I’m excited to play Starfield, but that 30fps news took the wind out of my sails Leave a comment

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Without sounding like a pompous chump, I have to say that it takes a lot for me to be excited about a Bethesda game. The last one of those I enjoyed was Skyrim, and I attribute a large part of that to having received it as a gift on its launch day just as I quit my job and had all the free time in the world.

I’m not going to argue the merits of Bethesda games here, but I have always believed the studio can’t rely on its old arguments of scale and simulation anymore, not when most major games do much of that very well, and look/run significantly better.

Assassin’s Creed, Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3, The Outer Worlds just to name a few. All of those games are basically Bethesda spin-offs. Open-world with light RPG mechanics, loads of dialogue, some okay mechanics (whether it’s gunplay or swordplay), a large core narrative and endless side content.

That is to say, Bethesda games do not impress me anymore, which means I only really see their shortcomings when viewed next to their contemporaries. I can tell you that Starfield wasn’t about to change my sentiment towards them, until the 45-minute deep dive the developer showed after the Xbox Showcase.

Starfield just doesn’t look visually demanding enough to justify this.

For the first time, I am looking forward to a Bethesda game. I’m fairly certain that it has to do with the volume of fresh ideas and the interesting ways they factor into gameplay. Building a ship, staffing it, flying it into uncharted territory and being free to act anyway I can is something we need more of in-game.

I can board ships rather than blast them. I can land on the surface and deal with problems in person. I can exploit trade shortages and become a billionaire. All of those possibilities feel tangible, not one of Todd Howard’s nebulous aspirations – which is why it’s easy to get caught up in the hype.

But then we get the news that Starfield will be locked to 30fps on Xbox, and I just have to wonder, why? Obviously, the official line is that all the simulation in the background and visual fidelity (which honestly isn’t all that) are the reason. But really, I think it signals that Bethesda’s tech hasn’t caught up enough with modern games.

Image of original Starfield release day from trailer
This game was supposed to come out last November, remember?

You could argue that Bethesda games have always been 30fps on consoles, and I do want to stress that 30fps is FINE. But this is Xbox’s first major AAA first-party release on its new consoles since Halo Infinite, it should be a miracle not good-enough.

Starfield is also much more of an action game than any of Bethesda’s previous projects.There’s a lot of shooting, both in first-person and in ship combat. There isn’t V.A.T.S. to rely on here, which makes 30fps all the more awkward.

If I play Starfield, it’s going to be on PC, so I’m not as upset as some people are about the lack of a performance mode on Xbox. But I also know that PC and console code are intertwined, which likely means I can expect the game to perform about on par with Fallout 4. Which is to say, okay, but not groundbreaking.

Xbox needs a big, uncompromised win. After the Redfall disaster, a game that by the way, Phil Spencer said would get a 60fps patch, it needed a launch without caveats, without hemming and hawing. Starfield, sadly, doesn’t appear to be it, so we’re going to have wait for the next game from Xbox.

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