Starfield is a big new game from Bethesda and Microsoft that has divided players into two camps. The former considers it the studio’s best game and one of the most powerful releases for the Xbox. Another was disappointed by how many of the potentially interesting ideas for Fallout in Space remained raw and unfinished. If you’re in the latter group, or just want a Starfield-like experience, we’ve rounded up eight games that are worth playing. Some are simply similar to Starfield, others implement its ideas much better.
Didn’t make it
Starfield is an open-world science fiction RPG. You play as a miner who, in the course of his daily routine, finds a mysterious artifact and receives some visions from it. This event involves him in the research activities of the Constellation organization, which is studying the secrets of the universe. Now your task is to help them collect other artifacts in dozens of worlds in order to unravel the greatest mystery of the universe.
If you’ve played any of Bethesda’s games (especially Fallout), you know what you’re in for. And even too good. An open world with a lot of activities, shootouts with raiders (this time not post-apocalyptic, but cosmic), collecting loot until the character is overloaded, crafting and construction, developing perks, lockpicking, another new iteration of the eloquence mechanics. There is a set of large factions with separate storylines, some of which are more interesting than the main plot. City guards give you tips on other adventures: a local barmaid is complaining about missing cargo, somewhere in the galaxy there are brutal races to the death, a local sheriff is looking for assistants.
In general, another sandbox adventure in a large open world with the ability to upgrade everything in the world, improve weapons and armor, collect hundreds of types of garbage (pens, cups, plates, food, food wrappers, toys, souvenirs, and so on) and dozens, hundreds of dungeons (or rather, mines and laboratories) with loot divided into rarity colors.
Everything, with the exception of the excellent environmental design, is done passably at best. Combat in space is inferior to any simulator. Literally in the same year, the magnificent Everspace 2 was released, which reveals the theme of space much better, from battles to various assignments and cargo transportation.
In terms of the scope and infinity of the galaxy, Starfield is inferior to No Man’s Sky and Elite: Dangerous. The shooting is worse than any passable shooter and in terms of interesting scenarios it is inferior to Fallout 4: although the feeling of recoil and hits has become more pleasant, you will be fighting mainly with people, robots and very sometimes with aliens playing the role of attack dogs.
No sentient aliens, super mutants, huge bosses or anything that changes your usual point-and-shoot pattern.
There is practically no space in Starfield, a game about exploring the universe: you can only fly in the orbit of planets and gas giants, and movement between systems, planets within the same system, from orbit to the surface and back is implemented through loading screens. We boarded the ship – loading. We flew into orbit – loading. We made a jump from one system to another – loading.
The number of loading screens can be reduced by using fast travel directly to the destination (if you have already been there), ignoring space as an entity. You can’t even fly manually from one planet to another within the same system: movement on the surface of worlds is carried out only through loading screens and clicking icons on the map.
As a result, the same tasks for transporting goods, through which you can play as a universal trucker and earn money through honest work, turn into an exchange of credits for teleportation. You take the task, press “fast travel” to the destination, wait 5-10 seconds for loading, and… the task is completed, here’s your money.
Bethesda is pushing the fact that you are a space explorer. You have a starship, there are a bunch of missions to deliver and hunt for pirate ships, random encounters, cargo convoys. But to explore this layer of gameplay, you need to independently refuse fast movements, endure flight cutscenes and loading screens, and linger in orbit.
Another series of “Corsairs” and “Space Rangers”, games released 20 years before Starfield, solved this problem: make at least a schematic movement along some map so that all the “space” content finds you along the way. Yes, even in the Bethesda games themselves this idea was already there.
Starship battles are boring. These are battles between sacks of potatoes flying in zero gravity, where most situations are decided by armor and damage numbers. Of the interesting tactical maneuvers, you only have access to a dash to avoid missiles and distribute energy to equipment. You can’t launch any kind of nuclear charge, call in drones, or put a turret on the meteor, like in Galaxy on Fire or Everspace 2. Fly, shoot, lazily dodge, and periodically fire rockets.
Bethesda has long been criticized for the fact that the role-playing game in their releases is just pumping up equipment numbers. The election and roleplaying options have been quite primitive since Oblivion: you are either a good Samaritan or universal evil. In Skyrim, mutually exclusive factions have been removed – you can become the head of every guild and community, regardless of the hero’s skills. Also in it and Fallout 4, dialogue choices were reduced to “yes,” “yes, of course,” and “yes, if they pay.” The latter also distinguished itself with the fourth option “sarcasm”.
