5 things starfield got right and 5 ways it could have been even better
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks

5 Things Starfield Got Right & 5 Ways It Could Have Been Even Better

There's a lot to love, but there's always room for improvement.

By now, everyone knows how much time and effort went into Starfield, and it’s clear just how much of that paid off. It’s unabashedly Bethesda, while expanding its scope far beyond the continents of Tamriel or North America and into the stars. However, like all games, there are always going to be some flaws or downsides, so it’s only fair to point out where Starfield was lacking while discussing what it did right.

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What Makes Starfield Out Of This World?

There really is a lot to love about Starfield. The resources put into making the game what it turned out to be are clearly demonstrated in areas like the environments, smooth fast-travel system and world-building, making the game memorable for years to come. If that’s not enough, the soundscape and soundtrack are both breathtaking, instilling the feeling of adventure in even just the menus.

The Environments Are Stunning

starfield outpost round hab window sunset
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

Say what you want about how diverse each of the planets are in Starfield, it’s difficult to deny how stunning the visuals are for the environments in the game. Take any landscape, swap into photo mode and snap a picture; you’ll find a great image almost anywhere you look. Something about the sheer scale of every planet and just how far away things are and appear to be really makes it breathtaking just to sit and observe the view.

Not only does this significantly add to the experience of just running around and exploring the worlds in the galaxy, it can make a huge difference for choosing a spot for your outposts as well. Who wants to build an outpost on a frozen gray planet with no plants or animals? Surely some people do, but there’s nothing like waking up in your round Hab, making yourself something to eat at your Cooking Station and watching the sun rise through the trees.

Fast Travel Works Great

starfield fast travel starmap
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

In a galaxy as vast and occupied as Starfield’s, it’s inevitable to need an effective system for getting around quickly. While it would have been nice to get to see more direct travel between outer space and any landing site, the fact that fast-traveling works as well as it does is key to the game’s smoothness. This smoothness gets broken up a bit by loading screens, but for everything being loaded at once in each location, these loading screens are amazingly fast.

The entire system of Grav jumping from place to place is a really clever way to travel, being limited by a certain distance that you’re able to jump at a time. If you were able to jump as far as you wanted from wherever you wanted, it would be faster, sure, but there’s an extra level of scientific accuracy that’s achieved by only allowing for certain length jumps depending on the Grav Drive you’ve got. It helps keep the game from being a little too easy, while also keeping players immersed in the mechanical aspects of Starfield.

The World-Building is More Like Galaxy-Building

starfield sarah morgan ryujin
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

I’m deeply fascinated with the idea of space travel, and Starfield has done nothing but perpetuate that love. There’s just something special to the idea of traveling between settlements on entirely different planets in entirely different star systems in the blink of an eye. While not possible yet, it’s exciting to think of all the places humanity could maybe go. The mystery, the variety, everything about it is exciting.

The more I played, the easier it seemed to be to find myself compelled to just keep running around and exploring different areas. I chose the Neon Street Rat background so I was slightly obligated to spend time on Neon, but everywhere you go there’s someone around for you to talk to and do a quest for. Akila City is filled with people looking for a helping hand, and someone might send you to Cydonia for something, giving you the chance to keep finding more people with more favors to ask.

The characters also aren’t just sat in a vacuum (other than space), but they help keep you connected to the galaxy around you. As you complete missions, your companions will react to you or people will see you differently, based on the things you’ve done, keeping you invested in your decisions based on the characters you want to keep around you.

So That’s What Space Sounds Like…

starfield ship sounds
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

There’s nothing like wandering through an abandoned building on a strange planet, only to hear something creak and groan around the corner you just came from. The sound of the wind whistling through the holes in the wall makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and suddenly your companion sneaks up behind you with footsteps that sound almost alien. Not every game has the resources to invest in strong sound design, but Bethesda made sure not to pull any auditory punches.

Making sure your game sounds great is a lot more than bringing a microphone outside while it’s raining and calling that a job-well-done. Consider the sounds that have to go into every different weapon, as well as the sounds of your boots running on any surface imaginable, on top of the ambient noises that are constantly building the world to feel more and more organic. It can get overwhelming trying to wrap your head around everything they had to design sounds for in Starfield.

Not to mention just getting creative with the sounds the ship makes or the other aspects of the game that don’t exist because humanity just hasn’t cracked the Grav Drive yet. It’s a lot of work to make all that sound believable, but it’s certainly not for no reason. Sound design is one of the most important parts of making content feel immersive, and Bethesda really nailed it down.

Can You Hear the Music?

starfield cydonia vista
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

This has to go separately from the rest of the sound design section because there’s just something to the music in Starfield that hits all of the right notes. It’s not just the fact that each and every song gives you that “space exploration” feeling in your stomach, but there are 79 songs and nearly five and a half hours of music composed by Inon Zur to evoke that sense of endless ambiance for infinite locations.

The music in Starfield is a masterpiece right off the bat, and this was absolutely Bethesda’s intention. Instead of leaving the music composition for later in the development cycle like the majority of the industry, Todd Howard knew full-well that this game had to be different. The music had to evoke a sense of wonder for the journey while also resonating on the frequency of isolation in a massive galaxy.

Maybe it was because I was spending a lot of time in certain locations, but I got to the point of being able to recognize what planets have what music just because it’s all so distinct, while also being cohesive. Personally, I find Cydonia’s music to be the most recognizable but also some of the coolest, while Neon comes in at a close second. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to load up the game as soon as you hear it.

What’s Keeping Starfield On the Ground?

