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5 Bethesda RPG mechanics that need to be in Starfield (and 5 that are best left in the past)

Starfield will not be able to meet its November 11 release date (Images via Bethesda Softworks)
Starfield will not be able to meet its November 11 release date (Images via Bethesda Softworks)
Sambit Pal

Starfield, Bethesda's highly anticipated new sci-fi RPG, has been delayed to the first half of 2023.

With the delay announcement, however, the developers have promised an upcoming gameplay showcase soon. This will almost certainly take place on June 12th, as a Bethesda expo will be involved in the Summer Games Fest schedule. They have claimed that Starfield will be the culmination of their roleplaying game development experience and expertise up to this point.

As much as it gives fans a lot to look forward to, realizing such a proclamation is no easy task. Thankfully, three decades' worth of game-development and roleplaying game pedigree gives Bethesda a vast spectrum of experience they can draw from.


5 features that Bethesda Game Studios needs to bring back for Starfield

1) Deep Faction Reputation and ranking system

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Despite its age, Morrowind remains a great example of roleplaying choices in the most vital areas of the genre. Let's consider one of the broader strokes that we see throughout Elder Scrolls and Fallout games: factions.

In Morrowind, the lorewise politics of Vvanderfell are expressed heavily through their factions; specifically, the aristrocratic houses: Dres, Hlaalu, Redoran, Telvanni, et al. Not only do these houses have their unique twists on how the player takes on the quests, but advancing in ranks with one means going against the other.

Despite having diverse factions with values diametrically oppose each other, Skyrim does not disallow the player from joining and climbing the hierarchy or champion of each of these factions. As much as it fits into a power fantasy, this dilutes the narrative value of these factions.

Starfield, through its promise of in-depth warring factions, as well as the possibility of playing a double agent, will hopefully make great inroads on this front.


2) Companion banter

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The Elder Scrolls games have never had party banter in the traditional RPG sense. These were the hallmark of the isometric cRPG scene that Fallout 1 and 2 sprung out of.

Although Bethesda did not get it quite right with their first attempt in Fallout 3, they switched things up with Fallout 4. Partially thanks to their training from developing super-companions like Serana in Skyrim DLC Dawnguard, Fallout 4 has brought back some of its cRPG ancestry with companion banter.

As Starfield's developer diaries have teased, the game will also feature a dynamic cast of colourful, verbose companions that might just recapture the magic of Dragon Age: Origins.


3) Settlement building

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A great deal of Fallout 4, as opposed to the classic note of post-apocalyptic cynicism in the games before, is about the hope of re-building. Among the many new features that the refined Creation Engine was utilized for in Fallout 4, settlement-building was perhaps the biggest standout.

Ignored as a baffling extracurricular activity by most players initially, it has since become a beloved feature by Fallout 4 fans over time.

Bethesda's first attempt at base-building was an uninspired and rudimentary take on it with the tools of 32-bit Skyrim, with the release of its first DLC, Heartfire. Since then, through Fallout 4 and 76, the system has been thoroughly overhauled and refined, and Starfield will no doubt carry the torch.


4) Survival mode

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The post-apocalyptic premise of Fallout's world is very receptive towards survival mechanics from a narrative standpoint. Rooted in the golden era of cRPGs, however, its original formula did not develop at a time conducive to modern survival gameplay.

Interestingly, it was the original developers from Black Isle Studios who fit such mechanics into the game's vision when they were recomissioned to make Fallout: New Vegas, with Obsidian Entertainment at the time.

It was such a resounding success that Bethesda stuck a full-fledged 'survival mode' into Skyrim, as well as a repeat hardcore mode into Fallout 4 and 76.

Starfield, already shown to feature a number of trechorous environments and dangerous biomes, is more or less confirmed to bring an optional 'hardcore mode' back.


5) Legendary enemies

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For all the flak that it receives for its alleged 'casualization' of the franchise, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 did incorporate a number of new features that positively make the wastelands more interesting.

One of these include legendary creatures from Fallout 4, reintroduced as legendary enemeis in Fallout 76. The idea is deceptively simple in theory: legendary variants of mutated creatures may spawn while out exploring the wilds, the chances of them appearing relative to player's level.

When killed, these drop 'legendary' gear, i.e. items with legendary stat modifiers, at times the highest tier of equipment obtainable in the game. Starfield, through its NASA-punk affinity for Ridley Scott arcana and the mystique of unknown alien life forms, can be a great vehicle to take unique legendary enemies to the next level.


5 Bethesda gameplay features that should be kept away from Starfield

1) Ice-skating combat

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Bethesda games, as they are, tend to be designed specifically around first-person combat. The lack of attention towards fleshing out third-person gameplay clearly manifests in the jank known as 'ice-skating combat.'

This specifically refers to the discrepancy between movement and attack animation commitment in Skyrim, where it feels like melee attackers are ice-skating on the battlefield as they swing their weapons.

Thankfully, the new Starfield engine also comes with a state-of-the-art framework that is on par with modern AAA games, meaning we will see more fluid and believable movement.


2) Scaling issues

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To enable their freeform approach to the open world, Elder Scrolls games after Morrowind have had a player-centric levelling system. As opposed to a de-leveled world, this would simply level generic enemies along with the player.

This, in essence, is what allows the player to explore the game in any order they like. Oblivion saw the most questionable results manifest after the midgame, where even the mudcrabs scaled to abysmal damage-sponging creatures.

This was addressed in Skyrim and Fallout 4 somewhat with a hybrid of static minimum and maximum levels per enemy faction, a step in the right direction. Starfield will hopefully continue down the correct course regarding this.


3) Persuation minigames

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had a quaint minigame of puzzles to increase the player's reputation with any NPC they could converse with. The reasoning behind this feature was perhaps to utilize the then-moddish addition of advanced facial animation on NPCs.

Starfield will also mark a similar jump in terms of facial models and animations. As much charm as this minigame adds to Oblivion, it is a contrived minigame that only gets tiresome over repeated playthroughs, and does not fit in with the more serious tone of Starfield, from what can be guessed thus far off of developer diaries.


4) Skill-based movement speed

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Morrowind, the game that arguably flung Elder Scrolls into mainstream fame, has certain aspects that still hold up against today's AAA role-playing games. However, some of its old-school aspects are also potentially grating impediments to a modern audience.

The movement speed in Morrowind being bound to the Acrobatics skill is an example of such a dated element. Most Morrowind veterans will remember the ill-begotten experience of walking at a snail's pace with low Acrobatics stats.

While Starfield's goal of going 'back to the roots' sounds promising, the game should not bring back dated mechanics like this just to remain 'hardcore.'


5) Oversimplified dialogue

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A great number of simplifications that Fallout 4 made to streamline the experience into a modern shooter RPG fell into disfavour with fans of the classic Fallout games. The biggest of these offenders was how it handled player dialogue.

Fallout 4 took heavy inspiration from Mass Effect titles in not only the voiced protagonist, but also the switch to a dialogue wheel. In practice, this dismantled all the nuances an RPG dialogue system should have into a binary between sassy quips and empathetic replies.

Thankfully, this is a mistake Bethesda will not repeat, as we have seen in Fallout 76.


Edited by Abu Amjad Khan

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