Bethesda Game Studios has always excellent at delivering titles that can be played for years and years on ends, and while plenty of that is obviously thanks to things such as the vibrant modding communities they foster and the meaty post-launch support they receive, something else that’s responsible is the fact that, even at launch, they tend to be massive games with oodles of content. To no one’s surprise, that description fits Starfield as well (maybe even more than it has fit any past BGS game). Across its vast sci-fi setting, the new RPG offers an endless amount of depth in a variety of things to do, many of which have the potential to engage and addict you so much that you may even never get around to finishing the story. Here, we’re going to talk about a few such things.
ELABORATE FACTION QUESTLINES
Faction questlines are usually the heart and soul of any BGS game, and Starfield is no different in that regard. There are four main factions questlines that will form the backbone of your experience outside of the main quest – the United Colonies Vanguard, the Crimson Fleet, the Freestar Rangers, and Ryujin Industries – and all four of them are, in a word, excellent. From trying to prevent a galaxy-wide xenowarfare threat to becoming a space pirate double agent, from fighting against criminals as a space sheriff to diving into the seedy world of corporate espionage, there’s a great deal of thematic and narrative variety to be found in Starfield’s faction questlines, and each of them boasts great stories, characters, and choices.
A MULTITUDE OF ONE-OFF SIDE QUESTS
Of course, there’s no shortage of smaller, more contained side quests in Starfield either. As you explore the Settled Systems, you’ll organically pick up pointers in the form of Activities by hearing NPC chatter, having random encounters in space, reading logs, or more, and many of these pointers will lead you to one-off side quests. There’s a multitude of these to be found throughout the game, especially in the four main cities, and though they’re obviously not as high-stakes as the main story or the faction quests, the vast majority of them are well worth experiencing for a variety of reasons, whether that’s an interesting, self-contained story, valuable rewards at the end of a mission, or more.
DENSE CITIES TO EXPLORE
A massive portion of the Starfield open world pie chart is eaten up by space and the hundreds of uncharted planets scattered throughout the Settled Systems (more on this in a bit), but there are, of course, also plenty of handcrafted locations to be found in the game. Of these, four are dense and sizeable cities, and exploring every nook and cranny remains a joyous experience in each of them. New Atlantis, Neon, Akila City, and Cydonia are all excellently crafted locations that have interesting cultures and histories, learning more about which never gets boring. All of these hubs are, of course, also densely packed with interesting things to see and do, so you can conceivably spend hours upon hours in a single city without ever feeling the need to hop aboard your ship.
HUNDREDS OF UNCHARTED PLANETS
Of course, once you do hop aboard your ship and fly off, that aforementioned glut of uncharted planets is completely open to you, and begging to be explored. Yes, you can pretty much completely ignore that part of the game and stick to the authored content if you want, but once you do dabble in Starfield’s procedurally generated offerings, there’s a good chance that you’ll be hooked. There’s something magical about landing on a completely uninhabited planet that no one has ever set foot on below. And if you’re lucky enough to cross paths with some weird alien flora or fauna, or to catch a gorgeous view of the sunrise, it makes the trip all the more worthwhile.
Of course, there are other things to do on uninhabited planets than taking in the scenery. There’s also a lot of surveying to be done. That flora and fauna you run into, any minerals you find, randomly generated landmarks that could be scattered throughout the landscape- finding and scanning all of that stuff helps you build up your survey of a planet, which, once completed, also nets neat cash rewards. No, it’s not the most exciting activity in the world, but for completionists in particular, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.
The one side activity tied (largely) to uncharted planets that you’re likely to get the most hours of gameplay out of is outpost building- if you get hooked on that side of the experience, at least. Building on the foundations of Fallout 4 and 76, outpost building in Starfield has a familiar core, but features a much more flexible and expanded toolset. The loop of mining minerals and resources and then using those to build increasingly more elaborate and impressive outposts, which in turn will help you get even more resources- getting into that loop can be very addictive indeed.
While outpost building may not be everyone’s cup of tea, ship building is, without a shadow of doubt, one of Starfield’s biggest highlights, and among its most addictive and enjoyable systems. Seriously, Bethesda could have released an entire, cheaper, smaller-scale game that was just the ship building mechanics in Starfield. The level of flexibility the toolset boasts, and the degree of control it affords in letting you make whatever kind of ship you want to make, and the way the game rewards you for putting in the time by not only tangibly impacting your ship’s performance, but letting you walk around inside of it and see all the changes you’ve made in action with your own eyes- all of that, among other things, makes ship building an incredibly rewarding exercise.
Once you have the ship of your dreams (or even before that, actually), there’s plenty that you can do with it, and yes, of course, space piracy is right up there. And it’s as fun as it sounds. Encountering random civilian and military ships and demanding they hand over all of their cargo, smuggling contraband and feeling the thrill of making past the authorities’ scanners, flying around systems and racking up a bounty as you spread chaos everywhere- all of it is incredibly fun, and something that you can easily spend hours pouring into.
FINETUNING YOUR BUILD
This being a BGS game, it should come as no surprise that Starfield also boasts impressive depth in its role-playing systems and mechanics, and for those who like to fintune their builds down to the minutest detail, there’s plenty of room to do that here. There are, for starters, some really valuable and useful weapons and gear that you can always be on the lookout for, but more importantly, you can also easily lose yourself in Starfield’s skill trees. There’s a total of 82 unlockable skills across five trees, spread across things like physical attributes, social skills, technical skills, combat skills, and what have you, and each of those 82 skills can be upgraded four times- so there’s plenty of room for build variety for those who’re looking for that.
LEARNING ALL THE LORE
Bethesda Game Studios has always had a knack for cramming its worlds full of rich and captivating lore, from the high fantasy kingdoms of The Elder Scrolls to the post-nuclear wastelands of Fallout. The vast expanses of Starfield are no different. Different factions, their conflicts with each other, the backstories of individual places, the different cultures you’ll encounter as you travel throughout the galaxy- the Settled Systems are overflowing with all of that and more, and learning more about it all just never gets dull.
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