What Will Starfield Look Like A Decade From Now?

Phil Spencer believes we’ll be playing Starfield for the next decade. The game is a massive, albeit rather empty, RPG with bustling settlements to make your mark upon along with thousands of planets to explore, but none of its disparate elements are compelling once you break it all down. Despite its grandeur, Starfield doesn’t have the enduring staying power of Skyrim or Fallout 3 months after release, let alone years. But would it be possible to make this lofty ambition a reality without changing the game entirely, or are the foundations simply too ingrained in its flaws that turning things around would prove impossible?


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Starfield isn’t a failure. It has excellent missions and a strong central narrative, and I admire how it tries to iterate on Bethesda’s tired formula while keeping open world exploration and RPG mechanics mostly intact. It is a dense, uncompromising game that rarely offers a hand to hold, but it guides you towards an adventure that is ultimately unfulfilling. Hardcore fans have and will stand by it, much like they did with Fallout 4 as expansions and updates were released, but Starfield has arrived at a space in time where RPGs of its ilk just don’t cut the mustard anymore. Not when Baldur’s Gate 3 and The Outer Worlds have proven where this genre can go with the right aspirations. And I’d love to see Starfield follow in its footsteps.


Could a paid expansion change Starfield for the better?

Starfield In A Decade

Judging by more expensive versions of the game, Starfield is set to receive a paid expansion in the years to come. Whether this will follow on from the main narrative or have us jump into an otherwise isolated quest like most of Bethesda’s previous games remains to be seen. We could delve deeper into the mystery surrounding the Starborn or suddenly have a new planet blink into existence with a sprawling metropolis set upon its surface. The potential is endless, but Bethesda would be wise to introduce this new adventure with a laundry list of worthwhile additions that not only come in the form of quality of life improvements, but new mechanics and features which seek to expand upon what we already have. Similar to No Man’s Sky in how Hello Games knew its origins held promise, it merely needed to expand outward while bringing us along for the ride with clear communication and surprising levels of honesty.

Build upon the procedural generation that underpins much of the game’s content, and give us more rewarding reasons to explore that go beyond credits we have nothing to use on and woefully underbaked crafting mechanics. Starfield is the biggest game Bethesda ever made, but that size means nothing when the contents therein never inspire. An ocean with the depth of a puddle is an expression that could also be applied to Skyrim or Fallout 3, but those games came out decades ago when our understanding of what the medium could do was so different. For Starfield to emerge and expect the same treatment was never going to happen, so a beefy expansion needs to be a direct response to that failing. If it isn’t, there’s a solid chance only the faithful will stick around, and lapsed players like me won’t bother.

How much can regular updates bring to Starfield?

A figure clad in power armour holding a gun in the intro of Fallout 3

If games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 are any indication, updates in the modern landscape are just as, if not more important than traditional expansions. CD Projekt Red had done most of the legwork of restoring its image and transforming its RPG into the title it was always meant to be long before Phantom Liberty came along. Idris Elba’s Dogtown bender was the cherry-on-top, a final hurrah for the game that attracted millions of players new and old who finally saw the light. Or, at least splinters of it breaking through the dystopian skyline.

Many of Starfield’s more frustrating elements could be fine-tuned or chopped out entirely in future updates, especially if Bethesda takes player feedback on board instead of replying to individual Steam reviews because we played the game wrong. There is so much good within Starfield, it’s simply held back by an inconsistent character ensemble and abundant bloat. A reinvention of planetary exploration and quests that actually feel fun to engage with. While it seems like a tall order, gradual patches and outlining a strategy internally and/or with fans, so they have good reason to stick around could go such a long way. It worked for 2077, and for years we all thought that game was doomed. Ditto for No Man’s Sky. It was the butt of a million jokes before transforming into a modern icon. Starfield isn’t too far gone. If anything, it’s just getting started.

Why Did Skyrim and Fallout 3 stick around for more than a decade anyway?

Skyrim

To understand why Skyrim and Fallout 3 are still industry icons, we need to go back in time and recognise exactly what impact they had in the moment. The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion is the reason Bethesda is on the map today, introducing a new kind of RPG to Western audiences previously confined to niche PC releases and tabletop experiences that weren’t cool to love.

Suddenly, this sprawling fantasy world was approachable for everyone and didn’t sacrifice all too much depth or sophistication in the process. It was watered down, but compared to what most were used to, it still felt bigger and more ambitious than anything we’d seen outside Final Fantasy or Grand Theft Auto. Then along came Fallout 3, reviving a dormant property, but instead of flying imps and luscious fields, we bounded across a nuclear wasteland filled with mutated insects. It had a similar gameplay formula, once again allowing us to explore one of the biggest and most accomplished game worlds we’d ever seen. We look back on those games with a mixture of pride and nostalgia, wanting desperately to recapture parts that proved formative to the games we enjoy today. That isn’t possible though, and Bethesda would be foolish to assume that and refuse to change its formula as a result.

Starfield character in between two walls with a big planet in the sky

Games have changed, our tastes have changed, and who we are as people have changed too, since Skyrim and Fallout 3 first came along. Not to mention, their extended lifespans are far from artificial. Expansions kept them ticking obviously, but the modding scene and active communities ensured we kept coming back to worlds and characters which proved so iconic the first time around that forgetting them felt impossible. Starfield doesn’t have that, and was never going to with this mindset. But it can still come back from the brink by creating an experience that players have a reason to savour, to remember long after the credits have rolled thanks to a world and mechanics that keep on giving. Right now, it is trying to ape the past without understanding why its past successes endured so far into the future.

It won’t last another year, let alone an entire decade, unless Bethesda has hard conversations and embraces change on an unprecedented scale. It’s a tough road, but one I want to see this game walk down, if only so I can hold it in as high regard as all those that came before.

Next: Why Starfield Didn’t Set The World On Fire Like Skyrim Did

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