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September 2023 Retrospective

I apologize ahead of time if you're not interested in hearing another person's opinion on Starfield but I just could not help myself. If you want to save your sanity skip "The Bad" section and just watch these videos from Zanny and Yahtzee to understand my pain.

The Bad


There is no sugar coating this. Starfield is a bad game. It looks and feels like it was designed and built in 2015 and then took eight years to QA.

If you were considering playing Starfield because you wanted to pilot and fight a spaceship, play Elite Dangerous instead.

If you were considering playing Starfield because you wanted to explore the galaxy, play No Man's Sky or Outer Wilds.

If you were considering playing Starfield because you wanted to to participate in a space opera, play The Outer Worlds or Mass Effect instead.

If you were considering playing Starfield because you wanted a modern times Skyrim you could even play Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty instead!

But if you're looking for a Loading Screen Simulator, you've definitely come to the right place with Starfield.

After 35 hours of Starfield I can honestly say that I didn't particularly enjoy any of it. I kept chasing the promise of something fun just over the horizon but every aspect of Bethesda's game design seemed to exist to stop you from getting there.

Before I go any further into the gameplay I first want to call out that Bethesda seems to resent the fact that they have to make games for PC. If I don't contain myself I'll rant about this for hours so I'm just gonna jump through this in bullet points.

If you want a more in-depth lashing of Starfield's technical shortcomings check out this great video by Digital Foundry.

So Starfield is a technical dumpster fire. But what about the gameplay? Let's look back at the intro sequences of Bethesda games. In Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim within 10 minutes you are able to roam the entire overworld and completely ignore the main quest if you so choose. In Fallout 3 and 4 you're a bit more hamstrung because you're stuck inside a vault and usually have about an hour of forced gameplay before you can wander freely.

Starfield falls into the later camp. You start out as a miner on some backwater planet who touches an object and has an acid trip. Some douchebag from the stars arrives and gives you his spaceship because he also tripped balls when he touched some random artifact. You're then forced to fast travel to totally not New Earth, listen to some more pretentious douchebags talk about how great they are, forced to fast travel to a couple of random planets and spaceships with one of those douchebags so you can go on another acid trip, and then finally you're free to kick your companions to the curb and explore the world of Starfield. For me this took about two hours.

At this point in Bethesda games I completely restrict myself from fast traveling. I simply wander the world and tackle whatever obstacles I stumble upon. Unfortunately, that is actually impossible in Starfield. There is no way to "wander" through space. You must fast travel between planets. There is no flying down to the surface of a planet, you pick a place on it and the game procedural generates a landing zone. Outside of named cities on certain planets every place I touched down was bland and empty. The most action I found was a generic mining outpost full of no name mooks, who told me they were being harassed by space pirates, and it would be totally awesome if I murdered them. So I went and killed every space pirate in a boring ass cave, and was rewarded with a couple hundred in-game space dollars.

I am now about six or seven hours into the game and am also a similar level. I have been putting all of my skill points into weight training (because Bethesda still enjoys forcing their players to deal with encumbrance) and security (because I know that in a Bethesda game good stuff is typically behind locked doors). I figure I should pick some goal to try and strive for that will hopefully push me towards some sort of enjoyment. I decide on creating the U.S.S. George Hammond from Stargate and becoming the scourge of galactic pirates everywhere. I then realize in order to fly a ship of that class I need to have level 4 piloting and level 4 starship design. That means I am eight levels short of just being able to try building and flying the biggest class of ship in the game. I would need to play for probably eight more hours just to gain the necessary skill points.

I'm now realizing that I really can't do anything I want and the game is actively working against me. The best plan looks to be do random quests and missions completely unrelated to my goal of piloting a spaceship, and hopefully in 8-10 hours I will have the money and skill points needed. But this also means that whatever skills I am actually using over the next 8-10 hours I will not be able to improve them. The growth of my character is essentially paralyzed if I want to try flying a ship.

