Games Inbox: Starfield disappointing Microsoft

The Wednesday letters page questions what the Switch 2’s hardware specs will be, as one reader offers a solution to pets chewing cables.

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Second best
Excellent review of Starfield, GC, and dare I say it, worth waiting for? I have an Xbox Series S and I’ve been playing it a little, but it failed to grab me at the start and little has happened since to change my mind about it. After reading your review I’m inclined to go with my first impressions and not return.

The game’s Metacritic score is already down to 84 on Xbox and I’m sure it’ll go down even further once Eurogamer and Edge render their verdict, as I’m certain they won’t be any less negative than at least the IGN and GameSpot reviews. Which will mean all the most trusted reviewers gave the game a critical review.

So far, everyone has said it’s at least a little above average but you can bet that’s not what Microsoft was hoping for when they started hyping this thing. Bethesda obviously expected it though, as why else deny review copies to these sites?

Sales seem to be doing okay so the game’s release is clearly no disaster but I’m sure Microsoft must be disappointed that it’s not going to be winning any game of the year awards. In fact, I think it’s almost certain it won’t even be the most highly rated Xbox exclusive of the year, as Forza Motorsport will likely review better.

That’s a game made by a long-term studio that they’ve nurtured over more than a decade, rather than some company they just bought for a stupid sum and immediately expected to start laying golden eggs. If they didn’t have second thoughts about spending all that money on Activision Blizzard before I’m sure they are now…

GC: Thanks.

Last go
Pretty sure I’ve just turned Starfield off for the last time, not because of the fast travel, nor the enemies that spawn in front, beside or behind me mid-battle; it wasn’t even the multiple times that characters spoke over themselves when talking to me. In the end (seven hours in) it was just boring.

To be honest, I didn’t have to buy it to play and only did so as it was on Game Pass, as I never got on with Skyrim, Oblivion or the Fallout games, despite having tried them several times across the years. Ultimately, its simply not for me and I recognised that were I to once again become so encumbered that my character would die if I dared to move just a tiny bit faster than a snail, I’d have lost my cool entirely.

Not everything’s for everyone, nor should it be. Hope those playing it are having a blast.

Never in love
After all the fantastic reviews I really wanted to love Baldur’s Gate 3 but it’s just so overwhelming and complicated. I don’t know what companions to pick, I struggle with every battle (yes, on the easiest setting) there are so many quests and when I try to complete one I end up with another three without finishing the one I’m doing and I’m only 10 hours in.

Too many choices, unforeseen consequences, and missed opportunities; I find myself googling every conversation and not actually playing the game.

I think I’m going to have to leave it for now, hope an easier mode is introduced and buy Mortal Kombat 1 so I can just beat up characters without thinking about everything too much.
Keith Stratford

GC: At least you gave it a go, there’s many that wouldn’t.

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Pay to win
Well, who would’ve thought Starfield would have been given middle of the road review scores from places that were refused review copies?

Now your review is in, perhaps we can look at things more objectively. I remember that in your review statistics that 7/10 is an average game review, so 6/10 isn’t all that bad by your own metric but neither is it Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. Looking things over, it appears to be Fallout 4 in space with very little improvement over that game and almost no improvement in the way you interact with non-player characters.

Now, I actually enjoyed Fallout 4, but more as an evolution of Fallout 3. The same game but with bells on, so to speak. But this is Bethesda’s marquee production for Microsoft since they bought them for £7.5 billion and it had to exceed expectations and that is where it appears that Starfield falls flat on its face. Have Microsoft wasted their money? Only time will tell.

Going beyond this, it makes me feel that Microsoft’s £75 billion purchase of Activision is deeply flawed. You cannot buy the games market has now been proven by the purchase of Bethesda. Talent moves about studios and you can’t nail that down. Rare was a great example of that, as under the stewardship of Nintendo, but not full ownership, they flowered and became highly respected. Once Microsoft came in, they withered and produced mediocrity until Sea Of Thieves, which has rendered them a games as a service studio.

If Bethesda and its studios cannot improve on their glory days products then they too will wither on the vine. Starfield required an evolution. It needed to be No Man’s Sky x Elite Dangerous and, from your review, it’s not and that’s a shame. Ultimately, the real question to ask is whether the game would’ve been worth £60 if it wasn’t on Game Pass and from the state of your review, I’d have said many people would’ve waited for it to hit the bargain bin.

GC: What review statistics? 6/10 means exactly what it always should mean: a little above average. Also, Starfield is £70.

