Starfield: A Tale of Two Reviews – Critic vs. Steam User

The anticipation for Bethesda's Starfield, the studio's first new IP in 25 years, was nothing short of astronomical. With expectations soaring, the game has garnered substantial praise from critics, boasting an OpenCritic score of 86 and a Metacritic score of 83 for the Xbox Series X. Additionally, 84% of critics on OpenCritic recommend the game. However, a stark contrast emerges when comparing these figures to user reviews on Steam, where the game holds a 27% recent and 63% overall rating from over 90,000 players. This substantial disconnect between critic and user reviews begs a closer examination of the underlying factors.

Critical Acclaim

Critics have lauded Starfield as a "genre-defining, epic open-world RPG." Destructoid awarded it a perfect score, praising its immersive universe and captivating story. VGC echoed this sentiment, calling it "the ultimate Bethesda game." The consensus among reviewers highlights the game's expansive world, deep lore, and the freedom it offers players to explore and live out their spacefaring fantasies.

GamesRadar+ emphasized the game's vastness and the long-term potential for discoveries, suggesting that players might never see everything the game has to offer, even after extensive playtime. Game Informer, while acknowledging a slow start, ultimately found the universe and its interwoven stories compelling.

The Steam User Perspective

Conversely, the Steam user reviews tell a different story. The overall rating of 63%, with recent reviews dipping to 27%, indicates significant dissatisfaction among players. Several factors contribute to this discrepancy:

  1. Performance Issues: One of the most prominent complaints among Steam users revolves around performance problems. Players have reported a range of technical issues, from frame rate drops to crashes, which can severely impact the gaming experience. Such issues are often exacerbated on PC, where the variety of hardware configurations can lead to inconsistent performance.

  2. Bugs and Glitches: Despite Bethesda's efforts, Starfield has not escaped the curse of bugs and glitches that have historically plagued their releases. While some players may find these quirks endearing or amusing, for many, they detract from the immersion and enjoyment of the game. Reports of game-breaking bugs and progress-hindering glitches have marred the experience for a significant portion of the player base.

  3. Gameplay Expectations: Expectations for Starfield were sky-high, and some players may have felt that the game did not live up to the hype. The exploration and space travel mechanics, in particular, have received mixed reviews. Some players find the disjointed space travel system and lack of seamless planetary landings disappointing, especially when compared to other space exploration games.

  4. Lack of Post-Launch Support: Post-launch support and communication from developers are crucial in addressing issues and improving the player experience. Some Steam users feel that Bethesda's response to the reported problems has been inadequate, leading to frustration and negative reviews. The perceived lack of a clear roadmap for future updates and content has also contributed to dissatisfaction.

Critic vs. User Expectations

The divergence between critic and user reviews can also be attributed to different expectations and priorities. Critics often have early access to games and may review them in a controlled environment, potentially missing some of the issues that emerge in real-world scenarios. Additionally, critics may focus more on the overall vision and potential of a game, while players are more concerned with their immediate experience and gameplay satisfaction.

The Impact of Game Pass

Starfield's availability on Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass also plays a role in the review dynamics. Subscribers can access the game without a substantial upfront cost, potentially leading to a wider range of player feedback. The lower barrier to entry means that more players, including those who might not typically invest in a $70 game, are trying Starfield and sharing their opinions.


The disparity between Starfield's critic reviews and Steam user reviews highlights the complexities of game development and reception. While critics appreciate the game's ambition, expansive world, and storytelling, many users are frustrated by technical issues, bugs, and unmet expectations. The performance problems and perceived lack of post-launch support have further exacerbated this divide.

For Bethesda, addressing these concerns through patches, updates, and clear communication will be crucial in bridging the gap between critical acclaim and player satisfaction. Starfield has the potential to become a beloved title in the Bethesda catalog, but realizing this potential will require ongoing efforts to enhance the player experience and fulfill the lofty expectations set prior to launch.

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