“Starfield looks bad” – a common statement that’s running rampant online since its gameplay reveal at the Xbox and Bethesda games showcase. Is this down to ridiculous fan expectations or is there something in these claims? Let’s break the gameplay reveal down and see what the issues actually are:
We’ll be repeating the same line throughout this article, but this is a work in progress. Less we forget the sheer size and scope of Starfield. Todd Howard confirmed 1000 fully explorable worlds on top of space exploration, which means we can expect 4K @ 30 FPS with slight dips.
This level of performance will see significant boosts when reducing draw distances, shadows and texture details on PC, but will we see the same customisation on Xbox Series X/S?
Maybe we will see the introduction of performance and clarity options on higher-end hardware which gives players 60 frames per second option, but this is pure speculation right now. Series S will likely target 720p-1080p @ 60 FPS and 30 FPS respectively.
Although the Starfield gameplay footage we’ve seen looked quite polished in terms of going gold for release, it’s also been delayed to 2023. We’d hazard a guess that Bethesda knows it needs more polish.
Some shots, just as the one pictured in the feature image with the odd tree textures and meshes, show that Starfield isn’t ready just yet. Some textures also look more complete than others which are perfectly illustrated when seeing skin and item textures side by side.
On the other hand, facial animation and textures are the best Bethesda has ever achieved. This is thanks to the advanced facial mapping and deep scanning technology shown off in the Shirley Curry (Skyrim Grandma) mo-cap featurette for The Elder Scrolls VI as seen below.
We’re hoping that Starfield is drawing from an extensive library of scanned assets to bring the Galaxy to life, but that still needs more polish before release. We will be holding back our impressions until release.
The open-world RPG landscape has changed drastically since Skyrim, with the bar significantly rising in the ten-plus years since the last Bethesda epic. We’re used to current generation graphics, massive digital playgrounds and other genres such as survival, action, strategy and more crossing over.
Starfield certainly looks and feels like the next Bethesda title, but we’re used to Bethesda breaking the walls of what’s possible in the genre. Starfield seems to borrow from other games such as No Mans Sky rather than re-inventing the wheel this time around.
Is this Bethesda’s fault or have we hit the point where not much more can be done with the genre? Open world burnout is here, and Bethesda isn’t the only major player trying to make vast adventures anymore. Maybe it’s time to adjust our expectations?
Gaming comes down to how much time one can spend on one, which is becoming increasingly inaccessible for RPG fans who are time-poor. The chances are the majority of gamers won’t visit all of Starfield’s worlds unless they spend a concentrated amount of time playing or gradually get around to it over a period of months or years.
Whilst it’s great for the longevity of the game and brilliant achievement, is it really necessary? The argument here is a procedural generation used on this scale is a bit of a cop-out to pack out games with unnecessary content.
There’s nothing wrong with procedural generation generally speaking. Primarily used to mix up dungeons for users not looking for a linear experience, it certainly has its benefits.
The issue is Bethesda fans want a gameplay experience from the developers, not from a randomly generated algorithm. For a lot of gamers, Bethesda Game Studios provide bespoke open-world experiences with high attention to detail. This route kind of goes against the draw of a Bethesda title in the first place.
We would urge our readers to wait until the final product. Generally speaking, these conversations show the love our community has for Starfield and Bethesda Game Studios. Sometimes, however, we can expect too much from the franchises we love.
Starfield will be released in 2023 with a specific date or window still to be announced. Do you think Starfield looks bad? Let us know on our social channels.
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Featured Image Credit: Bethesda