2023 Preview: Starfield is the biggest Xbox exclusive in a decade | VGC

Bethesda Game Studios’ first big RPG since being acquired, Starfield could be the ultimate test of the Game Pass strategy.

For an entire generation, it has felt like Xbox has been waiting to have big games in a row to kickstart its first party. While the software front is better than during the Xbox One era, and Microsoft has fostered some great projects that wouldn’t be made anywhere else (see: Pentiment), Xbox’s first party still has some huge holes in it.

The suspension on the Forza series is at breaking point as the excellent racing series bares the weight of Xbox’s first party. While Halo launched like a rocket, poor support and a frustrated player base have meant that the series is looking far more finite, than Infinite.

2023 is when that changes. Starfield is an “I booked the week off work” RPG. A huge, boundless epic that will absolutely control the gaming space for weeks. This will be the game during the month of release.

When was the last time Xbox really had a game that controlled the narrative like that? Gears of War 3? Starfield could be a return to the Triple-A bombast that Xbox was incredible at in the 360 days and completely lost to Sony the following generation.

Starfield, with exception of games like Call of Duty and FIFA, which always dominate sales, is poised to be the biggest game of the year. Offering that on a subscription service that a huge number of your player base is already part of is an incredible prospect.

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Will Microsoft rue the millions of £70 sales they could have gotten traditionally? Possibly, but on the other hand, people play these games for literal years, so it’s possible Microsoft is banking on that, there certainly seems to be enough content in the game to have players locked in for far longer than the seven months it would take to make up the retail price of the game.

The secrecy around Starfield was finally lifted during the Xbox and Bethesda showcase when the first extended gameplay of Starfield was shown. Much more than Fallout or Skyrim in space, the scale of Starfield appears to be far beyond anything attempted by Bethesda Game Studios before. While some of the gameplay does feel similar (you’re still shooting things, ultimately), where Fallout 4 felt like a mild step up from the Skyrim/Fallout 3 era, Starfield feels like a leap, and it really needs to be.

The scale of exploration in Starfield is also unlike anything Bethesda has attempted. The notion of landing on any planet is impressive, even if we’re well aware it’s more likely to be a small outpost on that planet than dozens of massive open words. However, the sheer number of these planets also means that the watercooler chat around Starfield is poised to be quite unlike any RPG.

Depending on how the final game is structured, your adventure could be quite unlike anyone else’s, and the amount of “oh, did you find this on X planet?” conversations after release is one of the main reasons we’re excited about the game. The joy of exploration in Bethesda games, and the hidden missions and stories were already high when the games were set in The Capitol Wasteland or Skyrim, but think what they’ll manage to pull off with a whole galaxy of planets to work with.

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A huge question that remains around Starfield is how the game plans to handle morality. While Fallout 4 was slightly better about it, Bethesda games tend to have a bit of a black-and-white approach to being a goodie or a baddie.

The spectrum in Fallout 3 is literally Jesus Christ or the Devil, with shades of grey doing nothing but punishing players by locking them out of some options that the game presents them. Fallout New Vegas is better about this, and Obisidan’s other Fallout-Like, The Outer Worlds, follows up on this with a more refined idea of what a “good” and “evil” player looks like.

For us, we’d love the game to do away with explicit morality, specifically in dialogue options, and force players to actually read what they’re saying, and think about how that response would affect the person they’re talking to.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns actually does a good job of striking this balance. While the game will tell you if your choice is going to give your character more “dark” or “light” points, the actual content of the response is far more important to how the characters around you react. You could be talking to a “good” character, but in a specific instance, the negative response is what they want to hear. This is far better than the boy scout or war criminal buckets that the Bethesda Games have tended to force players into.

Ultimately, we really want to finally get our hands on the game, and see if it’s been worth the wait. This is Bethesda Game Studios’ first new franchise in over a decade, so they have the freshest start they’ve had since they began the Elder Scrolls to establish a whole new world of lore, characters, and more. Is Starfield going to be the start of the third pillar of Bethesda franchises? Are we to expect a Starfield 2 after The Elder Scrolls 6 and Fallout 5 are released?

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There is a huge amount of pressure on the shoulders of Starfield. Not only does Bethesda Game Studios have a huge number of devoted fans, for whom its games are the highlights of the generation, but it’s also the largest exclusive game Xbox has had in over a generation. It’s a proper heavyweight punch that will be looked upon as proof of the Game Pass strategy stuttering or flourishing.

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