There are always two sides to every coin. While Starfield is an excellent game and a blast to experience, there are still a few things that hold it back from being as great as it could have been. From the structure of the quests to the maps — or lack thereof — there are a few things in Starfield that I would be remiss to leave out.

Too Many Quests Are Too Simple

starfield juno ryujin operatives mission
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

I really do enjoy going around the Settled Systems and meeting all the colorful people of the galaxy, but sometimes it felt like the game wanted me to do so more than I did. The Ryujin faction quests were a joy because I was focused on the bigger picture of the corporate structure, but the majority of the quests consisted of being told to “go somewhere and do a thing” and then go back to work to report that it was done.

Not to say that the subject matter of Starfield’s quests wasn’t interesting, because quests like the Juno mission really had interesting and clever concepts, but some missions in the game were just as simple as having a conversation. After doing 30 or so quests, I came to find myself hoping for something other than a group of pirates or Spacers to be between me and the objective.

That being said, there were some quests that turned out to be creative and compelling, like the Mantis quest being a bit of a mystery for you to piece together with a puzzle in the middle of it, or the Deimos Armored Transport flipping the gravity on and off as you try to make your way through. Avoiding spoilers, the Entangled mission also has a very cool twist, but it takes a lot of “go somewhere and do a thing” to earn your way to that point in the story.

Too Much Need For Fast Travel

starfield volii alpha neon fast travel
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

It’s been a common sentiment among the community since the release of the game, but Starfield makes me feel like I’m fast-traveling way too much. I know that I’m not, because that’s just how the game is, but that doesn’t make it feel any more fulfilling. Take the Temple anomalies for example. You’d have to go to the Eye or the Lodge to speak to Victor from wherever you are, then fast-travel to whatever planet the anomaly is on, and once you got the power, fast travel right back to do it all over again.

Quest lines start to feel like you’re really just playing the game from the pause menu because when half of the mission objectives are to travel to a location and the only way to travel is to pop into the menu, it pulls me out of the immersion of the game. Luckily those load times aren’t too long, but even if there were an animation of the ship traveling during the loading screen, it would keep that process from feeling so dry.

The Bethesda-Jank Pigeon-Holes the Game Immediately

starfield mitch cydonia bethesda jank
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

There are some people who love Bethesda games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls because of their jank, whether it be the NPCs or the various physics mechanics in the games. While these little things do add a certain level of charm to the game, personally I feel like they hold the game back from being so much more than Skyrim in space.

While this isn’t inherently a bad thing at all — just look at the success of Bethesda’s franchises — there’s something to be said about being able to look at a raggedy character model idly opening and closing their mouths and eyes and point out, “Bethesda” without even knowing for sure who made it. For the amount of time that Starfield was in development, I think my expectations might have just been for something more different than they were willing to develop.

Don’t get me wrong, I love when a studio leans into what they know they can do best. However, I love even more when they take a risk and do something a little bit different to say, “I’m not just what you know me to be.” Imagine how different Starfield could be with cleaner animations and sharper character graphics at the sacrifice of maybe 20 or 30 star systems. Just note — that’s me being very nit-picky, because the characters do look very good, but the camera framing and animations are still unmistakably Bethesda.

I Wish I Had Superpowers…

starfield starborn powers screen
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

This is something that can be both good and bad, but I didn’t know that there were Starborn powers in Starfield until after over 25 hours of gameplay. The positive aspect of this is that there was enough game to occupy and entertain me without having pursued the main story line. On the other hand, I feel like I shouldn’t have been allowed to stray away from that main quest without having all of the features unlocked to some degree.

Again, it’s very cool to know that the game is playable and interesting without having the powers, but given how much of the game is revolving around that, you’d think they would have hard-locked you into the main storyline to get your first power before you go out on your own without even knowing it’s an option.

This is a different kind of situation from the Internal Neuroamp because that comes at the end of the Ryujin questline, but gives you a significant advantage if you know how to use it. When it comes to your Starborn powers though, there were plenty of situations that I would’ve loved to have them throughout my gameplay, if only I’d known they even existed.

Where Am I Going?

starfield star map map topographical
Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via Twinfinite

Starfield is an absolutely massive game, and it takes care of the issue of having a huge galaxy by having a smooth, comprehensive Starmap. Unfortunately, it seems like Bethesda’s cartography work stopped right about there. None of the surface maps in the game are anything close to useful, being grainy, topographical representations of the landscape. This isn’t such a bad thing when you’re roaming a barren planet with nothing on it, but once you’re in a city it becomes nearly impossible to find your way based off the map.

It doesn’t even allow you to set a waypoint for your destination once you’re on the planet. If you have a mission active you can follow the waypoint to that, but if you were trying to make your way to Terrabrew and didn’t know how off the top of your head, you’re not going to find any luck checking your map to find the way.

I understand that there would be a lot of maps to make for all of the different planets and settlements in Starfield, but it would certainly serve as a quality of life update for players. You can see icons from the map and fast travel to them, but anything more than that is out of reach. It comes off as strange to have the maps be so useless on the surface given how comprehensive the Starmap turns out to be.

Even with its shortcomings, Starfield got too much right to really keep knocking it for the sake of knocking it. The game has a little bit of something for everyone, even if you have to slog through a few fetch quests to get to it. No matter how much I might complain about having to pop into the menu to fast travel, it’s a small price to pay for getting to explore the galaxy to my heart’s content.


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Author
Nick Rivera
Nick Rivera graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021 studying Digital Media and started as a Freelance Writer with Twinfinite in early 2023. Nick plays anything from Halo to Stardew Valley to Peggle, but is a sucker for a magnetic story.