Thursday, September 28, 2023
The everything game
This week I was finally able to test out Starfield myself. Going for the parts of the game that interested me the most, I created a character with an industrialist background. And after the tutorial, I set out to follow my goal to build an outpost, explore crafting, and make both money and experience without combat. The good news is, it worked; at least for small values of "worked".
The biggest success here was that within a day of playing, I managed to reach level 25 with xp only gained from the tutorial and from crafting, no quests, no combat. I managed to build a series of outposts, all linked together to deliver Copper, Nickel, Cobalt, and Beryllium to the same outpost. There I crafted thousands of Com Relays. Unfortunately, even with putting skill points in commerce, each Com Relay is only worth 20 credits. So I was making tens of thousands, which is okay, but short of what for example a good spaceship would cost. And vendors only have 5k cash on hand, so selling more involves sitting down somewhere and waiting.
What wasn't so good was the general game experience in this. The back and forth between outposts involved a lot of fast travel, and the constant loading screens really drove home the lack of a sense of space. Moving from one quarter of New Atlantis to another with the metro was not different than moving from one star system to another in your space ship. The outpost building and management interface is pretty horrible, and not very user friendly. I was constantly reminded of other games that involve colony / base building, which work a lot better.
In the end, that is a bit the problem with Starfield. I had thought Starfield would be hurt by the comparison with Baldur's Gate 3, but lately it is suffering a lot more by the comparison with Cyberpunk 2077 2.0, which a lot of people are playing and streaming now. You can watch two streams side by side, a Starfield stream about somebody questing in Neon, and a Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 stream, and the gameplay will be very similar. But Cyberpunk looks better, and plays better, which is probably why the Phantom Liberty DLC is getting better review scores than Starfield. And that is in spite of Starfield having space combat and outpost building, which Cyberpunk doesn't have.
Starfield is the everything game. You can do a *lot* of different activities, and it is relatively open. But for each of the activities you can do, you probably know a game that does this specific thing better. Of course there are some advantages, some synergies between the different parts of the game. My industrial empire led to me doing a bunch of research, and giving me access to crafted weapon and armor mods. But at the same time, the different parts of the game get in the way of each other, for example by competing over inventory space. So it isn't obvious that the game that does everything in a mediocre way is more fun than playing two or three games that together do all of these things much better.