pattern issue on clothing that popped up following the game's latest update.

I also had to install another mod that promised some performance gains. All the mod did was adjust a few of the default settings across the game's built-in quality settings but they did help out a bit. Another mod allowed for the UI to run at 60FPS instead of the poor-looking 30FPS it bizarrely defaults to. Several other mods were eventually installed, but they were largely for quality-of-life tweaks

At the end of the day, I settled on a mix of low and medium settings at 50% resolution using the XeSS upscaling mod. On a GTX 1080 Ti and 5900X, I capped the framerate at 58FPS, which was only attainable maybe half the time and in certain circumstances. In cities, especially the main city of New Atlantis, I never came close to hitting that 58FPS cap when outside. Indoor areas were far more kind on my framerate. For how the game looks visually, I feel like the overall performance on display, even from hardware far more powerful than mine, is borderline inexcusable.

With or without any mods installed, Starfield crashed more times than I can count. I would crash while walking, running, shooting, ready tablets, sitting, standing, and the list goes on. If I did anything in the game, I ran the risk of the game crashing. The game seemed far more crash happy when I enabled the dynamic resolution option (not the FSR scaling) for whatever reason. There were a couple of crashes that flat-out left both of my monitors completely black, forcing me to do a hard reboot of my machine. That is something I have never seen happen from a game. This led to me just obsessively tapping the quicksave button every couple of minutes, if not more frequently.

A character clipping into the game environment.

Beyond the crashes and the poor performance, I also saw a good number of clipping and collision issues, especially when it came to NPC interactions with the environment. There were also a decent number of animation glitches, with an example being the fact that on some weapons I would see my trigger finger hand appear in position before the gun swap animation finished. Then there were the classic physics freakouts between two environmental objects clipping into each other.

If you exclude the dozens upon dozens of crashes, this still might be the least buggy initial release for a Bethesda title. However, it is extremely hard for me to just forget about those crashes when they happened so frequently.


Audio is an essential part of any video game experience, and Starfield is no exception. Bethesda Game Studios has put a lot of thought and effort into the audio for their upcoming sci-fi RPG, and it shows.

The audio work in Starfield is fantastic, from the sound effects to weapons to the acting and voice work by the NPCs. The shining jewel on the audio front is, of course, the musical score. Bethesda games always seem to have excellent music and Starfield is no exception, though some tracks may repeat just a bit too frequently.

One of the most notable things about the audio in Starfield is the use of silence. In a game that is set in the vast emptiness of space, silence can be a powerful tool to create atmosphere and immersion. Ship hulls creak and groan while flying through space. Ethereal rumblings pierce through the silence on planet surfaces, upping the sense of isolation and tension even without tangible threats in sight. Bethesda has used silence to great effect in Starfield, creating a sense of awe and wonder as players explore the galaxy.


The gameplay loop for Starfield is a cycle of exploration, combat, lockpicking, crafting, load screens, and fast travel with players free to choose what they focus on.

Players can travel to any of the game's over 1,000 planets, each with unique environments and inhabitants. They can land and explore these planets to find loot, complete quests, and fight enemies. The issue here is that despite there being over 1,000 planets, there are only a handful of them worth exploring and even fewer that are at all relevant to any of the game's missions. Most of the high-level planets are just completely wasted opportunities in Starfield, with almost no reason to even visit or explore them unless you are a sadistic completionist.

The inside of a temple in Starfield.

Players can also build and customize their ships, recruit crew members, and join one of several factions. Each faction has its own goals and objectives, and joining a faction can give players access to new missions, gear, and abilities.

In addition to the missions, Starfield also features other activities that players can engage in. These activities include building and managing outposts, customizing their ship, apartment customization, minor activities, or just messing around in a rather limited sandbox environment.

No matter what you choose to do in Starfield, you will always, and I do mean always have the activity broken up by loading screens. Want to go to a new star system? Loading. Entering or exiting most buildings? Loading. Using an elevator? Loading. Fast-traveling to another location within the same city? Loading. Taking off or landing on a planet? Loading. These loading screens aren't long at all, but god there are just so, so many of them.

If you aren't looking at a loading screen, your time is taken up by waiting for various animations to play out. Crafting involves watching your character step up to the workbench and the screen to pop up before you can do anything. Done at the workbench? You must wait for your character to take a step back. Docking and undocking with another ship is much the same thing. A whole animation plays out, which starts to add up over hours and hours of gameplay. Opening and closing some doors also takes an extended amount of time while you wait for animations to play.

Are some of these loading screens? Probably. However, there are mods available that can speed up or remove these animations entirely that do not seem to have any negative side effects. I started to use a mod that removed the docking and undocking animations and experienced no additional issues that I was not already encountering before I started to use any mods at all. It made my experience quite a bit better because I did not have to worry about the game crashing during an unskippable animation anymore.

Then we get into some of the smaller issues with the game that are annoying for one of several reasons. Sometimes items will disappear from your private captain's storage container on the ship. Often, miscellaneous and junk items will reappear on your ship after you already sold them to vendors. Speaking of vendors, the amount of money they keep on hand is painfully low for how many items you are constantly trying to sell (again, a mod already fixes this).

Also, the way in which you acquire new powers is extremely tedious after the first couple of times. Floating around in zero-g running into spinning star material gets old real quick if you are trying to find new powers or upgrade already existing ones.

A character posing in a dank street full of bright neon storefront signs.

