One of the highest anticipated games of the year starts off not with bang, but with a whimper.

Starfield is the next big open world, single player, first-person RPG from Bethesda Studios, best known for The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. The sci-fi RPG is inspired by classic sci-fi stories, and promises an open-universe filled with spaceships, planets, side quests, bounties, skill trees, and probably a few bugs (though admittedly, Starfield is easily Bethesda’s most stable and bug-free game to date).

It’s a lot to deliver, and although Bethesda has a pretty good track record, Starfield’s first several hours are shockingly lame.


The custom character creator is typical Bethesda, with lots of hair styles, skin tones, and moldable faces to choose from. I can also select a background that determines my three starting skills, and some optional traits.

I enjoyed role-playing as the charismatic, tech-savvy Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) through the Fallout games, and I’m able to replicate him here with the Industrialist background. I also take the Empath, Extrovert, and Adoring Fan traits, and wished there was a more science or tech-themed trait to select.


*Very early game spoilers*



Regardless of my chosen background, I start off as a low-ranking miner working for an excavation outfit, currently on a small moon. My supervisor explains that I’ve fallen on hard times, apparently (thanks for at least nodding to my background, I guess).

After that, I get to slowly walk and follow her through a boring cave with dudes in space suits mining minerals. Space, woo!

After a painfully long sequence of walking and firing a laser at rocks, I’m told to go excavate a certain rock in a newly uncovered area.

Why me? Why go alone? Nobody tells me, but I don’t have much of a choice.

After touching the mysterious artifact, I go through a trippy sequence of light and sound before waking up in a daze. Another group is informed of the acquisition: Constellation, the primary faction of the main quest in Starfield.

A nice older man named Barrett arrives on a spaceship, and through another jarringly unearned sequence, simply gives me the keys! I’m told to bring the artifact to Constellation headquarters so they can decide what to do.

How can they trust me with this? Do they normally just hand over spaceships to randos who touch mysterious metals and experience weird visions?

Before I can take off, a group of pirates lands nearby, and I engage in my first-ever battle by picking up a nearby gun. After the pew pew battle they continue to dog me when I enter orbit for the first time.

After a loading screen, anyway.

My new robot companion, Vasco, a hilariously sardonic bipedal robot who looks like the love child of Johnny-5 and Ed-209, says we have to go to a nearby moon to deal with a pirate base.

Another loading screen.

My first little dungeon crawl is a bit awkward. I can scan things to unlock more information about a planet, and shoot stuff with guns that seem hilariously archaic for the 24th century.

I move room to room and mow down all the lightly-equipped space pirates. The Bethesda-ness starts to hook its claws in as pick up every damn thing around me, from packets of meat sauce to cute little succulents. And I can’t help but enjoy the building narrative drama found in the written logs on computers. Turns out this pirate base was a testing lab for xenowarfare, and wonderfully terrible things went down here.

Armed with a bit more loot, experience, and knowledge (though annoyed that I didn’t begin the game with a boost pack), I fast-travel my way to the planet Jemison, where the large city of New Atlantis (home to Constellation) can be found.

Pause for loading screen.

One of the biggest bummers of Starfield are the loading screens. This isn’t No Man’s Sky, where you can seamlessly fly into a planet’s atmosphere and land wherever you want.

Space flight is essentially limited to areas around fast-travel points (such as planets), and you can only land at points of interest on planets themselves, which you’d probably want to anyway.

The frequent loading screens takes a ripsaw to immersion.

Much of the fun of a Bethesda RPG is the journey to the next destination, and all the things to explore and encounter along the way. In Starfield, I simply zip around to each area, making the universe fell much smaller than it is.

Throwing the players into a major city this early in the game is a bold choice, and I don’t think it’s a good one. New Atlantis isn’t an interesting city to walk around in; there’s nothing distinctly exotic or notable around it. I even have to take the monorail (more loading screens) to get to any of the different districts.

And the surface map is so laughably bad and barebones it may as well not exist. All this fancy technology and I don’t even get the equivalent of Google Maps to find my way around?

There are plenty of quests to dive into, however, including many that surprised me, such as randomly talking to a patron in a restaurant only to get a quest to hunt down a monstrous alien in a far-off planet, all for a good cup of coffee!

I helped a bartender recover some impounded goods using my charm, and toured an informative museum of history filled with displays and audio logs.

The folks at Constellation HQ are nice enough, but the main quest lacks any sense of urgency. One the one hand, it’s nice not to have to rush off to start it in a big RPG where dozens of people and quests are pulling me in different directions.

On the other hand, it leaves the main story, and the first several hours, feeling unfulfilling and directionless.

Starfield obviously has a ton of potential, mods notwithstanding. There’s a huge amount of content, the writing, quests, and NPCs are interesting and engaging, and spaceships are neat. Once I settle into the groove of Fallout in Space (and get the hell out of New Atlantis), things are starting to click. But for those looking for a giant leap in RPGs, Starfield feels like one small step.

Starfield is available on PC and Xbox Series X/S. It’s rated M for Mature.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.