April 12, 2024
Bethesda's game combines elements 'Fallout' and 'Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim' into a breathtaking galaxy

Fatherhood changes your life in unexpected ways. One day, you have hours of free time stretched before you and a stack of video games to play, and the next thing you know, you’re up at 4 a.m. hoping your baby doesn’t wake up so you can finish one more questline.

That’s the challenge facing me as I review “Starfield.” It’s a massive game at a moment in life where sleep and playing time are rare and colliding commodities. That also means I need more time to play through Bethesda Game Studios’ latest role-playing game.

It’s a title that deserves more time after the developers spent more than five years on the project. The result is an intriguing campaign that takes in elements of the team’s other massive franchises — “Fallout” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”–  and melds them into a breathtaking, star-faring adventure.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Players take on the role of a miner who is working on the moon Vectera, when they come across an strange artifact, and upon touching it, the protagonist hears music and sees flashing lights. The hero wakes up and runs into Barrett, a member of a secretive group called Constellation.

Players create their own protagonist and start off with three skills and three traits. To be fair, the traits that mold a player’s background have more impact than choosing a previous past. That’s because over the course of the campaign, players will level up, and they can freely choose which of the skills in five categories — physical, social, combat, science and tech — they’ll specialize in. Similar to “Skyrim,” how often players can use skills can unlock access to new perks associated with such talents as rifle certification or boosters. You just have to level up and use the skill points to invest in it.

It creates a progression system that’s measured and rewards those who stick with a certain playstyle initially. Players can build a ninja-type hero who specializes in sneaking and close-ranged combat or one that can shoot their way out of a situation like a swashbuckler. Still, other solutions can be found in persuading people to do what you want.

The traits have more of an ongoing impact. Players can choose one origin and that will give them new dialogue options with certain factions. Others, such as one with alien DNA, will give protagonists more health and oxygen but med kits and food don’t restore as much health.

Dogfights in space take some getting used to and requires players to not only fly and shoot, but they also have to manage their systems. (Bethesda Softworks) 

TWO MAJOR PHASES OF PLAY
“Starfield” itself is divided into two basic phases. The first takes place on foot. Players drop down on a planet and explore, survey its resources and sometimes battle mercenaries or spacer thugs. This is where players’ first-person shooter skills take precedent.

The other half is spent piloting the ship from star system to star system. Sometimes, they’ll run into the Crimson Fleet and engage in a dogfight in space. This is where “Starfield” turns into a flight combat arcade game. Players will be using lasers to breakdown an enemy ship’s shields and then blasting them into bits with lock-on missiles and ballistic weapons. In between, space fights players can haul cargo from one end of the Milky Way to another. All of this is done in order to earn more credits.

Players will have to excel in both sides of “Starfield” to be successful. Personally, I found it hard to adjust to flying the ship. Players have to fiddle with sending power to different parts of the ship, including its shields, lasers and engines. They’ll have to outmaneuver ships attack you, but also during quiet moments, figuring out where to dock can also be frustrating. Whenever I didn’t know what to do, pressing the A button solved a lot of problems. The A button is your friend in space flight.

“Starfield” has moments that are just jaw-dropping, so it’s good that it has a photo mode. (Bethesda Softworks) 

JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
I’m more than 20 hours in and I feel I just scratched the surface. I still need to build outposts, craft my spaceship and follow the thread of the main story: I have to search out for other artifacts and figure out what happens when they’re all put together. It’s the main mission for Constellation at the moment.

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There’s so much thrown at players in “Starfield” that it can be overwhelming at times, and quickly, the quest log will fill up. That’s when I had to take a deep breath and just organize them and do them in a way where I can kill two birds with one stone while traveling. The developers do a good job at meshing quests together so they dovetail nicely, and they’re written in a way that sucks players in. It’s not all fetch quests.

One time, I ran across a distress signal and came across a scientific outpost with unlikely alliances. In another instance, I was arrested for having contraband on my ship and got thrown into an intriguing but dangerous mission. Some are ridiculous like catching a suspected thief.

Still, despite the intriguing storytelling and the fun combat, “Starfield” isn’t perfect. Like any Bethesda game, players will run into bugs, and there are many of them. They weren’t game-breaking for me, but they created minor annoyances. Sometimes enemies I needed to attack an enemy but they didn’t show up. Other times, the ship I was supposed to dock on never appeared.

Because of this, I highly recommend you save often. I suppose you can say you’re technically saving the world. Marking your progress not only helps you out if you make a bad dialogue choice, but it can also help out if you run into any glitches. It’s also helpful when you’re in the middle of a mission and you’re baby starts crying. You can step away from the game at 2:57 a.m. and pick it up whenever you have the free time.

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