Additional Thoughts

Starfield is a game that plays it safe. It is a game built on Bethesda's strengths and if you know and love previous Bethesda games, you will probably get a lot of mileage out of Starfield. However, that is also one of Starfield's biggest issues. It plays it a little too safe. It does nothing to push their formula forward in any meaningful way.

The allure of "over 1,000 planets" is a great marketing line to put on a game box, but when there isn't much to do or see on 99% of those planets, then what is the point? I would have much preferred a handful of well-designed, hand-crafted planet areas to explore than hundreds and hundreds of completely soulless procedurally generated landscapes with the same cookie-cutter facilities scattered here and there to break up the monotony.

The idea that players should rush through the main story to get to New Game+ or even New Game+3/+10/+50 is honestly kind of stupid. The impact is not as great or as mind-blowing as the Internet lead us to believe ahead of Starfield's launch. Some dialogue options will change in New Game+. The main story can also be mostly skipped in each New Game+ run, but it will still take you at least an hour or longer to run through depending on how efficient you are. That said, every so often a New Game+ run will surprise you with something unique. Sadly, Bethesda never goes nearly far enough with these changes and surprises.

Similarly, Bethesda also played it exceptionally safe when it came to alien life throughout Starfield. The lack of sapient life is surprising and unfortunate. No grey aliens, nor little green men, and certainly no biotic using blue information broker. The aliens are nothing more than wild animals that roam planet surfaces or sometimes fly in the skies above. The approach to alien life taken in Starfield is certainly more grounded in reality, but a little more variety and range would have been welcome.

If you are someone who needs substantial accessibility options, look elsewhere. Starfield is extremely limited on this front. Players can remap buttons, alter movement and aiming sensitivity, enable general subtitles for background chatter, enable dialogue subtitles for main discussions, enable the ability to rotate objects using hold and drag, toggle iron sights, and enable a slightly larger menu font.

There are no other accessibility options in Starfield. There is not even a dedicated FOV slider. If you are on console and want a wider FOV because the narrow default makes you feel sick, well that is just too bad. At least on PC, you can make a .ini tweak to set your desired FOV or you can download a mod to help. There are also no color-blind options here. There are no features to help those with hearing issues locate the direction and closeness of nearby audio. The HUD cannot be made larger for easier viewing, and the only way to move the HUD closer to the center of the screen is by, you guessed it, manually editing a .ini file. I expected far better from a major studio in 2023.

A character intently studying something on a desk with a skeleton.

Ultimately, Starfield is fine. That is all it is: It is fine. It is a Bethesda game through and through from its systems, to gameplay, to mission structure. Since the initial release of Bethesda's last major release, 2016's Fallout 4, Starfield shows that Bethesda's established formula is starting to fall behind other games in the genre in terms of visual fidelity and game systems. I will at least freely admit that I quite enjoyed the included photo mode in Starfield if only because the game uses those photo mode captures as loading screens, similar to what is done in Fallout 76.

Starfield almost feels soulless in comparison to games that have come out between 2016 and now. More times than I care to admit I found myself comparing parts of Starfield to The Outer Worlds and thinking about how The Outer Worlds did this or that better. This was especially true when it came to dialogue, meaningful choices, and more fully realized companion systems in The Outer Worlds. I also thought about how another 2016 title, No Man's Sky, also features systems and features that are light years ahead of Starfield. I do not just mean how No Man's Sky features seamless takeoffs from planet surfaces to space (something else sorely missing in Starfield). The mining, economy, and sense of exploration in No Man's Sky is just flat-out superior.


At the time of this review, I have put in almost 91 hours into Starfield. This is according to Steam, so there should be a little footnote included to account for how many of those 91 hours were spent redoing content due to crashes. I have pushed to New Game+11 before settling in to play through side content I intentionally skipped over. I have adventured with each main companion and several random NPCs. I have experienced the stories of three main factions in the game (I'm still working on the fourth one). I have smuggled goods and crafted countless meds, food items, weapon mods, and armor mods. I have betrayed space pirates and climbed the corporate ladder. I have hunted Artifacts and mystical space powers, blown up countless ships, built relationships, picked hundreds of locks, and looted hundreds of weapons.

Starfield emerges as a familiar addition to Bethesda's repertoire, offering an expansive but ultimately safe journey through the cosmos. While the game does attempt to delve into profound themes and presents an open-ended narrative structure, it still adheres to Bethesda's tried-and-true formula, failing to break new ground in the action-RPG genre. Visually, the game is a mixed bag, with moments of awe-inspiring beauty contrasted by glaring imperfections and a lack of essential PC features. Technical issues, including frequent crashes and animation glitches, mar the overall experience. Despite its ambitious scope, Starfield's vast universe contains numerous underutilized planets, leaving a burning desire for more depth and variety. While it may satisfy fans of Bethesda's previous titles, Starfield ultimately falls short of making a significant impact in the gaming world, feeling somewhat soulless when compared to other titles in the genre released in recent years.​


Visual representing a review score showing 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Additional Information

  • Starfield
    • Developed by: Bethesda Game Studios
    • Published by: Bethesda Softworks
  • Price: Starting at $69.99 (USD)
  • Platform reviewed on: PC (also available for Xbox Series X|S and Game Pass)
  • Release Date: September 5, 2023
  • ESRB: Rated M for Mature 17+ (Blood, strong language, suggestive themes, use of drugs, and violence)
  • This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.​