The Fallout hype is real (and I love it), but Bethesda should NOT abandon 'Starfield' — let them cook.


The fact that I'll be able to explore so many detailed worlds from my couch is incredible enough. I'm not stressed about the framerate.

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Starfield was one of last year's most popular, and also most controversial games. 

Despite launching to critical acclaim (including my own 9/10 Starfield review), the Steam review score has fallen to "Mixed" over time. I'm not sure I recall a game that has generated as many negative headlines about a specific game besides Starfield since covering this beat, outside of a few noteworthy examples you may quite easily recall. 

Starfield was the first new IP from Bethesda in decades, the Microsoft-owned studio behind The Elder Scrolls, and the resurgent Fallout franchise. 

I loved the game for what it was. Though flawed in certain regards to varying degrees, it still offered some high highs that typically look for in a Bethesda experience. However, I would agree with criticisms that it hasn't enjoyed the same kind of longevity as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, perhaps owing in part to the difference in overall density. Finding interesting places to explore in Starfield that is actually meaningful can be quite difficult, and repetition in exploration is a notable downside of the game. I would, however, argue that the core experience is absolutely grand, and going back to Fallout 4 for its next-gen update really reiterated to me how far ahead Starfield is on a technical level.

Either way, hype for the absolutely amazing Fallout TV show has driven some corners of the internet to call for Starfield's abandonment. I'm here to argue in defence of Bethesda's sci-fi epic, alongside my belief that history will be a lot kinder to Starfield. 

A universe of untapped potential

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Starfield is getting its first major DLC, Shattered Space, later this year. Bethesda also announced a major update for Starfield set to drop on May 15, which will bring long-awaited city mapping tools among other quality-of-life improvements. Bethesda also revealed that they are working on implementing ground vehicles to the game, which has long been a criticism. It is patently odd that we're required to hop around planetary expanses on foot, to the contradiction of every space exploration trope and fantasy in history. 

In any case, the point is that the improvements have been coming. Perhaps not at a pace people would've liked, but it does seem like the studio is on a path to expansion. During an interview with KindaFunny last week, Bethesda's Todd Howard emphasized that the team is exploring ways to get new Fallout content into players hands more quickly, which in one instance could mean growing the studio to accommodate it, or perhaps improving technology on the dev pipeline with Microsoft's support. Perhaps it could also be further investment in support studios, too. Either way, hopefully that'll keep Starfield within scope. And why should it? Because Starfield just has so much potential. 

Starfield is what Bethesda has described as "NASApunk," which is a grounded-in-reality imagining of what the world might look like when humanity becomes a space-faring species. All of humanity's incredible technological ingenuity and impressive penchant for stupidity and violence is a theme within Starfield, as people split into separate unique factions and mini communities, following a great galactic colony war. 

(Image credit: Windows Central)

One of my personal favorite moments in Starfield was discovering an irradiated planet that was the remnants of one of these grand wars. One faction armed to the teeth with hulking mechs and the other with bio-engineered super beasts turned this planet into a wasteland and war machine graveyard, complete with the angry offspring of those aforementioned mutated creatures. 

I couldn't help but feel a twinge of disappointment after seeing the sprawling planet expand before me, as awe-inspiring as it was. I lamented that we couldn't ride in any of the broken down mechs — there's some kind of peace treaty that bans their use, but surely that wouldn't completely prevent their existence, would it? Pirates exist in this universe after all. I lamented that we couldn't experience the war the game's universe either, although I'm not sure how the tech would cope with tons of units on screen like that. But I digress.

This simple example is central to my argument that there's so much within Starfield's sizeable lore space that is ripe for further expansion and exploration, both in terms of story and gameplay. 

The best parts of Starfield generally take place within the game's main quest lines, which is also generally true of Bethesda games in general. However, I would also argue that exploration is Starfield's weakest pillar right now. Things like mechs and ground vehicles would doubtless elevate the traversal elements between locations, but then we have the issue that it's just a little bit hard to actually find the interesting content pieces within the exploration layer of the game. Most planets are just "empty," and the procedural elements that occasionally dot points of interest on these planets feels desperately in need of more random encounters, more building types, settlements with side quests, landmarks, and other landscape features. 

