One Starfield Mechanic Feels Woefully Underdeveloped

One Starfield Mechanic Feels Woefully Underdeveloped

In Starfield, so much content is packed within the game’s 1,000 planets and various star systems that it’s usually not too bad when a questline or mission feels slightly underdeveloped. After all, there are plenty of sidequests and hidden things to do, including crafting, building outposts, or just visiting different locations, so the occasional lackluster quest doesn’t usually matter. However, one core aspect of the game feels intentionally underdeveloped, and it doesn’t make the game any better for it.

With such a high level of detail put into Starfield‘s ship-building mechanics, one would think that the same amount of thought and care would be put into some of the more significant aspects of the game. However, upon reaching the mid to late game, players are exposed to one mechanic that feels like it should have a huge leadup but ultimately fails to deliver.

[Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Starfield’s main questline.]

Starfield Powers Are Too Easy To Obtain

Astronaut jumping on ice planet toward a temple in the distance.

While some may argue that everything in Starfield is a bit too easy, no one can deny the fact that the quests to achieve powers potentially rank as some of the worst in the game. Initially, powers are encountered upon starting the “Into the Unknown” main questline for Constellation. The protagonist is tasked with locating an anomaly on a random planet. Upon reaching the destination, they’ll find some floating material defying the laws of physics and must follow the trail on their scanner to uncover a temple.

Once reaching the temple, they’ll find clusters of cosmic lights and must run through them to open a portal, where entrance grants the character a new power. And this is the main problem — as this is the way to attain every power in the game. While running through the mission the first time is quite impressive and interesting, as there are no directions on exactly what to do, the novelty of the mini-game quickly fades after the second or third encounter.

The quest eventually feels fairly tedious and equates to talking to Vlad, following a blue dot on a scanner, walking into a portal, and getting attacked by Starborn. To put it lightly, the mechanism to obtain the power isn’t challenging and starts to feel repetitive.

Barrett from Starfield looks directly at the camera in a red and white spacesuit in the center. Over either shoulder is a Fallout character in power armor, and the Dragonborn from Skyrim.

The most similar mechanic to powers in Starfield is probably obtaining shouts in Skyrim. In that game, shouts were obtained by locating Words of Power through different runic carvings located around the world. These Words of Power were often locked behind complex puzzles, challenges, or boss battles, and the payoff was usually fairly significant, as the powers in that medieval-based combat title would provide pretty godly advantages over NPC enemies. While there were a few “easy” ones to obtain, most had something interesting tied to them.

Sometimes, quests to locate said shouts would take multiple sub-missions, filled with even more content, including dungeons, lore, and additional dialogue with characters in the world. This would all help in fleshing out the universe and adding to the immersion. While it’s somewhat of an unfair comparison, considering how central shouts were to the main themes in Skyrim, the truth is still that Starfield‘s quests of a similar vein feel unbelievably underwhelming in comparison.

In fact, though most wouldn’t know it until reaching the phases of Starfield‘s New Game Plus, powers are actually part of the end game from a narrative perspective and the whole reason the Starborn are so powerful. However, perhaps because it’s more of an end-game mechanic in Starfield, or maybe because the missions are so similar to the ones to obtain the artifacts, Bethesda didn’t feel the need to lock these powers behind more challenging missions, as confounding as that logic seems. While the Starborn do attack immediately after gaining the power, they are so weak that it’s almost laughable.

Starfield Powers Are Cool But Feel Limited

Powers screen in Starfield the game.

Though it would make sense that mythical powers would be less useful in a game where players have laser beams and massive spaceships with a terrifying arsenal of weapons, it doesn’t remove the fact that there are way too many powers in the game. There are a total of 24 magical powers that can be obtained in Starfield, with varying degrees of usefulness, but the mana it requires results in being able to cast one ability at a time. Some powers, like Personal Atmosphere, which provides an aura of O2 around the character’s head, are super useful, as they essentially provide unlimited stamina. Other powers, like Earthbound, are pointless.

Other powers that are visually pretty cool — like Particle Beam, which enables the character to shoot a beam of particle energy from their hands like Goku from Dragon Ball Z, lack any real-world application when characters can also just blast an enemy into the stratosphere with a grenade launcher. In addition, there are so many different powers, and many have overlapping uses, that the vast majority will probably go untouched unless it’s to make a viral video.

Potentially, the best power is another boring one called Sense Star Stuff that reveals the location of any organic material like wall hacks. Beyond that, however, while the powers are cool, there’s a good chance that most will pick their favorites to equip to the quick-select bar and never touch the others. In fact, there’s a good chance some won’t rely on powers at all, even after multiple New Game Plus completions, due to the already super powerful guns, coupled with the limited mana bar provided to use the abilities.

Improvement May Be On The Horizon

Character entering the Unity in Starfield.

Luckily, it seems that Bethesda plans to continue updating Starfield post-launch. The most recent Bethesda blog post mentions upcoming tweaks and improvements to address complaints players have had since the game was released. Arguably, the biggest of which was the introduction of city maps to the game. Therefore, it’s not totally unreasonable to think that perhaps they can re-think their approach to how characters acquire powers in Starfield, especially as more players start reaching this point in the campaign only to feel underwhelmed.

Another approach is to (though this wouldn’t solve the “too many powers” issue) add more powers through subsequent DLC that are locked behind a different kind of challenge. These powers could have a more significant impact on the overall game or could come in handy by consolidating some lesser powers into a more powerful ability requiring more points to cast.

Another choice, which is also totally realistic, is that nothing happens, and the power quests remain as an underwhelming afterthought in what otherwise is a pretty amazing space exploration game. Though, at times, the concept feels somewhat underdeveloped — there’s so much outside of acquiring powers in Starfield that it would be disingenuous to say this one mechanic’s lackluster implementation ruined the entire game. However, in the future, it would be great to get a bit more out of powers in Starfield — including more background on who created the temples and why.

Source: Bethesda

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