A random bartender on a small back-world planet led to one of my favorite side-quests in Starfield, Bethesda’s latest and biggest open-world RPG. Just be prepared for some gravity issues.
Starfield is one of the biggest games of 2023, and has already become one of Xbox’s most successful Game Pass offerings. The Bethesda RPG, like that developer’s past games, is filled with characters to meet, creatures to kill, items to collect, and quests to finish. And this time around, you get to explore 1,000 planets (while discovering the dead animals on them). While most quests in Starfield are fine, a few are better than the rest and worth tracking down. For example, a quest involving a broken-down spaceship, some expensive booze, and fighting space pirates in zero-G.
This leads to some really fun combat, where you can use the shifts in gravity to your advantage to quickly reach higher locations or to target enemies who get knocked out of cover and float into the open air. I also had a great moment when I fired my big, dumb shotgun and went zooming backward into a wall.
“Oh right, physics!” I thought to myself as I jetpacked back into the action with a big smile on my face. After the fighting ends, the grav shifts continue and lead to some light but enjoyable traversal puzzles. Once I got the booze I left, returned to Lizzy, passed a persuasion check, and got more money than she had initially promised.
A quest that shows off Starfield’s physics
Starfield has received a lot of criticism for its locked 30fps framerate on console, and while I always prefer a higher framerate when possible, this quest is a reminder of why Bethesda’s RPG probably can’t hit 60. When the gravity first went out in the ship, every object, weapon, and body around me began to float into the air. Then they all landed a moment later when the ship started working again. This repeated at least 50 or so times during the quest, and each time Starfield tracked and maintained where these objects were, how they collided with other items, and their momentum.
Meanwhile, I and some dozen other pirates were shooting each other, ramming through all of this debris, and tossing grenades too. That’s a lot of stuff to render, track, and calculate. So it’s not surprising that Starfield has to cap the framerate at 30fps to spend its resources on other things.
Of course, there’s an argument to be made that Bethesda’s latest RPG doesn’t fully utilize all these wild simulations running under the hood. And I’d agree with that. Most quests don’t feel like they are taking advantage of the game’s impressive physics, or other novel systems for that matter.
However, when a quest like “Sure Bet” comes along, it’s a great example of what this game can actually achieve. I just wish Starfield remembered that more often.
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