Starfield does have these moments occasionally, but finding them without sign posts can be like looking for a needle in a galactic haystack. This is the type of content that I feel could inject a lot more longevity and life into Starfield, and given that they've already laid the groundwork, it feels just plain silly to abandon that now. 

Cyberpunk and No Man's Sky taught us a valuable lesson

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Dogtown Johnny

Cyberpunk 2077 had one of the biggest turnarounds in gaming history.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

Much like Fallout 76, I found myself loving Cyberpunk 2077 at launch even if many others were (rightfully) angry at it. I played the game on a higher-end PC so sidestepped a lot of the issues others saw on the console versions of the game, which earned it a ton of ire from fans who deserved a polished experience. Fast forward to 2024, and Cyberpunk 2077 got a big 2.0 relaunch, an award-winning expansion in Phantom Liberty, and a similarly award-winning Netflix show in the form of Cyberpunk Edgerunners. Cyberpunk 2077 offered a roadmap for redemption for games that are fundamentally great concepts at their core, and Fallout 76 is also enjoying a similar renaissance right now after years of updates, and hype from the TV show. I'm not quite sure Starfield will get a TV show to help it reach that level of publicity, but neither did No Man's Sky, which has also enjoyed a similar resurgence owing to Hello Games' relentless updates and expansion packs. 

Starfield also has nowhere near the same mountain to climb as Cyberpunk 2077 — Starfield joins the likes of Elden Ring for being one of the most successful new IPs in recent memory. In fact, Starfield was the only new IP to break the top 10 games list for revenue last year. Cyberpunk 2077 is just an easy example to reference off-hand because I've been playing it a lot again recently, but it also emphasizes my point of how Starfield could have a potentially easier trip to really reconnecting with the wider fanbase, compared to the technical issues that plagued Cyberpunk 2077 at launch. 

Starfield has every opportunity to continue selling and growing for years to come, with similar update treatment. I already talked about mechs and ground vehicles, but there's a lot of room for improvement on various other Starfield aspects. The base building aspect feels under-baked compared to Fallout 4 and 76 as an example. I wish there was a more immersive "survival mode" that put a bit more emphasis on space hazards and travel, and having the right tools for the situation at hand. I mostly just ignored those hazard warnings on my space suit because they simply aren't really, well, hazardous 99% of the time. I'd ask for improved gore in the game's combat to give weapons a bit more impact, but Bethesda pretty much confirmed to me last year in LA that it isn't the tone they want for Starfield — which is fine. But perhaps modders can inject some of that when the modding tools arrive a little later. 

Even without leaning on modders to add to Starfield's overall offering, there's plenty of things that could be "easily" added to the base game to elevate the overall experience, without overhauling what's already there. 


Space combat in Starfield is awesome, but could probably be  (Image credit: u/Punidue on Reddit)

We don't yet know the full breadth of what's contained within Starfield's Shattered Space expansion, but it's widely expected that the expac will revolve around the shadowy House Va'ruun. This theocracy worships a great (mythological?) space serpent, and it will no doubt bring with it a range of base-game improvements on top of a story expansion too. 

One of the best things Cyberpunk 2077 did for the game was to really do an overall pass on the base experience, for free, when they launched Phantom Liberty. CD Projekt RED improved or elevated practically every in-game system with new features, balance tweaks, and improvements — which in some cases resulted in entire systems being scrapped and replaced. It focused heavily on user feedback and data, giving fans what they wanted and asked for, while also taking the extra mile to include tons of small surprises along the way. 

Fallout 4 did this to some degree as well, with some incredible post-launch DLC. Fallout 76 is still doing it, with a huge map expansion set to drop in the coming weeks. Yes, we all want Fallout 5, but it needn't come at the expense of Starfield's clear untapped potential. 

Crazy idea, let devs cook

Let devs cook, or make sandwiches.  (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)
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Starfield is far from a perfect game, but I'd argue that's true of Bethesda games in general. They're awesome because they offer things that no other games do, and at least in the case of Starfield, some of that Bethesda uniqueness was undoubtedly a little under-whelming the more you play. But, it needn't be that way. 

The underlying Starfield experience is built on an incredibly solid foundation. Sure, there's no zero-g gore, but the gunplay is tight and feels satisfying. The ship combat can create spectacularly cinematic moments. The hand-crafted areas of the game are evocative and immersive. The story has some great high points and moments. And the overarching back story is deep and full of intrigue. 

