I’ve played Starfield over several nights and gotten the hang of the way the game is structured, and I’ve got a couple of takeaways. The first is that the mechanics are almost a direct lift from Fallout 4 and Fallout 76—which isn’t a bad thing, but isn’t necessarily great, either. The structure is the same, the menu and inventory systems are the same, and the mapping system is expanded to include local, planetary, galaxy, and universe views—which don’t always work the way they should. Crafting systems are the same inscrutable mechanic, where you run around gathering junk to break down at a special bench to upgrade your suit or weapon, and you’re always running up against what you are strong enough to carry vs. what you can drag back to your base (in this case, your ship). So it’s a ton of inventory management. Which isn’t a bad thing, when done correctly, but when I’m constantly humping shit back and forth to build some stupid thing that’s step 3 on a 10 step quest, I’m gonna get pissed off real quick. And as with Fallout 4, the rules of how to build stuff is a black art you need to spend hours on a message board studying, which is also not my cup of tea.
So I know how the game designers think and how they’ve structured the game. What I’m hoping to avoid are the issues that led me to drop their previous games. Fallout 76 lost me when the difficulty level of finishing a quest to get a legendary item skyrocketed past what I was able to build after hours of grinding through levels of experience and avoiding in-game purchasing. Shooting a giant beast eleventy billion times to no effect when they can kill you with one swipe gets irritating real quick. And if this game forces me into situations where I can’t complete tasks without joining up with a bunch of other players, they’re going to lose me pretty fast.
I also soured on the crafting/building/management aspects of the game. I craft, build and manage enough crap in meatspace. When I boot up a game I want to be challenged with a fun shoot-em-up, not a grocery list and errand run. While I don’t expect to be able to carry three tons of gear around in-game, they’ve prioritized survival by the number of different sets of armor and guns a character must own to complete different tasks, and those possessions need constant care and upkeep, and this requires one to continually run around and pick up every goddamn thing you see in the hopes that it will fix your stuff. At a certain point the task outweighs the reward.
However: the boot time is pretty negligible, which is some kind of black magic voodoo shit when you see how rich the environment is. The storylines are familiar and sort of comforting in a nostalgic way; I spent all of chemotherapy playing through Fallout 4 and the vibe is very similar here, which isn’t a bad thing. Flying through space and shooting up spaceships is fun as shit, and their mechanics there are very well designed. Last night I explored a mining base on Venus and then traveled to a space station orbiting the Moon to clear out a group of pirates. In between I had to chase down a spaceship and disable it. It was fun! So I’ll keep at it and see if things have gotten better.