Is Starfield representative of a larger problem?
Opinion

Is Starfield representative of a larger problem?

Starfield only becomes really fun after many hours of play. But I don’t want to have to earn the fun. I want to enjoy the game right from the start.

After twelve hours of play, I find Bethesda’s sci-fi epic Starfield frustrating in every way imaginable. Lifeless characters, monotonous quests, brain-dead enemies, fast travel instead of open exploration – the usual culprits. Exploring the repetitive, unspectacular world is a drag. I’m not the only one who thinks so. As my colleague Phil writes in his Starfield review, «… it takes almost 20 hours for tension to build.» Domi also writes, «Initially, I’m disappointed with the game.» But redemption appears to draw nigh; my circle of friends claims the game gets better and better with time.

Getting started with Starfield is tough. Is it worth sticking with?
Getting started with Starfield is tough. Is it worth sticking with?
Source: Bethesda

Starfield isn’t the first game to have a lengthy kick-off. If you ask me, even The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt wasn’t clear enough on its storyline in the first few hours of play. Truth be told, I never made it past the opening.

Death Stranding loses a significant portion of its audience with its lengthy cinematics during the first few hours of gameplay. Eighty per cent of Steam users have achieved the Rebuilding America achievement, which you get after completing the first of 14 episodes. As for the We Need You achievement, which is awarded after completing the second episode – only about 50 per cent of Steam users have it.

Death Stranding obviously struggles to engage audiences at the start.
Death Stranding obviously struggles to engage audiences at the start.
Source: Kojima Productions

Similarly, in Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games, you get loads of video at the beginning before you can take the reins. You spend the first few hours mainly riding from A to B, talking to people and watching cutscenes. That puts me off. Indeed, many players carp about the cowboy game only really becoming fun after two chapters.

Are there games that get it right?

Getting into a big, new game doesn’t have to be this arduous. Many studios have proved as much – including Bethesda. The best example? The iconic opening sequence of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim – «Hey, you! You’re finally awake.» You create your character, survive a dragon attack, learn the most important skills during the escape and immediately get the first, groundbreaking mission of a long main story – all within the first hour of gameplay. It throws you right into the centre of the action as a Dragonborn and gives you a clear mission.

Saved from the executioner’s axe at the very last moment by the dragon god Alduin. Now that’s an epic start to an epic RPG!
Saved from the executioner’s axe at the very last moment by the dragon god Alduin. Now that’s an epic start to an epic RPG!
Source: YouTube / DragonD

In Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games does a much better job setting the scene than in Red Dead Redemption. Picture this: you get to rob a bank in the far north. Fill your pockets with money. Flee from the police in the car. Take a hostage. Lose a friend to a sniper. This is action at its finest – and it teaches you the basic mechanics of the game without you even realising it.

GTA V won me over right from the start.
GTA V won me over right from the start.
Source: YouTube / MKIceAndFire

I’ve always felt at home in the Assassin’s Creed games. Many of them have you start as an untrained, unarmed assassin – with a strong survival instinct and a talent for parkour. Little by little you’ll learn everything from fistfighting to sneak attacks to open combat against multiple opponents. Assassin’s Creed introduces you to your full arsenal at a pace I think is great. The storyline unfolds along the way.

I want to have fun – from the get-go

I think it’s a shame when games, books, movies and series take too much time for the opening act or it comes across as forced. I don’t want to have to earn my entertainment. I just want to have fun – right from the start.

I’m 30 years old, and my time is now both scarcer and more precious to me than before. Many of my peers feel the same way. If a game doesn’t win me over in the first few hours, chances are I’ll drop it. Hearing things will get more interesting is, therefore, not much consolation to me.

Nevertheless, I overcome my reluctance one last time and launch Starfield. I’ll try to push the annoying aspects aside and focus on the experience. Perhaps Starfield will reveal all its cosmic glory after all. I certainly hope so.

Header image: Bethesda

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My retreats have names like Middle Earth, Skyrim and Azeroth. If I have to part from them due to IRL commitments, their epic soundtracks accompany me through everyday life, to a LAN party or to my D&D session.


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