Unveiling Starfield's RPG mastery in a vast universe - Hindustan Times

Starfield: Bethesda's ambitious RPG explores a vast universe with familiar gameplay and polished execution

Sep 01, 2023 08:38 AM IST

Starfield: A vast universe of exploration and discovery with familiar RPG elements, though combat falls short.

As an avid fan of the Fallout games, I can't deny that exploring a post-apocalyptic wasteland teeming with ghouls and raiders can sometimes cast a gloomy shadow over the gaming experience.

Starfield: Embarking on galactic adventures in Bethesda's RPG universe(Bethesda)
Starfield: Embarking on galactic adventures in Bethesda's RPG universe(Bethesda)

The allure of Starfield, however, was like a breath of fresh air, as Bethesda was set to unleash its RPG mastery on an expansive universe brimming with planets to uncover and cosmic enigmas to unravel. It felt like the Elder Scrolls meets Hello Games' No Man's Sky, a fusion that could be dubbed "No Man's Skyrim."

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True to its promise, Starfield radiates potential. The universe is vast, and the central plot revolves around the excitement of exploration and revelation. I embarked on journeys to the farthest corners of space, venturing into bizarre and perilous territories, all in pursuit of uncovering the universe's origins and humanity's significance within it.

Staying true to the familiar Bethesda RPG blueprint, the gameplay retains its core essence. Although the scale of the quests is grander, the moment-to-moment activities remain relatively familiar.

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Starfield marks Bethesda's most technically polished release to date.

Setting foot into Starfield begins humbly and intricate, you're cast as a miner on a dusty world who accidentally stumbles upon a mysterious artifact, potentially of extraterrestrial origin.

Strangely, this artifact resonates with you on a metaphysical level, leading to an otherworldly experience reminiscent of the mind-bending moments in "2001: A Space Odyssey." This discovery propels you towards Constellation, a motley crew of explorers ranging from a reserved theologian to a cowboy scion and a wealthy magnate bankrolling the entire enterprise.

Constellation's essence feels like a creation of Jules Verne commissioned for a Star Trek episode, a perfect catalyst for a narrative of exploration and discovery. The group's grasp on the artifacts' significance is limited, but they're resolute in their belief that these relics hold key insights. Consequently, Starfield's core revolves around the pursuit of these enigmatic artifacts.

Though the post-apocalyptic galactic saga diverges in tone and scope from previous Bethesda titles, its gameplay foundation remains remarkably similar. The RPG-shooter fusion grants players the freedom to shape their characters through a variety of attributes and skills. Choices in character development often impact mission approaches; negotiations might secure your objectives one time, while other instances demand combat prowess.

As a decade-old game, I emphasized social skills, much like I did in Fallout, as Starfield's combat mechanics aren't its strongest suit. While the game may look the part with a range of weapons and a first-person shooter perspective, it lacks the precision of titles like Destiny.

Aiming can feel awkward, with close-range shots occasionally failing to register. A Fallout-like VATS system could've enriched the combat, offering pseudo-turn-based engagements. Starfield's shooter mechanics, while adequate, take a back seat to its ambitious RPG elements, prompting me to invest my skill points in persuasion abilities.

The uncanny Galactic saga(Bethesda)
The uncanny Galactic saga(Bethesda)

Dialogues remain integral, offering intimate exchanges with characters up close. Conversations help you forge connections with companions and gather crucial information. The sheer volume of voiced dialogue astounds, consistently delivering well-crafted and convincing performances. Though moments with multiple conversing characters can occasionally feel awkward, the overall experience immerses you in the narrative.

While shooting and combat may not be Starfield's forte, its role-playing elements excel.

The game allows your avatar to evolve into a reflection of your choices. In my case, I channeled my own identity into the character – an aspirational adventurer eager to explore, prioritize dialogue over conflict, shun technicalities, and occasionally visit parents on their summons.

The galactic saga introduces novel gameplay facets through its space-themed setting, drawing comparisons to No Man's Sky. The ability to land on myriad planets, complete with a scanning tool to learn about local flora and fauna, adds depth. But, meaningful discoveries often coincided with quests, rather than solo exploration. Piloting spaceships, while visually appealing, felt somewhat finicky. I often opted for fast travel to evade potential space battles.

Starfield's main questline captivated me the most. The story unfurls gradually, delving into peculiar cosmic phenomena and triggering my fascination. The narrative probes into profound queries about space exploration's origins and humanity's celestial journey. The characters enhance the journey, although an unforeseen demise redirected my companion choice.

Not all facets of Starfield gleam uniformly. Some secondary stories feel derivative, echoing well-trodden sci-fi tropes. While the central narrative remains distinct, other aspects come across as familiar. Occasional uncanny resemblances to pop culture figures and phenomena raise questions about originality.

Yet, there's a silver lining in side quests and expansive worlds. The sheer scale of some planets offers a mini-game within the broader Starfield universe. Side missions sway between captivating and mundane, often revealing surprises when least expected.

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Surprisingly, Starfield impresses with its relative lack of bugs. Bethesda's reputation for glitches doesn't reflect here – the game stands polished, though quirky occurrences persist. Odd character physics and occasional invisible objects surfaced, but these glitches rarely disrupted gameplay. It's a far cry from the frustration I've experienced in past Bethesda titles.

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