There was little hope for Starfield to change this, and no miracles happened. The roleplaying is zero, there are at most two choices in any situation, and the script, dialogue and overall quality of the text leave much to be desired. It’s not like Bethesda didn’t do anything at all: at the beginning of the game, you can choose a character’s specialty, which determines his starting skills (which unlock unique dialogue options), as well as perks that determine his background and features. You are either again a hero saving everyone, or a scoundrel, or simply refuse all tasks. The maximum available roleplaying is to work for some faction and pretend to be a member of it.
The game declares itself as an RPG, although from this genre there is only pumping and color gradation of armor.
What about the gameplay? The game simply doesn’t respect your time and drags out the gameplay with monkey-like labor. Yes, Starfield is an immense game that takes hundreds of hours (and dozens of replays, but those are spoilers). But only half of the content, if not more, is made by a procedural generation algorithm, and most of your time in the game consists of inconvenient interfaces, loading screens and “housework”: walking 800 meters in empty locations, collecting garbage, killing identical enemies, crafting items for crafting for further crafting.
However, every gamer has the opportunity to form their own opinion about the game. Be sure to share in the comments!
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: RPG, third person shooter
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, Xbox Cloud Gaming
What does Starfield excel at: role-playing, characters, lore of the universe, script
The most obvious offering for a space RPG is Bioware’s Mass Effect series. Already a cult classic in video game space operas, it tells the story of Captain Shepard and his heroic journey to save the galaxy.
Mass Effect set the standard for high-priced RPGs mixed with third-person shooter elements: a variety of weapons and abilities to aid in combat. Lively and well-developed partners with their own characters, stories, unique missions and possible romances. A split between the good and bad paths (Paragon and Renegade), inspired by similar mechanics from Fable. And the incredible lore of the universe, written in the spirit of the best representatives of science fiction.
Most fans consider the second part to be the best, but in terms of intensity and epicness, many note the finale of Shepard’s trilogy, Mass Effect 3. In general, each part of the series is interesting: something was done better in the first, and even Andromeda, which players were massively criticized at the release for technical problems and failure to meet Bioware’s high standards. But over time, the fans fell in love with her too – although not all of them.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: immersive sim
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
What does Starfield excel at: exploring locations, collecting resources and fighting in a sci-fi/space setting
Prey is an immersive sim developed by Arkane and published by Bethesda, the creators of Starfield. The game is about a space station in Earth’s orbit where an incident with mimic aliens occurred. The station is in ruins, most of the crew is dead, and the player in the role of scientist Morgan Yu will have to look for a way to fix everything or at least save himself.
2017’s Prey does a much better job with the space station theme: realistic flights in airless space, varied compartments and halls, a unified aesthetic without interspersing fashionable stereotypical tropes like space cowboys and cyberpunk neon. It also has a much better approach to looting and resource processing mechanics than Starfield: collected trash can be processed into primary elements, which are easier to store and can be used to create useful equipment. Everything is done through convenient interfaces in a few clicks, which is why the “garbage collector simulator” in Prey is much nicer and more fun. And leveling up abilities not only significantly changes the game and opens up completely new ways to progress, but even affects the ending.
Even without comparisons with Starfield Prey 2017, this is a great game thanks to its excellent narrative, reference level design, complete freedom of passage and mimics: aliens who can disguise themselves as any physical object in the game, from a mug to a pack of cartridges.
No Man’s Sky
Publisher: Hello Games
Genre: space simulator, survival
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, macOS
What does Starfield excel at: everything related to space and its exploration
When playing Starfield, it’s impossible not to notice elements of No Man’s Sky. Almost the same system of resource extraction (laser drilling of minerals) and planetary exploration clearly hints that Bethesda at least knows about the existence of Hello Games. Unfortunately, this knowledge didn’t lead to a more impressive or innovative space game than the 2016 game.
Just a year younger than Fallout 4 (the game that preceded Starfield), No Man’s Sky is still impressive and leaves both Starfield and all open world games boasting of its size in the dust. A galaxy of countless star systems, the exploration of which would not last the lifetime of all real humanity. Giant planets created by a procedural generation algorithm are full of unique biomes, locations to explore, unprecedented flora and fauna, abandoned bases and wrecked ships. And all this can be explored both on foot and on various vehicles, riding on alien animals or even in the cockpit of a combat robot – whereas in Starfield you will have to cover entire kilometers exclusively on foot or with the help of a jump pack.
