Microsoft Corp. shot for the sky with Starfield, its ambitious new space role-playing video game, and so far it looks like a decent bet.
The highly anticipated title, which has over 130 hours of content, arrives after seven years in development. It’s available to advance purchasers on Friday and everyone else starting Sept. 6. Starfield scored a 87 out of 100 on Metacritic, the review aggregation site.
“Starfield is a landmark release that totally absorbs the player,” Dalton Cooper wrote for Game Rant.
Microsoft has struggled for years to develop the kind of long-lived hits enjoyed by rival game makers including Sony Group Corp. The company’s $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media Inc., the parent of Bethesda Softworks, in 2020, promised new titles. But Bethesda’s last big swing, Redfall, was critically and commercially panned last year after a challenged development cycle. Microsoft’s still-pending, $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard Inc. is another effort to bring more properties under its corporate umbrella.
Starfield, like Redfall, is a product of Bethesda and will be sold exclusively for Microsoft’s Xbox consoles and for PCs. The game offers over 1,000 stars and planets to explore. Players choose their characters, like a bouncer or bounty hunter, and then jet into space to operate a ship, hire a crew, mine materials and gun down bad guys. In enormous cities like New Atlantis, players explore a post-Earth future where locals dish out quests, like gathering scientific samples.
Executive producer Todd Howard described the game as “Skyrim in space,” referring to Bethesda’s 2011 fantasy role-playing title, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which has sold over 60 million copies.
Although Starfield’s setting is futuristic, its gameplay is decidedly traditional, and some reviewers found it slow.
“This game doesn’t really even get going until you finish the main quest,” Bethesda Vice President Pete Hines said in an online discussion at the Gamescom conference this month. He estimated it could take as many as 50 hours to reach that benchmark.
Large-scale role-playing games are taking longer to develop and are riskier to pull off as player expectations skyrocket alongside technological advancements. After CD Projekt SA’s disappointing Cyberpunk 2077 launch, which came after eight years of marketing hype, critics are growing skeptical of large developers’ ability to execute on their lofty promises.
Starfield also lands shortly after Larian Studios’ role-playing game Baldur’s Gate 3, set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons and released in August, set a high bar for writing and gameplay. It scored 96 on Metacritic.