Starfield is more like a sci-fi theme park than an open world adventure

After a long five year wait Starfield is finally here and it’s amazing! I’m about 23 hours in, so there are still many galaxies ahead of me, but read on Game Informers Starfield review for in-depth thoughts on the overall package. With years of build up and anticipation, I, like many Bethesda Game Studios fans, let my imagination run wild about what this new open world RPG could be. Now that I’ve played a decent chunk of it, it’s different in some ways than the studios Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. Those two franchises are significantly more open world than Starfield. In fact, Starfield feels more like a sci-fi theme park with exciting points of interest than an open-world adventure. But players looking for a replica space-based Fallout or Elder Scrolls adventure may find disappointment among the stars.

From the jump, Starfield’s brand of sci-fi reminds me a lot of the golden age of both the Disney company as a whole and its first two theme parks, Disneyland and Disney World. Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers envisioned space as a great, big, beautiful frontier ripe for exploration and human progress, far from the dangers lurking in the great beyond. Of course, Disney is trying to sell an entertainment experience, one less A slightly scary, short-lived alien ride in Tomorrowland, whose premise is extremely optimistic, has the bright-eyed joy of selling theme park tickets. It’s a similar optimism for space exploration and humanity’s place at the heart of Starfield.

Space: The Final Frontier

There are large orchestral pieces that make you feel like a hero (if you choose), with wonderful planets to visit and not a harmful alien in sight. Jumping from planet to planet is exciting (save for the varied but quick loading screens you encounter each time), and when you land, it feels like you’re about to discover something brand new. The music swells, your companions comment on the beauty of the place, and what lies ahead is an exciting mystery. Of course, these vibes are mostly over the top. Starfield is an action RPG, which means it won’t take long for you to take out other humans with various guns, kill aliens, steal to your heart’s content, and take out space pirates in dogfights. But for a fleeting moment, in each new place, I feel like a kid at a theme park about to ride an attraction for the first time.

I wonder what I’ll see, what the music will be like, where the camera will flash (or, in this case, where I’ll stop to use the game’s photo mode), what I’ll buy next or pick up at the gift shop (see: trading outpost or city merchant), and More. I love this method of galaxy-spanning travel, but I had to learn to love it because it wasn’t what I wanted or expected from Starfield.

I expected an open-world adventure, but I quickly realized that Starfield wasn’t interested in the slow ambient moments that color my experiences, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Fallout 4. Those games have various points of interest on their maps, like a city built out of a baseball field or the sprawling Whiterun of Tamriel, but Between them are open fields, forests, cave dungeons, mountains and more. Part of the experience is to explore to your heart’s content and discover something you didn’t know between stops from the Whiterun to the next city.

For the most part, Starfield is missing those moments and that experience until now. It’s intentional, though. In Starfield, you travel to hundreds of planets across entire galaxy systems. And I wish I was manually flying to planets a la No Man’s Sky, something Bethesda isn’t doing in this game. Instead, the cockpit of your spaceship becomes a detailed GPS where you choose where you want to go and fast travel there (which is why you see a lot of loading screens in Starfield).

Because of this, you won’t find any slow, meandering moments exploring the path between megacity New Atlantis and the nearest outpost. Whether it’s Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, you can walk to each point of interest and discover enemies, loot, dungeons, and more along the way. In Starfield, you are fast traveling from New Atlantis to an outpost on the same planet.

In that way Starfield feels less like an open world adventure like Skyrim or Fallout 4 and more like a theme park. The game isn’t interested in those moments of exploration between points of interest or “rides” or “attractions”. Instead, it’s interested in fast-forwarding me to the next Disney World ride in a city, outpost, or cavernous dungeon. It gets me to things of interest immediately, and while I’m sometimes grateful I don’t have to walk from raid or raid or outpost to outpost, in Starfield terms, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.

Without those moments in between, the excitement and mystery of reaching a new destination can only do so much. Adventures need lows, soft or quiet moments to emphasize highs. My excitement level is high in Starfield, but if it’s consistently high, how will I feel when it’s all said and done?

Sometimes, I feel like I imagine the difference between the attractions of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safaris and an actual safari expedition. Sure, the first one has real animals in real places and they live like they live in the wild, but they’re placed exactly where Disney wants them to be to add to the excitement every time I ride.

A true safari can have stakes, unproduced moments and excitement, and an element of surprise. Maybe a lion appeared and sat on my jeep like I saw on YouTube. Maybe no lion to be seen but I see herds of elephants sharpening their tusks on the trees. The thing is, you never know what you’re in store for when the safari starts. However, Disney’s attraction is scripted to elicit specific emotions from me with a 99% hit rate. It’s still amazing – it’s not the real thing.

Starfield Xbox Series X The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Fallout Bethesda Game Studios Softworks Opinion Impressions

It’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow!

Starfield has a lot of fantastic locations and moments that, while exciting, are scripted for a specific instance. These moments are even better; I wonder what they might look like if they were more organic.

In twenty-three hours, I’ve had a good time inhaling Starfield’s theme park fumes, but is it possible to do so for a few dozen more? I’m not sure yet, but the narrative and mechanical pulls are there for now, and I’m looking forward to finding out.

For more on the game, read our Starfield tips guide and check out our thoughts on it Game Informers Starfield Review. If you are planning to play on PC, here are the Starfield PC specs required to run it.

Are you flying to Starfield today? Let us know in the comments below!

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