Well, two long-running role-playing games, Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3, are finally officially out. In this article, we will try to predict the strengths and weaknesses of projects and try to choose the winner of the race between Bethesda Game Studios and Larian Studios.
So Starfield. The ambitious project was announced in 2018, and the game was developed for more than seven years – according to rumors, the initial budget of $200 million was significantly exceeded and reached the level of $300-350 (like Cyberpunk 2077). There were many promises – a thousand planets, and the transfer of familiar Fallout space mechanics, and battles on starships, and much more.
In fact, after going through the main storyline and a few side ones, we can say that the game is more like a patchwork quilt of advantages and disadvantages. Starfield has a brilliantly organized combat system – even despite the rather primitive artificial intelligence of the enemies, the shooting is mesmerizing. Weapon refinement, countless barrels, an advanced system for switching “guns”, the feeling of a “blaster” in your hands, a variety of enemies – all this makes each skirmish memorable and spectacular (and high-resolution textures easily brighten up the lack of polygons in the old engine). Unfortunately, this only applies to battles on the ground – the space part of the game does not hold water.
Space is not seamless – that is, flying up in some distant planet, your ship will simply fly through it; You can travel only within the specified points. The jumping mechanic is incredibly boring and non-ergonomic, some important locations will be quite difficult to find, but, most importantly, space battles are more reminiscent of some tractor battles (and this applies to both the original wreck that you get and the super-advanced ship , which remains with the hero after completing the main quest). The right word, well, at least (ashamed to say) they would have looked at Star Citizen. Of the declared thousand planets, there will be about a hundred “inhabited” ones – at the same time, as one streamer noted, after the twenty-sixth identical outpost on them, they will sharply want to stop “research work”.
And here we come to the main drawback of Starfield – it seems that the pressure of gigantic ambitions simply crushed the project and did not allow it to be clear and collected. Yes, you can send money to the hero’s parents, you can fight on the side of the police and deal with a worthless faction, you can build an outpost or assemble a cool ship – there is enough entertainment within the given side missions. But, behind all this, there is a clear hack – which, I must say, was not at all noticeable, either in Skyrim or in Fallout 3-4. Here you will encounter copying all the time – from the same dull gray surfaces of the planets to the same buildings or story missions that differ only in the color of a factory. The question is why it was necessary to make a galaxy of a thousand planets, when did you have enough strength to work through three or four of them? Well, they would collect everything within the framework of any one star system and that’s it! It would have turned out like in the TV series “Space” – but every element of these planets would have been polished.
The main plot core (it will take 25 hours to complete) is frankly pale, the characters are flat and caricatured – we have seen this millions of times. The whole mechanics of the main missions fit into the “find and bring” and does not offer anything extraordinary. Only towards the end of the saga, the authors introduce a very interesting element of the gameplay, but after that it all ends. And yet – it’s clear that New Game +, which starts after, imposes certain restrictions. But, leaving the hero a spacesuit with a ship and taking away all the weapons at the same time looks like a formal mockery. For example, a couple of final opponents drop unique guns that you can test shooting in the sand – and then immediately lose them. Bravo, as they say.
In the end, you can’t say that Starfield won’t bring you pleasant moments. “Hands remember”, the loop of pleasure from collecting and constructing in the game is done perfectly, each shootout asks “to be framed, but on the wall”, and funny mechanics from the series “there is smoke around the rocker and everything explodes, and the partner strictly asks the hero if he got off he’s crazy, since he started this ”are able to properly cheer up. But there is definitely no rich plot, cosmic scope, epicness that we were promised.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is built according to other canons and principles. For four years of work on the game, Larian spent a little less than $ 100 million – a penny by the standards of modern AAA projects. But, from the very first minutes of the gameplay, it seems that here it is, “that very” incredible feeling of another universe – in front of you. A perfectly designed multi-layered world, really voluminous and lively characters, fantastic videos that reveal the plot – all this emanates from the first viewing of The Lord of the Rings, a complete immersion in a fairy tale.
Both the main and side quests in Baldur’s Gate 3 give real freedom of choice – entailing responsibility in the future. The decisions that the player makes affect both the team and the development of the plot, each turn “rebuilds” the structure – this is really impressive and plays into the hands of complete immersion in the action. However, here lies a pitfall that can seriously overshadow the passage for beginners. The fact is that Baldur’s Gate 3 uses the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules system, that is, virtual throws of a chip with 27 edges and a turn-based combat system.
It looks like this – you watch a gorgeous 3D video, then switch to a well-designed third-person world exploration mode, but when the battle starts, you get into the good old isometric battle along the moves a la (of course with modern graphic and ergonomic improvements) the original Baldur’s Gate. Not only is this approach dissonant with a third-person view when using the “walker” mode, it also devours an incredible amount of time.
At one time, the same Bethesda very elegantly solved this issue in Fallout 3 – replacing the classic turn-based combat from the previous parts of the game with a conditionally turn-based one. That is, the battle itself in Fallout 3 unfolds in real time, but you can always pause the game and give all participants in the process commands what to do – heal, defend, attack; select weapons and more. Such a campaign made it possible to save time and “slip through” easy battles, and over complex ones, properly think over the brains and come up with ways to win. The creators of Baldur’s Gate 3 seem to have resolved the issue in a more “smart” way – that is, they made all the battles in the game difficult and chained the player into an exclusively turn-based combat. In fact, incredible by modern standards, 96 hours to complete the main quest, exactly 50% will be occupied by turn-based battles, that is, the principle, sit and watch how the computer walks, and then decide what your team will do. Warm and “tube”? Of course – as in a chess game. Does it match the rhythm of today? No way.
But, oddly enough, there are no more shortcomings and games. That is, if you accept such rules and adapt to them, Baldur’s Gate 3 may well become your game of the year, and all the last years at the same time. Such a detailed and living world, such a sense of the player’s influence on the plot, such an exciting story and such a scale of narrative, we definitely have not seen in recent years.
As a result, both Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 clearly deserve the attention of gamers. But, alas, it is Baldur’s Gate 3 that turns out to be the undisputed leader in the team standings.