At the same time, moving throughout this vast universe in No Man’s Sky occurs without pauses, like in Starfield. Here you are standing on the soil of some planet – and in a minute, without going to the menu or reading advice from the next loading screen, you are already flying to the orbital station. Just get into your trusty spaceship, hold down the take-off button and rush into the sky, towards the stars.
All of No Man’s Sky’s gameplay is seamless, which is great for immersion and something that’s sorely missing from Bethesda’s new game. Also, all the grinding and crafting mechanics are much better done: there are more rewards for fully exploring the flora and fauna of the planet. A simpler and more enjoyable, although not devoid of recitative, process of collecting resources and building bases, improving a ship or weapon. A more interesting system of trade, cargo transportation, reputation with a faction, personal fleet, research of abandoned space cruisers.
No Man’s Sky survived a disastrously poor release and, while Bethesda was developing Starfield, blossomed into a unique video game the likes of which, thanks to free patches and support.
Genre: evolution simulator
Platforms: macOS, Windows
What does Starfield excel at: a more interesting galaxy and economic system to explore
Spore is another unique space game. Created by Will Wright, the father of the Sims series, it takes you through the evolutionary journey of a player-created creature from a microscopic cell to an interplanetary empire. Space in this journey is only the final fifth stage, part of a complex simulator. And yet it is impressive in its scale and detail even after more than ten years.
In 2008, players received a procedurally generated galaxy, the state of affairs in which changes dynamically: entire civilizations appear and disappear, alliances are created. You can terraform or completely destroy entire planets, and thanks to a convenient and rich editor for everything (creatures, buildings, equipment) you can populate the world of Spore with your own ideas. You went into the editor, created a race of intelligent trading penguins – and now they are waving the fins of your space empire from a neighboring star system! And you can not only fight with them, but also communicate, help them develop, carry out their tasks, establish trade in resources and form an alliance.
Of course, all elements of Spore and specifically its space stage are made in a very arcade manner. Some would even say that this is almost the worst part of the game. But at the same time, Will Wright’s cartoon galaxy is much more pleasant to explore and much better conveys the atmosphere of unknown cosmic darkness. Thousands of different worlds, anomaly planets, black holes, eerie ambient music in dead worlds and the mystery of the center of the universe – the final frontier in the passage of Spore, which is guarded by the warlike race of cyborg groxes. With little money, childish jokes, and cute graphics, Spore does much more for the spirit of space adventure than Starfield.
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre: first person adventure
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
What does Starfield excel at: space flights and exploration
Outer Wilds is a game that cannot be described beyond its synopsis. Because otherwise you will have to reveal all its advantages and mysteries, the study of which is the whole charm of the game.
You are one of the astronauts of a funny four-eyed race from the small planet Kamelek. The ball of earth barely contains a small village, a couple of plains and forests. Riding a wooden starship, you set off on your first space mission, which will last 22 minutes – after which the sun, around which all the planets revolve, will explode, destroy the entire star system, and you… will wake up the moment before departure, as if nothing had happened. Until 22 minutes later everything happens again.
Outer Wilds is a puzzle game consisting of two ideas: a time loop and the most authentic space exploration in the format of a cartoon and miniature star system. You can fly from planet to planet without reloading in real time. The spaceship does not lose speed in space (after all, there is nothing there to slow it down). And to land on the next ball of dirt, its movement must be synchronized with the planet so that the ship does not crash.
Due to the fact that the developers worked with only one star system, they were able to make each planet unique, full of secrets and memorable events. Two planets that steal sand from each other by force of gravity. An anomaly from alien roots, where, like a nesting doll, entire space-realities are folded inside each other. A planet that is gradually being eaten by a black hole at its very center. Or an ocean world in which hurricanes are raging so powerful that they throw entire continents into orbit.
The small world of Outer Wilds and its quirks like quantum stones alone are worth exploring. But among all these planets, stations and cosmic anomalies, there is a secret hidden: why do you come back to life after death over and over again, and the universe returns to the moment 22 minutes before your death? This is why it’s hard to find a discussion of Outer Wilds on the Internet: any detailed story about it will immediately lift the veil of secrecy and take away your opportunity to become a discoverer and find everything yourself. Unravel the greatest mystery of the universe on your own.
The game also has a great add-on, Shadow of the Eye, the location of which is a separate puzzle. According to many, it turned out almost better than the original and perfectly complements the plot, expanding it with interesting details, horror elements and heavy drama.
