The dilemma of a game tester is that you try to analyze the subject of the review as carefully as possible for the sake of your readers. However, this analytical breakdown of the game often means that you play very differently than the typical reader. And as it moves away from their gaming experience, the review moves away from its goal of being as useful as possible to the reader. This becomes particularly clear with Bethesda’s “Starfield”, because the space action RPG can be broken down into its individual parts fairly easily by a trained eye with a lot of experience with “Fallout” and various space simulations. Which is perhaps appropriate given the enormous hype surrounding the game. However, one quickly overlooks the fact that the brilliance of “Starfield” lies in the fact that it is much more than the sum of its parts.
Before we set off into the vastness of “Starfield”, we received a warning from Bethesda: The game is incredibly extensive, you shouldn’t try to experience everything in the rather tight review window that the advertisements describe as the cornerstones of the game game promises. Instead, it’s better to just drift and see where the solar winds of destiny take you. At first you could dismiss that as a PR phrase. After all, for decades now, every new open-world game has promised us how detailed the world is and that we can spend thousands of hours there without getting bored. Most recently, I personally fell for these empty promises with CD Projekt’s “Cyberpunk 2077”. After playing a little more than 75 hours in “Starfield”, I’m starting to suspect that Bethesda might not have been entirely wrong with their advice.
Exciting side missions
Luckily, we were planning on getting into Starfield anyway and just seeing what happens. And that’s how it happened that shortly after completing the first introductory missions, we found ourselves in space prison. The attempt to emulate Captain Malcolm Reynolds from “Firefly” and supplement our meager income as space explorers with a little bit of contraband had failed miserably. This is how our greatest adventure in “Starfield” began, which kept us in front of the screen for almost 25 hours, completely apart from the actual story of the game.
We give the game great credit for the fact that “Starfield” managed to draw us into a side mission at the very beginning of the game. Purely by chance of our failed smuggling attempt, we ended up in the middle of a web of intrigue, espionage and adventure. We learned to hate and love almost a dozen supporting characters and the whole odyssey ultimately even broke our hearts a little. It is very impressive how elaborate this side mission is. The whole spectacle lasted so long and involved so many characters and storylines that some other role-playing games only devote to the main plot, if at all.
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“No Man’s Skyrim”
In the run-up to the release of “Starfield”, observers from the games industry established the short description “No Man’s Skyrim” for the game. And indeed, that describes this game very aptly, although “No Man’s Fallout” would probably be even more appropriate. If you imagine the game as a kind of “No Man’s Sky” with “Fallout”-typical settlements on the planets, you are really very close to what “Starfield” offers.
“Starfield” is home to a lot of interesting characters who give the game world its own charm.
(Image: heise online, Fabian Scherschel)
The game contains almost a hundred star systems – many of which contain half a dozen to a dozen planets and moons, most of which you can land on. Many of the planets contain different biomes and you can freely choose where you want to land your spaceship. When you do this, the game procedurally generates the terrain, flora — and possibly fauna — you encounter based on the corresponding biome. Which means that these places, following an algorithm, are equipped with landscapes, creatures and sometimes also with buildings. You can scan the creatures and plants to earn credits. Structures, crashed ships, etc. often contain inhabitants who provide missions or, in the case of pirates or mercenaries, who can be attacked and robbed. Sometimes you also have to defend yourself against predators, some of which can become quite monstrous.
Unlike “No Man’s Sky”, in “Starfield” all celestial bodies and star systems have predetermined names and positions in the galaxy. This also results in the political conflicts of the different organizations and governments in the game. In addition to the algorithmically filled locations that you can explore when you land at random points on a planet, there are also dozens of cities, settlements, space stations and spaceships spread across the main systems that have been hard-coded into the game world. This is where the most important quests take place, as these hand-crafted locations are home to almost all of the game’s main and supporting characters. Algorithm-generated areas and outposts can also contain side characters, but these perform fairly similar tasks from a large pot of completely optional side missions.
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