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.
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.
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.