The Outer Worlds
Publisher: Private Division
Genre: RPG, first/third person action
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
What does Starfield excel at: role-playing elements and story choices within Bethesda’s game design
The Outer Worlds, which is constantly confused with Outer Wilds due to its name (and both games came out in the same year), is a space RPG from Obsidian, the developers of Fallout: New Vegas. The entire game feels like “our answer” to the Bethesda formula from another studio. A similar gameplay cycle, role-playing elements, leveling up, exploration of a world full of interactive objects. And all this – in the setting of a silly and even absurd capitalist science fiction, where incompetent CEOs lead space colonies to decline and destruction.
The Outer Worlds is a small game compared to Starfield. There is only one star system, the passage of which will take you several tens of hours. But due to its small size, it turned out to be a much more focused game than the new Bethesda release, with a higher concentration of interesting content.
The Outer Worlds is literally a Bethesda game from “other parents.” It is better than the new and much more expensive release from the creators of TES in only a couple of aspects, so this option is more likely for those who want a Starfield-like experience, rather than a better one.
Publisher: Rockfish Games
Genre: space simulator, action
Platforms: Windows, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
What does Starfield excel at: gameplay on starships in outer space, plot, characters
Everspace 2 also came out this year and implemented the starship theme orders of magnitude better than Bethesda’s new game. Downloads are faster and there are fewer of them. The battles are more interesting due to the greater maneuverability of the ships, the variety of enemies and the means to destroy them: different types of weapons and shells, space mines and turrets, the ability to launch a nuclear charge and other special abilities of certain types of ships.
Besides, in addition to the excellent space gameplay, there is the rest of the great game: a dozen detailed systems with a minimum of procedurally generated content. Excellent progression in the spirit of Diablo, where you improve the characteristics of your equipment and gradually move into more dangerous systems, without auto-leveling and adjusting enemies to your capabilities. Great story, interesting side missions and a wide variety of planets and points of interest. There are even sea planets (where you can dive underwater), dungeon exploration on a starship, a neon city-station with pirates and illegal casinos, and much, much more.
Everspace 2, although not a AAA blockbuster, definitely claims to be one of the main games of 2023. This is a great old school game where every element is handcrafted and honed to perfection. The developers from Rockfish Games preferred a detailed study of everything and a focus on unique content, without repetitions, over the amount of content and a bloated world. Unless, of course, you count random encounters and generated tasks for delivering cargo and hunting for pirates.
However, this quality is not surprising: the studio consists of former developers of Galaxy on Fire, the most famous series of arcade starship simulators for mobile phones. And if you have played classic java games, then from the first hours you will recognize the handwriting of the masters, both in terms of the sensations of space battles and the sarcastic witticisms of the main character.
We also advise you to pay attention to other space games: X4, Freelancer, Rebel Galaxy, Elite: Dangerous. They differ from each other in the depth of mechanics and the number of possibilities. But they may not be suitable if you want exactly “something like Starfield” due to the high barrier to entry in some of the listed games.
“Space Rangers HD: Revolution”
Genre: turn-based strategy, real-time strategy, space simulator, RPG, quest
What does Starfield excel at: “sandbox” in space, role-playing elements and gameplay systems
Almost all gamers in the CIS know “Space Rangers” – we mention them rather out of necessity, like Mass Effect, because without these games the list would be incomplete. If Starfield is Fallout in space, then Rangers is Corsairs in space. And also a text RPG, an arcade shooter in airless space, tactics in space with a realistic simulation of the movement of celestial bodies, real-time strategy and almost every genre you can imagine. Not to say that all elements of the game are good (they even allow you to turn off the RTS mode before starting the game, players don’t like it so much), but the sheer variety of possibilities is impressive.
In Space Rangers, you can’t land on a planet or base to shoot space pirates with a shotgun and collect loot and food from their tables (except for a couple of text quests). But it has a living space from a dozen different systems: dynamic relations between factions, diplomacy and global wars, invasions of pirates and dominator combat robots with the permanent destruction of entire worlds, planetary exploration, trade, cargo transportation, hunting for criminals, investments and loans, and much more. much more. While in Starfield you can hardly fly beyond the orbit of a particular planet, in Space Rangers you are given an entire universe to be torn to pieces: diverse, alive, full of secrets and surprises. And thanks to the systematic nature and depth of the mechanics, each new playthrough will be unique.