Starfield Steals Away Fallout 76's Most Notorious Achievement For Bethesda Games
Any way you slice it, Starfield has been a big success for Bethesda. The company has announced that it reached over ten million players, the biggest-ever launch for a Bethesda game, and it peaked at just over one million concurrent players on Steam and Xbox around its launch. Even if as many as half of those players are on Microsoft's Game Pass service, that's still excellent performance for a game that's only been out around a month.
Despite the high sales, not everyone is happy with the game, or so it seems. We say that because Starfield currently has the lowest ratio of positive-to-negative reviews among Steam users, at just 74% positive. That isn't a terrible ratio, and frankly for a game as big as Starfield it's not bad at all. However, that does make it the worst-rated Bethesda game on Steam, behind even the extremely-controversial Fallout 76.
Your author has put quite some hours into Starfield, and he can tell you authoritatively that it is not an objectively bad game. The combat is markedly improved from Bethesda's previous releases, the story takes a very interesting and bold turn at the end, and it is definitely the most polished and least buggy title Bethesda has ever released. There are lots of interesting characters to meet, and the voice acting is the best it has ever been in a Creation-engine game, by far.
However, Starfield does have some pretty glaring faults in 2023. For one thing, the performance is extremely poor considering the visuals on offer; Hogwarts Legacy runs better even with its ray-traced effects on, and it looks miles better, too. For another, while it is relatively bug-free compared to say, Fallout 76, it does still have its share of issues. Bethesda promised a thousand planets to explore, but the game is covered up in re-used setpieces and copy-pasted environments that make it all feel quite samey.
All of that pales in comparison to the real problem with Starfield, which is simply that the overall game design feels quite dated compared to some other open-world games that have come out in recent years, like Cyberpunk 2077, No Man's Sky, and even Elden Ring. It's very similar to Fallout 4 in terms of the core gameplay loop. Like in that game, there's an excess of loading screens, as even tiny shops require a scene change, and exploring the Starfield's vast world requires extensive use of menus rather than immersive real-time travel.
For those who play a lot of games, Starfield's "mostly positive" rating on Steam is no surprise at all. If you have a beefy rig and still enjoy Bethesda's previous titles, like Skyrim and Fallout 4, then you'll find a lot to like in Starfield (and you probably already have). It's easy to imagine someone being let down by the game's legacy design choices in 2023, though.
Schrodinger's story spoiler.
It's possible, of course, that Bethesda will address some of these complaints in future updates or DLC. Fallout 76's own "mostly positive" rating is largely due to post-launch updates that have fixed numerous bugs and added scads of content to the live service title. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the complaints about Starfield, like its ugly citizenry and poor environment variety, are addressed in updates and add-ons. For now, though, Cyberpunk 2077 is leading Bethesda's game in player count on Steam, and that's rather telling.