I want to see Bethesda develop and nurture this franchise, rather than move away so quickly. Yes, they could announce Fallout 5 is coming and pivot the entire team to that instead right now to ride the hype train offered by the TV show, but Fallout isn't going anywhere. Fallout 4 has got a next-gen refresh (and yes, it has issues, particularly with mods, but that'll gradually get ironed out.) Fallout 76 is like a completely different game from launch, too. There's also Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics to try out on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate if you want to try something old school you might've missed. There's also Fallout 3 and New Vegas with tons of DLC as well on Xbox back compatibility, complete with FPS enhancements of their own in some cases. 

Point being, Fallout is a pretty well-served franchise overall right now, and there's plenty to scratch the itch while waiting for more. It would be a shame to cut and run from Starfield and leave it to the mercy of a "Mixed"-rated legacy. 

In my view, with only a bit more love, history will be a lot kinder to Starfield. Let 'em cook! 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • GraniteStateColin
    Completely agree with the thesis: Starfield is a good game and deserves ongoing improvements. I fully expect it will be another Cyberpunk 2077.

    Unfortunately, my main fault with Starfield (mentioned in the article too) is the repetition of bases on planets. Everything else is forgivable and "good enough" for me, given the game's other strengths. But coming upon the same exact base that I just explored a few hours earlier is soul crushing. It makes the whole experience feel fake.

    It's a bit like in Oblivion where all the Daedric towers through all the Oblivion Gates were about the same. They seem great the first time, but then they start to become a chore because you already know what to do and there's really nothing to explore. But it's worse in Starfield because while those were merely similar in Oblivion, Starfield's are IDENTICAL, down no where every NPC spawns, so even if the combat could be fun, the fact that there's nothing different than the last time destroys the experience.

    It makes me not want to explore planets anymore, because if I find something, I know it's almost certain to just be another something that I've already explored on another planet.

    This seems difficult to fix as a fundamental problem with having a limited number of (very good) hand-crafted bases to distribute across many millions of possible planet-side landing spots (pretty much every pixel on every planet and moon map is a separate landing spot). Still, I posted possible solutions in an earlier chat here. Varying from decreasing the density of bases by increasing natural variability and random natural encounters, to randomizing NPC placement in the bases, to using crashed randomized enemy ships in place of most bases, to at least not letting the player come across the same base in rapid succession.

    Exploration and stumbling on interesting things while doing it is what Bethesda has always done best. Starfield has the most potential for this, more so than in any of their other games (not just all the planets, but the rewards for discovering flora, fauna, and natural features -- excellent for those of us who like to explore), but in multiple ways, they've handicapped the overall exploration experience, breaking many of the things that worked best in Elder Scrolls and Fallout games.
  • TBBudak
    Windows Central said:
    I keep reading that Starfield should be abandoned. I think that's a silly idea. Here's why people should be more supportive of Starfield and its potential — let devs cook.

    The Fallout hype is real (and I love it), but Bethesda should absolutely not abandon 'Starfield : Read more
    Starfield is never going to become a good game. This isn't a Cyberpunk 2077 story, beneath the bugs and issues, there was tremendous writing in CP2077, a fascinating world, top of the line graphics. Everything that made Cyberpunk worth replaying isn't present in Starfield.

    There is no sense of exploration in Starfield, no sense of discovery, no amount of 'updates' can fix that, let's also not mention the terrible writing. If it wasn't for Microsoft blacklisting journalists and giving review codes to Xbox fanboys/websites, Starfield's Metascore would be in the low 70s/high 60s.

    I'm currently playing Fallout 4, and i'm blown away by how good it is. The sense of discovery is immense, everywhere you go, there is something to find, i was exploring a ruined bridge and found bodies of raiders, one of them had a note talking about how he became addicted to a 'food paste' from a university. So my pip-boy marked the location on the map.

    With Starfield it's just borderline impossible to replicate that (at least in a natural way) the 'zones' you do explore don't have interesting content within them.

    So yeah, they should absolutely abandon Starfield (after Shittered Space) and start working on Fallout. Who wants to wait till 2050 for a new Fallout game? I don't!