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Why Starfield is destined to fail
Bethesda's massive RPG won't be able to live up to the almost impossible expectations placed upon it
Spare a thought for Starfield. Like Atlas holding up the world on his shoulders, the weight of expectation placed upon Bethesda’s space-faring RPG has become an excruciatingly heavy burden to bear. And I can’t help but feel Starfield is destined to fail as a result.
This isn’t Bethesda’s fault. The blame should be pointed directly at Microsoft as it’s put the Maryland studio in an invidious position. The botched launch of Redfall was seen by many as the final straw in the Xbox community and led to questions being asked about Microsoft’s leadership, the direction of Xbox as a whole, and more than a few envious glances toward the competition.
A candid but perhaps ill-timed interview with Microsoft’s CEO of Gaming Phil Spencer soon followed, but it didn’t exactly help the situation. Some of Spencer’s answers implied that Microsoft had waved the white flag for Xbox and that it was unable to compete against Sony’s imperious PS5.
However, Spencer still said he was excited about what Microsoft has to show at its Xbox Games Showcase, which takes place on June 11. And as luck would have it, Sony threw Xbox a lifeline thanks its rather dreary PlayStation Showcase. Suddenly, it feels like Xbox is back in the game.
All eyes are on Starfield to deliver, then, a game that was already tipped as the biggest Xbox Series X|S game this year. But even before Redfall’s failure, it was already facing an uphill battle.
The title was criticized when it was first shown almost a year ago for its visuals, particularly the game’s unconvincing facial animations. It was also compared directly against No Man’s Sky and was even deemed “not next-gen” by one outlet. That’s not the kind of first impression you want your big exclusive to make, really, but it’s hardly indicative of what the game will be.
Something that is more worrying, though, is that we still don’t know whether the game will hit the now standard 60fps performance target that gamers – particularly Xbox Series X owners – have come to expect. Redfall released at 30fps at the final hour, and there’s no guarantee Starfield won’t hit us with a similar sucker punch. I sincerely hope that’s not the case.
Begun, the discourse has
While I fully agree that Microsoft has overpromised and underdelivered for far too long – I do think Starfield will be scrutinized more than it should be. After all, the game itself is incomparable to the type of story-driven, single-player narrative games that PS5 owners tend to enjoy, and many in the industry deem these types of experiences to be the gold standard this generation.
God of War Ragnarok, The Last of Us Part 1, Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 – I could go on. These games are the polar opposite of what Starfield is, and using them as a point of comparison also completely discounts the history of Bethesda Softworks as a developer.
To put it simply, Bethesda isn’t known for delivering incredibly polished, bug-free experiences. That’s just a fact. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Skyrim, and Fallout 4 – none of these titles set the standard for graphical fidelity or cinematic storytelling. But what they did provide was an incredible open world for players to explore however they wanted. The many re-releases of Skyrim are a testament to that, as players found joy in exploring the world, becoming a powerful warrior, crafting to their heart’s content, or simply building a humble abode. There’s no right way to play these games, and that’s why they resonated with so many people.
Starfield promises to deliver the same type of blueprint, providing a compelling setting that players will want to immerse themselves in for hundreds of hours. But if you’re expecting the type of finely-crafted and carefully curated experience that a studio like Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games, or Sony Santa Monica creates, you’re going to be immensely disappointed.
However, unfortunately for Starfield, its current trajectory cannot be corrected as it’s too late to temper expectations now. But maybe my fears will be misplaced and – against all odds – Starfield will manage to exceed people’s lofty expectations and become one of the best Xbox Series X games. Or maybe it’ll be met with yet another mixed critical reception and weeks of online derision.
A rocky entry is almost guaranteed, but the question is whether Starfield can stick the landing. We’ll find out soon enough.
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