Starfield is the latest open-world RPG from Bethesda Game Studios. It’s a game that, on paper, should be giving people plenty of reasons to get excited about it. Starfield is Bethesda’s first original IP in 25 years, it’s set in a new sci-fi universe, and powered by a new engine. Yet, despite all of that, the buzz amongst gamers seems almost mixed at best. That might be due to the questionable quality of Bethesda’s most recent game releases, or a perceived oversaturation of open-world RPGs in recent years. For one reason or another, Starfield isn’t setting the gaming world on fire just yet, and Bethesda needs to show more to change player interest.
Show, don’t tell
The easiest explanation is one that will hopefully be rectified this summer: it’s hard to get excited for a game, especially a new IP like Starfield, without seeing any gameplay footage. The initial teaser trailer in 2018 was little more than a reveal of the logo and setting. Last year’s in-game teaser was a better look, but it still didn’t show any actual gameplay. Unless a new game is a sequel to a popular hit, or a tantalizing prospect based on the established pedigree of the studio, a developer needs to give players tangible reasons to get excited. Arguably, that hasn’t been the case for Starfield’s marketing thus far.
To Bethesda’s credit, the studio has been providing drip feeds of Starfield information on the official website. Concept art for various locations in the game looks promising, and developer discussions about factions, quests, dialogue, and music showcase a lot of potential. However, for many, this information is too far out of the way for them to come across naturally. It’s likely only players who are fans of Bethesda’s games that will actively seek out these updates. The wider gaming audience needs to see gameplay before they can form an opinion. Without seeing the potential of what could make Starfield enticing, it might even be considered a roadblock between gamers and the next Fallout or Elder Scrolls game.
Bethesda’s recent history hasn’t been spotless
For players familiar with Bethesda games, there’s another problem. Namely, the studio’s last few games have had a mixed reception from critical gaming outlets and the fans themselves. Fallout 76 was an unmitigated disaster at launch, and although the game is in a much better state now, the damaging first impression was already made. Going a little further back, Fallout 4 was well received, but some players still considered it to be a less groundbreaking game than its beloved predecessors.
Some of the issues with these games can be explained through design decisions, such as the choice to make Fallout 76 an online multiplayer-focused experience. Fans were also becoming less and less patient with the frequent bugs and glitches present in these games. Bethesda games have always been known to include a fair share of bugs. But, when those bugs became coupled with the other criticisms, it might have been a step too far for even the most hardcore Bethesda fans. Thankfully, Starfield will likely be a technical leap forward, as it is the first Bethesda game running on the new Creation Engine 2. Showing off more of the game would certainly help to demonstrate the new technical improvements that Starfield could have.
Oversaturation can be a problem
Putting it simply, the gaming landscape has had no shortage of open-world RPGs in recent years. That on its own wouldn’t be an issue. Yet, the questionable quality of some of these games and the similarities between them have been contentious talking points among gaming communities. One example of this is players feeling exasperated by excessively large and over-cluttered maps in these games.
It’s one of the reasons why a game like Elden Ring has made such waves within the gaming community. By doing away with many common trappings of open-world RPGs, Elden Ring instills a sense of freedom that other recent games in the genre have been lacking. Bethesda’s legacy titles also achieved that effect, but there have been many releases in the genre between now and the last well-received Bethesda RPG.
Looking back at recent games in the genre makes it easier to understand why gamers may be only cautiously optimistic about a game like Starfield. The bugs and content issues of Fallout 76 and the disappointing launch of Cyberpunk 2077 are just two examples of open-world RPGs that have let players down in recent times. Elsewhere, some players have felt like recent Assassin’s Creed games have become far too large and overwhelming. Bethesda fans are likely yearning for a brand-new game like Starfield. But, given the studio’s recent track record, as well as some other recent disappointing games in the genre, it’s understandable that they would be apprehensive about it.
There are reasons to have interest and be excited about Starfield, but Bethesda needs to demonstrate them in action before gamers can shift from being cautiously optimistic to genuinely excited.