As many quite rightly expected, Microsoft decided to conclude the Xbox & Bethesda Showcase for 2022 with a 15 minute extended preview of some Starfield gameplay. This was the first glimpse at what the game would look like, so the pressure was on for Starfield to make an excellent first impression. Depending on who you ask, that outcome may or may not have been achieved.
For the most part, Starfield didn’t look all that indistinguishable from the other RPGs that Bethesda have made over the years. In particular, the first half of the gameplay presentation made Starfield look like Fallout with another coat of paint. This felt particularly evident when looking at the character models/animations, along with the conversations with other characters. The character creation tools certainly look more fleshed out than Fallout and Skyrim, but it hardly seemed revolutionary or like a big leap from previous games.
The gunplay in particular looks somewhat underwhelming, especially because it doesn’t look all that dissimilar from Fallout. Whether it was the bullet sponge enemies who didn’t really seem to react to getting shot, performance that didn’t feel like next-gen, or simply a bad demo that didn’t showcase the best of what the combat engine can do, Starfield failed to impress in its core gameplay. The only interesting part in that regard was when the player activated their jetpack and shot some enemies from above. Again, hardly revolutionary.
To Starfield’s credit, the stream itself didn’t do the best job at showcasing the game, as rewatching the presentation back allowed the graphics to pop a little more than they did. Who knew that a 4K video would be better than a 1080p stream? Still, it didn’t clear up some of the framerate issues that were clearly evident. At this point, it felt like Starfield wasn’t doing anything that a game like The Outer Worlds hadn’t already accomplished.
It’s safe to say that the first half of the presentation didn’t showcase Starfield in the best light, but then Todd Howard walked players through the ability to establish their own outposts and build spaceships, and suddenly Starfield made a lot more sense. The spaceship building in particular looked like it could be Starfield’s true unique selling point, with plenty of options to create the star-cruising vessel of the player’s dreams. Even with just a glimpse, the presentation promised so much potential.
Starfield also offers the ability to explore over a hundred systems, each with fully explorable planets, with the player able to fly around each and land wherever they want. It’s a lofty promise, and it’ll be interesting to see how Starfield actually stacks up in that regard, but if nothing else, the space travel sections promised excitement with combat that looks fun and engaging. It might not be on the same level of a game like Chorvs, but few space combat games are.
Really, the Starfield presentation created a huge disparity between the different elements that the game is playing with. It feels like anything that Bethesda has created that’s new for Starfield looks like it’ll be the most interesting part of the whole game, like the ship/outpost creation, or the space combat. Meanwhile, conversations and gunplay feel like they’ve been copy and pasted straight out of Fallout and placed into a space exploration game.
Starfield is being made on Creation Engine 2, Bethesda’s upgraded in-game engine, but the demo didn’t do much to establish what Creation Engine 2 can do that hasn’t already been done in the past, at least in terms of Starfield’s core gameplay. While there’s plenty to be excited about with Starfield, it feels like it might be a game held back by what came before it too.
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