Starfield is out, and Bethesda's attempt at launching its RPG lineup into space is getting decent reviews: there are about 1000 plants to explore, about 100 of them with more to do than look at. The scope and technical execution is praised, but its similarity to other Bethesda games and early-game boredom are common remarks.
Wired's Reid McCarter finds an "endless supply of enticing side-quests."
Those who found themselves lost for hundreds of hours in past Bethesda Game Studios releases like Fallout 4 or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will, if they're at all interested in Starfield's sci-fi setting, find more than enough diversions in the game to ignore its considerable flaws and concentrate instead on its nearly as apparent successes. It will suck up hours of free time with regular doses of positive feedback, for completing tasks of varying quality; popping experience-point notifications; and new items, rewarded for diligently wandering the stars and mapping the expanse.
NPR's Swapna Krishna enjoyed a "fabulous playable space opera" but is already forgetting its story.
I'll say it flat out: I adore this game. Everything about it feels like it was made for me, a space and science writer. The exploration angle, the science-focused path you can take — it's very much my jam. But if you're unfamiliar with Bethesda's "make your own fun" approach, Starfield might feel overwhelming and aimless. While its "NASA punk" aesthetic invites comparison to Star Trek, I'd say it's more like No Man's Sky, but with more structure.
The Verge's Andrew Webster says it's a refresh of the formula, with wonder, adventure and "a whole lot of polish."
Put this all together, and you have a game that doesn't fundamentally change the formula that Bethesda has built its reputation on. Starfield is another huge experience with an almost overwhelming amount of things to do and see, coupled with some great character development, role-playing features, and so-so action. But it also smooths over many of the rough edges that have defined past releases from the studio while introducing a new theme and narrative that match the grand ambitions that Bethesda has always strived for. War never changes — but it's a lot more thrilling in space.
PC Gamer's Christopher Livingston is only lukewarm on it, writing that it sticks closer to the Elder Scrolls and Fallout formular than he expected, but is not as good as either.
The more I've played Starfield, the more I've liked it, and for the same reasons I enjoy Bethesda's other RPG sandboxes. The fun collision between structured quests and unpredictable systems creates moments that feel more personal and memorable than those of many other games. It took me a while to find that fun, though. Starfield's introduction is unusually straightforward for a Bethesda RPG, and the first handful of places you visit, including the game's capital city of New Atlantis, are pretty dull.
IGN's Dan Stapleton describes a "bumpy ride".
Things never went too far off course while I was flying my rinkydink little ship around chasing down mysterious artifacts and war criminals with a damn fine crew of companions at my side, but man did Starfield make me work hard to get through that opening stretch. Even when it mostly righted the ship and I was loving the story, sidequests, and launching boarding parties on enemy ships, there were still too many problems that constantly popped up, forcing me to curb my excitement. It's a bit like Starfield's own elaborate shipbuilder tool: even though you can slap a bunch of high-end parts together and it will technically fly, sometimes it's just not the best fit.
Kellen Browning for The New York Times wrote a feature out the game's development and the outside expectations of players: "Their desire for accuracy also kept expectations in check. Cheng said part of the balance was making sure there was enough to do without jam-packing all 1,000 planets with content. Not every location, he said, "is supposed to be Disney World."" (Capital "G" Gamers are mad that it's not No Man's Sky, a game they also hated for not being whatever it was they imagined it would be, and their hysterics are cited in the New York Times as an unavoidable factor in Starfield's own design and reception)
Finally, the publishers commissioned an official song for the game from Imagine Dragons.