There are very-very wide-ranging opinions on Starfield, Bethesda’s new mega-release and the reason The Elder Scrolls VI arrives at least 15 years after Skyrim. But there’s also a reason for Skyrim, the hugely successful open world game that has been released and re-released and modified to hell and back in order to live a long life.
I know Bethesda is hoping Starfield will perform similarly. In an attempt to differentiate themselves from The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, they wasted an incredible amount of time and money into a brand new IP, and they expect it to last forever.
This will happen? I’m not so sure. Right now, even this early, I’m not sure how well it will stand the test of time and keep people continually engaging with new Skyrim-style playthroughs.
Why? some reason.
New Game Plus is not a solution for new save files – The entire game is structured around a New Game Plus loop that erases all your progress but keeps your levels and skill points intact, while making those skills and your base traits immutable. It seems as if this was an alternative to starting a new character and saving the file, as most players do with Bethesda games, but it misses several important aspects. it completely New, given that you can’t change certain core aspects of your character, and you can’t “build a different one” while keeping all of your skill points intact and removable. And there’s barely any meaningful change that makes the story-based NG+ worth playing.
There aren’t that many constructions, period – The way Bethesda’s skill tree is set up makes it seem like you can’t actually have that many builds, and eventually they all merge together. You can go quietly, but there are only a few skills that really come into play, and most of the level design isn’t super conductive to it. Both attack skills and ship skills seem almost essential to progress. you can not be Now! You can’t become a pilot without fighting in ground operations. Now! It is almost impossible to have a soldier without ship combat with zero upgrades. Again, aside from all this there is being a “researcher”, building bases and printing materials, but this doesn’t really match any of the actual missions of the game. Nor “charisma” based characters, when you can actually save scum by avoiding any dialogue checks in the game. So even starting from the beginning, it doesn’t feel like there are that many alternative creations to consider for new save files.
Exploration has its limits – I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent wandering around random planets and finding cool stuff. However ultimately it has its limits. You discover all the fun little hidden discoveries like Operation Starseed and the alien ship and the Batmantis. You can explore various outpost variants on random planets, but eventually you’ll become so powerful on the New Game Plus loop that there’ll be no reason to keep fighting. Exploring cool landscapes and wild animals is fun, but these aren’t random, these are set locations that don’t change, so with 100 planets with life, you can actually visit them all and that aspect of the game is over. It happens. And if you are NG+, returning to these places will make no difference.
It all depends on the modders – We know that Bethesda is making at least one expansion for Starfield, which will undoubtedly add some life to the game six months from now, or whenever that is. But the real test will be when modders go completely free with the Bethesda-based tool. Modding is one of the many reasons why Skyrim survived as long as it has, and if Bethesda can build a stronger modding scene, which has already started with removing ship limitations and things like that, it could make the game a lot more fun to play. Will give relevance for years. , But whether that scene will be as big as Skyrim is is an open question.
Can you immerse yourself in Starfield for 100 hours? easily. But I think there’s a difference between that and the immortality we’ve seen from Skyrim, which is clearly what Starfield was aiming for with its 1,000 planets and central NG+ loop. Although I very much enjoyed the base game and my first run, I’m not sure it’s poised for the same long-term success as Skyrim, which felt much more revolutionary than Starfield at launch. But time will tell.
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