I recently finished playing Starfield. It’s a spiritual successor to Skyrim, so in that sense it was an AAA game where one might have high expectations. Unfortunately, making a space game is a challenging genre because space is vast and boring.
The long and short of it is that it’s a flawed game. On one hand, it’s crashed on me more than any game I’ve played in modern history, on the other, I’m not sure if the game’s problems would have been solved by letting it bake for another year. When you look at a gold standard like Nintendo’s big releases, they are all polished on day one. They don’t need a day 1 patch with serious fixes. Sure, they have the hardware locked down, but I can’t give PC games a free pass to crash every 30 minutes.
I’m sure a lot of the reviews online mention the fast travel system. I think a fast travel system that needs to be used this often (and incur loading screens) is a design issue with the game. I think it would have been better to focus on a smaller system that didn’t need as much fast traveling. There isn’t a way to fly into and manually land on a planet, which is one of things a game like No Man’s Sky did a good job of. The lack of density also hurts the game as you generally don’t explore outside of individual places and just fast travel between landmarks. Unfortunately, I don’t think the game can be fixed in this respect without a redesign.
The game was ambitious by including ship building and outpost building. I never really got into the ship building part so I can’t speak to that, but I tried to build an outpost. After a lot of searching, I couldn’t really figure out why I might want to build an outpost. There didn’t seem to be a great reason to do so. When you start a NG+, you lose everything, so what’s the point? It seems like NG+ could have a lot of potential if you were able to carry a little more over between the worlds. Your ship is basically a habitable place, so it didn’t make sense to make habitable outposts. They would have needed more of a survivability aspect to make outpost building more worthwhile, because the mining/economics didn’t seem to be enough of a driver for me personally.
Character development-wise, I didn’t really come to love any of the characters. The main plot sort of thrusts you into a relationship with a group of people and throughout the main story I viewed them more as NPC quest givers than friends. I’ll admit, I probably missed out on a lot by focusing on the main story even though I did a few side quests. There wasn’t much interaction with the companions other than a few voice prompts (“I need to talk to you”) throughout the quest you are on with them. It felt like the game engine wasn’t really designed for more cinematic events.
I think the multiverse concept can make a compelling idea for a game, but Starfield wasn’t able to focus on delivering a good gameplay experience around that, so that lack of focus probably was one of the reasons it didn’t quite make it. I think any large open world exploration game needs to be independently fun to explore without fast traveling, otherwise the world is too sparse to be fun. Ultimately, Skyrim stuck a better balance for me.