Never recovered
I was just thinking of the time I played FIFA 2015, maybe, and I played in career mode as a single custom player in midfield. I was the best player in the Premiership for a few seasons and it was all leading up to me getting selected for the England team in the World Cup. I couldn’t wait to show the world what I was made of.

And then the game just sort of skipped the whole World Cup. It let me play the qualifications but the World Cup was totally skipped. I read it was a bug, but I have never been so upset with a game. I’ve not bought a new FIFA game since.

When animals attack
To anyone that suffers animal chewing syndrome (ACS). Try to fix the cables. My sister had her Alexa power cable, and one of the kids’ headphones cable, chewed up by an escaped rabbit. I was able to get both working again with a bit of wire stripping and soldering. The headphone wires are like fine hairs. I’m certainly no tech expert but if I can get those things going again, I’d recommend having a go. I even got my Xbox One controller shoulder button working again.

If it’s a choice of binning a £500 headset, the VR one or splicing some wires together, I know which I would try.

YouTube and have loads of tutorials.

Objective reality
To follow up on Marc’s letter regarding the possible power of the Switch 2. I agree with him after hearing John from Digital Foundry make a great point. He said that if you had heard before the release of the first Switch that they had Doom 2016 and The Witcher 3 running on it, you may have had higher expectations of what the Switch could do.

I believe that’s what is happening with this Matrix Awakens demo talk on Switch 2. It may have looked comparable from a quick look but when it’s actually analysed it’s not going to live up to those higher expectations.

GC: If it already looks and plays well, how is analysing it somehow going to undermine that?

Hybrid optimisation
The recent Digital Foundry Direct Weekly discussed the potential Switch 2 hardware specifications and I think they asked a very interesting question:

If you were told before it was released that the Switch 1 could run The Witcher 3 and Doom Eternal natively what would you imagine the specs of the machine to be?

You would imagine specs far higher than what the Switch actually has but it does indeed run those games natively.

That is broadly where we are with the Switch 2. We have been told it can run Final Fantasy 7 Remake (a PlayStation 4 game) and The Matrix Awakens Unreal 5 Tech demo but nobody currently speculating on what this means saw the demonstrations themselves. There is a huge risk of Chinese whispers and people getting overexcited.

From Epic’s (and Nintendo’s) perspective getting Unreal 5 running on the machine would have been a priority. Nintendo will want to spec the Switch 2 above the minimum requirements for that engine to make it possible to port future third party games to the console.

Epic will have highly optimised the demo for the behind closed doors reveal and will probably have made sacrifices, like The Witcher 3 Switch port, to get it running on Switch 2. For example, the traffic density is probably vastly reduced and some effects will have been turned down or removed but people in the room would not have noticed without seeing it side by side with the PlayStation 5 version, as even with some compromises it would look very impressive.

Nvidia’s DLSS technology is the market leader in AI performance improvements and as they are highly likely to be providing the Switch 2’s internals it follows that they will use a bespoke chip this time. One that can offer DLSS improvements at lower power.

With all that said it pretty much puts the Switch 2 somewhere between PlayStation 4 and Xbox Series S performance wise but with a superior (more optimised) upscaling/frame generation solution to the current generation of home consoles.

GC: That’s exactly what the rumours say it is?

Inbox also-rans
Interesting RE: Starfield. RE: sci-fi role-playing games, I’ve been playing Wasteland 3 for the past two weeks or so, having got it on sale. So far, I really like it’s blend of turn-based combat and grey choices.

GC: The original Wasteland was essentially the first Fallout game, but EA owned the name so the team made Fallout instead of Wasteland 2.

For anyone who has PlayStation Plus, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an incredible game that is worth playing, especially for free. One of the few games I wish I could wipe from my memory so I could play it for the first time, all over again!
Michael, Crawley

GC: It has its problems but it’s perfect for PS Plus/Game Pass, we strongly recommend everyone giving it a try.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Onibee, who asks what new games would you like to see released for the Switch 2 in its first 12 months?

Rumours about Nintendo’s next console are gathering pace, with reliable sources claiming it will be roughly as powerful as a PlayStation 4 – or perhaps even more so. There has been some vague talk of new games, such as a new 3D Mario, but nothing substantial, so what would you like to see most in terms of first and third party games?

Try and keep things realistic – Nintendo isn’t going to release all its heavy hitters at the same time – but feel free to imagine your dream launch line-up, as long as it’s also reasonably believable.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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