While I really love almost everything about Starfield, one thing I didn’t agree with from the start was the huge focus on not just the game’s structure, but the structure of its main story line to be fully at the service of the New Game Plus concept.
To talk about it, we have to get into it spoilersbut I tried to wait long enough for many people to finish the main campaign at least once.
About two-thirds of the way through the main story, once you meet the Starborn and realize they’re not aliens, but some kind of interdimensional people, I thought I knew where this was going, given everything Bethesda had previously said about the “uniqueness” of the New Concept Game Plus.
I thought we would become Starborne ourselves and do the loop again, now with the knowledge of what was coming and the ability to make different decisions. That is, mainly how the normal New Game Plus works, plus an important story reason for it. That’s exactly what happened.
The problem is that the New Game Plus loop is in direct conflict with how most people play Bethesda games. You feel like you are missing the basic concept of the game No do New Game Plus and find out changes and little bonuses and occasionally crazy things like otherworldly openings (while keeping the rest of the run exactly the same). But if you do, you lose almost everything in the entire game.
New Game Plus works better in single-player games that aren’t heavily dependent on looting, crafting, and building. But even in these games, you often get to keep the weapons you’ve acquired in new games, and maybe gradually increase the difficulty.
You lose everything in Starfield. All your weapons and armor, all your credits. Every quest is cleared and New Game Plus only gives you the option to skip the main quest. But it’s not just like that. In a game that encourages creative ship and base building, you’ll lose all of that, all your designs and materials and anything you’ve built up to that point. And for a game that encourages exploration, you’ll lose all exploration data in any number of worlds you’ve bothered to catalog.
Why… would they design a game like this? I understand that many people start Bethesda games with new save files to create new characters, make new choices, and try out different builds. But not you delete for your old character to do it. And in this version one thing you can not to do is try a new build because Bethesda won’t let you take any of your skill points and put them somewhere else for any reason. So if you were a fighting character and want to start exploring better and building bases instead, you have to climb through higher levels to get those skills now, which takes a lot longer than before.
All of this leads to the fact that at some point, if you want to “max out” the game like a normal Bethesda RPG, you have to pick a place and settle down. For me it was NG+2 because I was tired of losing all the progress and speedrunning NG+ loops possible by skipping the campaign and finding artifacts easily wasn’t enjoyable either once I realized the “alternative” starts were random and didn’t do anything substantial, except for the funny introduction.
I don’t think structuring New Game Plus around losing every bit of progress minus your skill points was a good challenge for a game like this, and it spoiled the ending of what I thought was an otherwise great game. I also think the main storyline suffered because it ended without any real answers as to who set up this loop in the first place with all the temples and weird artifact technology because it sure wasn’t a human Starborn. Maybe the answer is in the DLC, but I don’t like that either. This whole concept could have been so much better.