I cannot remember why I decided to continue playing at this point but I did. My genius plan was to just focus on faction quests as I figured they would give the most experience and rewards (and for the most part I was right). For the next 20 hours I completed as many faction quests as I could, and even though I did end up gaining 16 levels, I could not save all my skill points for piloting and starship design. To be able to survive and complete numerous quests I had to put more points into weight training, security, pistol certification, persuasion, etc. In past Bethesda games your skills would simply improve by using them. But it doesn't matter how many locks I picked or how many pirates I shot in the face. Unless I leveled up and used a skill point, I would never get any better.

After 35 hours, I was sitting in front of my massive starship, custom built by me to be exactly what I wanted, and realized that I felt absolutely nothing. I spent all that time and effort thinking that finally getting access to this would make me happy and instead I felt empty. The kicker is that skill points are not refundable in Starfield. So you could spend 4-8 hours getting the skills points needed just to try something new, figure out you hate it, and literally just wasted your time. It was at this moment that I closed Starfield down and uninstalled it.

Bethesda Game Studios is dead to me and Todd Howard is the new Peter Molyneux.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Unfortunately Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has the exact same problem that made me stop playing the Demon's Souls Remake.

You really don't have a choice as to what mission you do next in Armored Core VI. Near the beginning you may have two options but after the first chapter you're usually just going through missions in a linear fashion. I got to a mission where suddenly Armored Core VI become a platformer. I needed to jump between cover while space lasers were trying to shoot me out of the sky. To be very clear this was not fun in any way and should completely removed from the game.

After I completed this horrible platforming I got to a boss who immediately kicked my ass which is to be expected. I tried a couple more times but kept getting destroyed. I tried building a couple of different mechs but continued to have no luck. I finally decide that I probably needed to buy some new parts and try again. That is when I had the horrible realization that in order to buy parts I had to quit the mission. If I quit the mission I have to replay the entire thing which means going through all of that shitty platforming again. What if I end up buying the wrong parts and cannot beat the boss again?

So I put my controller down, turned off my PS5, and haven't played Armored Core VI since.

The Good

Mortal Kombat 1

Mortal Kombat 1 is technically the twelfth game in the series but it is a both a reboot and sequel to Mortal Kombat 11. After defeating the being who literally created the universe, Liu Kang reforges it in such a way to preserve peace between the realms. Unsurprisingly, this don't go as planned and there is once again the need for mortal kombat!

It amazes me that NetherRealm Studios is able to consistently improve upon Mortal Kombat. I would have thought by now they'd have stumbled, but they seem to have found this sweet spot between releasing crap versions every year (like EA Sports) and not feeling the need to reinvent their game. The fight systems, the graphics, the voice acting, the campaign mode, it is all there and it is all fantastic.

If you haven't enjoyed previous Mortal Kombat entries this one is hardly going to change your mind. But if you're interested in more kombat like I was I can highly recommend you give Mortal Kombat 1 a shot. It is probably the most beginner friendly fighting game released this year.

Season 1 of Deadwood

There is an average of eight "cocksuckers" spoken per episode of Deadwood. So it should come as no surprise that I love this filthy TV show. I wouldn't have thought a period piece about an 1870s settlement town in the Midwest could be so engaging but it is fucking fantastic. Ian McShane gives an absolutely killer performance as Al Swearengen and even after just the first season I'm already pissed that those cocksuckers didn't give him an Emmy.

The Wire is still the best show that HBO has ever produced but Deadwood is undoubtedly up there.

Honourable Mentions

Doom Guy: Life in First Person

I started reading John Romero's autobiography, Doom Guy: Life in First Person, this month. I am a little over 40% through and it has been hit and miss so far. I'm only up to 1991 so we haven't even got to DOOM yet.

I think the biggest issue is that I went into this book with unrealistic expectations. I was hoping that 80% of it would be about id Software and DOOM but that is a small part of John's life in the grand scheme of things. It is a well written book and an excellent peak behind the curtain of one of the most influential video game designers. Just make sure you realize that this is an autobiography of a man, and not of the games he made.

Review September Goals

October Goals