Bethesda’s descriptions of Starfield may suggest that the sci-fi RPG is heading down Fallout 4’s path, something that should concern fans.
Starfield is shaping up to be gaming’s biggest blockbuster of the holiday season, but Bethesda’s recent dev diaries on the game bring back bad memories of Fallout 4‘s shortcomings. Excessive hype towards video games that ultimately disappointly isn’t a rarity anymore, and Starfield could be heading in that direction.
Set in the limitless possibilities of space, Starfield is Bethesda Game Studios’ evolution of its massive open-world RPG formula. Bethesda is best-known for creating Skyrim, a revolutionary open-world game that’s still being rereleased and replayed to this day. Successes like Skyrim and Fallout have made fans eager with excitement for anything Bethesda does next, but based on the few details shared on Starfield‘s dev diaries, disappointment could be on the horizon.
In Bethesda’s latest dev diary, the lead designers, directors and artists behind the game discuss the innovative design decisions that excite them the most about Starfield‘s world. They mention that players can join various factions and even play the double agent working for one side while passing off information to the other. Another mechanic they highlight is Starfield‘s dynamic companions that express how they feel about the player’s actions as they follow them on their adventure. Both features sound fine on their own, but the problem is that everything they’ve boasted about are features that have already been done before.
Bethesda’s last game, Fallout 4, also had multiple factions, which were present all throughout the wasteland. In fact, the concept of factions is something that Bethesda has implemented as far back as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002. Prominently seen in Horizon Forbidden West and Dying Light 2, working with factions has become an open-world cliché ever since.
The double agent angle isn’t new either, considering Fallout 4 allowed players to infiltrate The Institute faction while secretly working with another faction for the majority of the main plot. The same deal goes with dynamic companions, who’ve also been around since Morrowind. Fallout 4‘s dynamic companions even exhibited the same expressive features, which let players know when they didn’t like certain actions, such as stealing from others.
It seems that Bethesda is trying to sell off old ideas as new again, and it’s concerning because it mirrors the same mistakes made during Fallout 4‘s development. Fallout 4 was its year’s most anticipated title, and though it was generally well-received by critics, fans found it underwhelming due to how little it evolved from Fallout 3. While quality-of-life improvements for looting and shooting were abundant, it basically only gave players more Fallout 3 but with lackluster writing.
What made this stagnation more apparent was the release of The Witcher 3 earlier that same year, which advanced the open-world RPG genre in terms of storytelling, combat, and exploration. In comparison, Fallout 4 felt like a game made in a vacuum, where the developers weren’t taking note of the genre evolutions that came between the release of Skyrim and Fallout 4.
Skyrim was a genre-defining game for its time. However, Fallout 4 was simply more of what Bethesda games already do. Sofar, Starfield looks like it’s falling into the same trap. Gamers now live in a post-Elden Ring world, where mystery lies behind every corner and players have complete freedom to discover as much as they want. The open-world genre has had its lid blown off thanks to SkyrimBreath of the Wild, and now Elden Ringso if Starfield can’t keep up on the innovation front, it’s doomed to fall behind.
Bethesda has an opportunity to learn from other developer’s design choices regarding exploration and deliver on storytelling and player choice in ways that Elden Ring and Breath of the Wild did not. If Starfield can find ways to evolve the genre and stand out in a crowded field of open-world epics, it will live up to its hype. However, Starfield‘s current trajectory indicates that Bethesda may not have learned from Fallout 4‘s issue, instead just offering players a Fallout game set in space.
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