Starfield, Bethesda’s highly anticipated new space RPG, has received a frosty reception on Steam following its November 11 release. After initially positive reviews, Starfield’s Steam score has plunged to “Mostly Negative” as players encounter bugs and design issues.
High Hopes Dashed
Starfield was one of 2022’s most hyped game releases. As Bethesda’s first new IP in 25 years and their first single-player RPG since Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, expectations were sky-high. Early previews were glowing, with many outlets predicting it would be a serious Game of the Year contender.
However, the initial launch was fraught with problems. Reviewers and players quickly discovered a significant number of bugs and performance issues, especially on PC. Some of the most common complaints included:
- Frequent crashes and freezes
- Struggles to maintain 60 FPS, even on high-end hardware
- Visual glitches and animation problems
- Quest blocking bugs and save file corruption
While many expected some instability given the game’s enormous scope, the sheer volume of bugs was beyond what most anticipated. Many wondered if Bethesda had bitten off more than it could chew.
Post-Launch Patches Lead to Backlash
In response to the shaky launch, Bethesda released extensive patches in late November and mid-December aimed at squashing bugs and boosting performance. However, these patches also triggered a wave of backlash from players. Some of the most controversial changes included:
- Nerfs to lucrative crafting mechanics
- Stealth reductions to NPC encounter rates
- Removal of hotkey shortcuts for repeatedly crafting items
Many players felt these changes ruined core gameplay loops without fixing more serious technical problems. Others saw it as Bethesda catering to complaints about the game being “too hard” rather than sticking to their original design vision.
Steam Reviews Nosedive
After an initial surge of “Mixed” Steam reviews, Starfield’s reviews have taken a decisive turn for the worst. As of December 25th, 2023, Starfield’s Overall Steam review rating sits at “Mostly Negative.”
|Steam Review Rating
|% Positive Reviews
Digging deeper into the reviews shows continued frustration with bugs, performance issues, gameplay changes, and accusations that Bethesda misled consumers about the state of the game pre-release. Many top “Most Helpful” reviews urge players not to purchase the game in its current state.
What Went Wrong?
How did the most anticipated game of the year end up with such dismal Steam scores? Industry analysts and players have several theories:
Over-Promising Leads to Disappointment
Interviews and marketing materials painted Starfield as a seamless, boundary-pushing next generation RPG experience. For a studio still struggling with dated tech like Creation Engine, this set expectations Bethesda couldn’t deliver on.
Scope Too Large to Quality Test
With over 1,000 planets to explore, industry veterans question if Bethesda could properly QA test a game of this size and complexity. Simple lack of playtesting time may explain the high volume of shipped bugs.
Core Gameplay Issues
While bugs contribute, many reviews argue Starfield has fundamental gameplay and progression system flaws no amount of patching can resolve. Complaints of repetitive quests, shallow crafting, and lack of compelling end-game activities point to design missteps.
Identity Crisis Between Casual and Hardcore
By trying to appeal to all audiences, Starfield loses focus. Casual exploration fans find survival and crafting systems too complex, while classic RPG fans dislike the removal of RPG mechanics for mass market accessibility. Everyone feels short-changed.
What Happens Next?
With Bethesda’s reputation as a premier RPG developer on the line, all eyes turn to their response. Will they hunker down and rebuild trust through extensive patching and free DLC like Hello Games did with No Man’s Sky? Or will corporate leadership cut losses and move on?
Most industry experts expect at least 6-12 months of patching before Bethesda even considers abandoning Starfield. But with reviews bombing on console as well, the long-term sales prospects look uncertain. Bethesda’s handling of Starfield’s post-launch support may come to define the studio for the next decade.
Only time will tell, but for now, the state of Starfield has gone from disappointment to disaster. Bethesda has a long road ahead regaining consumer and critical trust. For RPG fans longing for the glory days of Morrowind and Oblivion, the wait continues.
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