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Review: Starfield Delivers A Queer-Inclusive Intergalactic Adventure

Review: '​Starfield' Delivers A Queer-Inclusive Intergalactic Adventure

Starfield
Courtesy of Bethesda

Starfield let me live out my best gay pirate life. Together with my cowboy husband, we will rule the galaxy.

The_JustinWood

Starfield has been something that's been on gamers' minds since its first reveal by Bethesda back in 2018. Being the first original IP to be developed by the studio in 29 years, it's a monumental moment for the studio, and since its purchase by Xbox in 2020, a tremendous time for Xbox players as well.

Starfield starts with the usual Bethesda RPG fashion. As an amorphous person, we go through a mining facility as a newcomer and discover what is only known as "The Artifact." As we pick it up, we are given visions of a mysterious flash in the galaxy, and then, in an instant, it is over. We are waking up in the infirmary of the mining planet into the most crucial part of any Bethesda gem: Character creation.

Character creation inStarfield is easily the best Bethesda has achieved to date. There is just enough intricate detailing to tweak each facet of your character. If you want to go into the minute details, that is. In a hurry to get exploring? No worries, there are also presets available.

However, it's worth noting that one of the adjustable features is body type. As a larger person, this always makes me happy because I can embody and represent myself a bit better. Hey, all representation matters!

Another notable addition to the content creation system is that you can choose between two walk animations, one a more typically masculine butch walk with legs akimbo, and the other a more feminine legs cross with each step, like a model working a runway. It's a subtle but powerful nod to gender fluidity and presentation that I wasnt expecting but greatly appreciated.

However, the biggest takeaway from the character creator is the ability to put in your pronouns. Does it affect the game at all? No. But it is such a small detail that makes a world of difference in allowing people to truly immerse themselves and escape to other worlds.

From here, the real journey begins. As our character wakes up, we instantly get thrown into a conflict. We get a crash course on combat and spaceflight works and then it’s off to the races.

Our character is recruited into Constellation, a group whose purpose is solely to track down and research these “artifacts.” While I won't and can't dive into the specifics of the story, it is exceptionally well told, with more than its fair share of twists and turns. Once I started the main story I was immediately hooked and driven to discover whatever next big moment waited around the corner. And happily, the game delivers on that promise. Almost every mission has one of these moments that left me gobsmacked. While the end doesn't quite deliver on the build-up and tips its hand a bit too early the overall experience added up to one that was still exhilarating and mind-blowing.

While the main story pulls you into Starfiled it's the plethora of other things to do that will make you stay. The sheer amount of side activities, let alone side quests, available in Starfield is, well, astronomical. As you land on planets, they each have flora, fauna, and materials you can harvest. You'll have to set up your outposts and, from there, craft mining equipment and power supplies and eventually man the outpost if you want to be able to produce that material to a significant degree. You will need to do these things if you want to be able to do any critical crafting to your ship, your outpost, or your equipment.

Then there are the actual side quests, of which there are literally hundreds. They range in complexity from small little fetch quests to entire universe-changing faction side quests.

As is common in the Bethesda RPG world I was asked to pick a side. Naturally, I sided with an evil faction of pirates. Because why not?! And those choices have consequences for the game at large. After running through its nearly 10-hour quest line, I could feel and see the changes that were made to the universe that came about me raising this one faction to a new echelon and funding them to their heart's content.

While as I said this is a common element of Bethesda games, this is the best I have seen it executed. Typically, you can feel it in the one town you follow the quest line through. But, in Starfield, you can feel your actions changing the entire world. This feels like the game Bethesda always wanted to make. The amount of love and care that went into every quest makes it apparent.

And it's a giant galaxy, one that you don't have to traverse alone. Companions and their quests are another massive part of Starfield — should you choose to dive into the companion's element of gameplay.

I did, and this is also where I met my favorite person, Sam. He is a space cowboy, and together, we made the best gay pirate and cowboy couple the galaxy had ever seen. It doesn't hurt that voice actor Elias Toufexis and his sultry voice bring my intergalactic lover Sam Coe to life.

Each companion has an interesting storyline attached to them to the point where they feel like fully fleshed-out individuals, and You can have as deep of a connection with your companions as you want. But, like any relationship, it takes work. Through my hours of pirating, I managed to win Sam's heart.

What was surprising was both the ability for your characters to get married and the number of choices available when it came to saying our vows. Nothing in Starfield made me happier than when, in an incredibly touching moment, both Sam and his daughter told me they loved me.

One change I’d love to see made however is the sexiness factor. No kissing, no cuddles, no implied sex. Which is a shame, but I do love that I got to live out this entire relationship before my time with Starfield ended. The way they just let me live our best gay life together really made me happy, and there is another choice man I would like to try for on my next playthrough, Barrett.

As for the game itself, the minute-to-minute gameplay for Starfield is hands down, some of the smoothest Bethesda has ever created, to a point. There are admittedly quite a handful of bugs. Surprisingly, my first fifteen hours were a relatively clean experience. Still, around hour fifteen, there were persistent issues regarding textures missing, characters misbehaving during speech cutscenes, and just other general bugs. Nothing game-breaking, and ultimately this feels like the studio’s most polished game. Now, a lot of that has been fixed with the Day One Patch, but some minor issues remain, particularly the characters walking around out of frame while in the dialogue viewpoint.

The gameplay is broken up into a few different sections. The exploration is generally the most relaxing part of the game. As you land on a planet of your choice, you can pull out your scanner to determine which resources and materials are on the planet, as well as flora and fauna. Beyond that, you can build outposts, which I mentioned earlier, and with your scanner up, it will also show you structures, landing sites, and anomalies in the surrounding area.

Let’s talk combat, as that is another essential element in the game. This is some of the smoothest shooting and melee combat that Bethesda has ever designed. Each weapon packs its unique punch and feels good in its own way. Then there is the ship combat, which, admittedly, I was averse to in the beginning, but as I learned and leveled up the right skills, it became one of my favorite parts of the game. As you level up specific ship skills, you can build better upgrades for your ship but, more importantly, target other ships' systems. This is critical as taking out enemy engines is the only real way to board them and take their ship over as your own.

Speaking of Starfield's learning curve, I wish the overall mechanics and systems were explained better and in the moment or as pop-up windows instead of having to dive into the help menu. For most of the things you will want to do, you need to unlock the skill trees. You get one point for each time you level up. From targeting a ship, being able to pilot better ships, upgrading your ship and equipment, and running an outpost efficiently. The only way I was able to figure it out was through trial and error.

As for the statements made by Bethesda that the real fun and game doesn't start until after the story, I thought about this a lot and ultimately I agree. It is set up so that for a first play-through, it might be best to tackle the main story and save all the side content for a post-story world.

Overall, Starfieldis a different beast than past Bethesda games, and with that comes a new set of trials and tribulations. But really, they break the mold here and deserve credit for really just making the game they wanted. It's got bugs for sure, but more importantly, it's incredibly fun with so many twists and turns that I can't wait for everyone to experience for themselves.

P.S.

For Sam Coe, we will always have Akila City.

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Justin Wood