Starfield vs Skyrim

skyrim

skyrim

Skyrim is Bethesda’s golden child. The blueprint and the standard that all their games are held up to. Even after over a decade, Skyrim still has a highly proactive community of loyalists who enjoy the game.

However, Bethesda has finally put out another expansive game that they hope their loyalists will sink several years into. So, it's Starfield vs Skyrim. Has Bethesda finally made the Skyrim killer that will pull their entire fanbase into the future?

Story

Starfield wins this category. Now, hear us out first. When talking about the base vanilla versions for both titles, Starfield has around four times the amount of dialogue Skyrim had. Of course, quantity doesn’t always translate to quality (more on that later), but it’s clear that there’s a lot more effort put into the dialogue, quests, and NPC interactions in Starfield.

starfield amelia earhart dialogue
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Even if you’ve never played Skyrim, the Dragonborn is an iconic character in gaming despite being a silent protagonist. Your adventure in Skyrim spans the province of…well, Skyrim.

While it’s just a single province, it’s full of interesting side quests, portals, and dungeons at every corner. You never know what you’ll run into, and the main story itself involves going to Sovngarde to fight off the World Ender, Alduin, and fulfill your role as the Dragonborn who will slay the beast. High fantasy is utilized to its maximum.

skyrim parthurnax telling history of dragons in story
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Starfield’s main story is sci-fi in nature instead of high fantasy. Humanity has spread across the stars several hundred years into the future, and various factions control these Settled Systems.

You’re a miner recruited by the explorer group Constellation to find the secret behind the mysterious Artifacts. In this process, you reach the truth behind the multiverse and interact with all these factions and their internal politics to change the geopolitical landscape of the galaxy.

The quests are plentiful and well thought out, and the dialogue quality is a step above Skyrim. The story also attempts to get philosophical at many junctions, but nothing in it is close to Parthurnax’s iconic -
“What is better: to be born good or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?”

However, the story's overall consistency and scope are superior to vanilla Skyrim's, and many important choices will put you in moral dilemmas.

Combat

This one is up to your personal preference. Both games have a somewhat different approach to combat, with Skyrim’s combat being oriented around melee and magic and Starfield opting for an FPS experience. They have the Shouts/Powers system in common, so that’s something fun both games have going for them. Skill progression is also different. Skyrim improves your skills as you use your abilities more and more. Meanwhile, Starfield opts for a more straightforward tier-based skill upgrade approach corresponding to your level-ups.

Honestly, Skyrim’s combat was fun for its time, no doubt. However, looking back at it now, it hasn’t aged well, and a lot of it can even feel clunky sometimes. Of course, you can overhaul it with mods (more on this later), but the popularity of these mods proves how poorly the base game’s combat mechanics have aged. Whacking away at enemies and hoping you’ll stat-check them doesn’t make for much depth, and the only alternatives lock you into certain playstyles and builds.

skyrim combat with magic in left hand and sword in right hand facing enemy with shield
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Say what you want about Starfield, but they did manage to make it a polished FPS experience that’ll be enjoyable to casual players but has enough depth with modding to keep more experienced players hooked.

While we have complaints about the weapon variety, enemy AI, and balancing in certain areas, it’s a fun experience that’s much better than most RPG shooters out there. You can opt for various builds, with all of them being viable, such as a Sniper, Thief, Space Captain, or Demolitionist. Just don’t try out the melee weapons unless you’re a masochist.

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World Exploration

One province vs 1000 Planets. It seems like an unfair matchup; one can imagine it makes for an easy win for Starfield. However, this isn’t exactly the case, depending on how we approach world exploration.

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Skyrim’s world is much smaller than Starfield's, but the key difference is that the content is densely packed rather than sprawled across a vast galaxy. Every twist and turn you take will lead you to a point of interest.

Every NPC worth talking to will lead to something exciting, and every lock you pick will be worth something. The world of Skyrim is by no means small, and the variety of biomes and dungeons will keep you invested as the world opens up to you more and more.

Walking from point to point also ensures you get invested and learn parts of the map, leading to even more immersion into this world of fantasy and magic. There isn’t much new to be said here, and there’s a reason Skyrim is held as the golden standard when we talk about open-world exploration. On the other hand, Starfield suffers from this lack of content density.

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skyrim the city of whiterun
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Besides some handcrafted cities(which are very impressive), Starfield’s exploration system is a glorified loading screen with a spaceship minigame. Taking off into space and landing on planets through the Star Map considerably breaks immersion.

There isn’t enough variety in the procedurally generated content on each planet. You explore a couple of desolate planets, and you’ve seen it all. Starfield also lacks ground vehicles, which is a shame. On the other hand, Skyrim has several unique mounts for you to try (including dragons). Yeah, we’ll take a dragon over a loading screen any day of the week.

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Furthermore, chests in Starfield have randomized rewards, which is sometimes highly demotivating once you’re out there exploring and hacking things. Imagine opening a master lock and just getting some random junk.

Powers suffer from a similar issue, with most people hating the monotonous minigame you must go through for each of them, resulting in many ignoring them altogether. I don’t know anyone who’d ignore a new Shout in Skyrim. Many aspects of Starfield’s exploration make it feel more tedious the more you do it. This is the sign of a lousy exploration loop that needs significant changes and improvements to feel rewarding and live up to its scope.

Mods and Community

Now we’ve given Starfield a bunch of wins and legs up on Skyrim throughout this article. However, it’s time to get to the real meat of this matchup - the mods. Safe to say, Skyrim obliterates Starfield on almost every front once we account for mods and community support. Besides the generic arguments, you can look up numbers on active players and see how many more are currently active on Skyrim compared to Starfield.

Skyrim has had a decade of vigorous community support to create a mod ecosystem that overhauls the base game and allows you to turn it into a sandbox in its truest meaning. An endless amount of mod content awaits those who get invested in this side of Skyrim. Every aspect of the game, from the story to the map to the combat and exploration, can be changed and upgraded.

skyrim most popular mods on nexusmods for skyrim
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Starfield's modding community is still in its infancy, and the base game has several fundamental flaws that players hate. Some QoL and performance mods that alleviate several of these issues are released.

However, they’re not enough. At least not yet. It’s a commonly held sentiment that Bethesda games are in their worst condition at launch, and Starfield seems to be staying true to this trend despite the least buggy launch out of any Bethesda title. However, it’ll take a while until we get the modding kit, new DLCs, and enough community support to help Starfield truly blast off into space and reach the game's full potential, it should’ve been and can be.

That concludes Starfield vs Skyrim, with Skyrim winning easily. However, this might change in the future, and we look forward to how Bethesda and its community of loyalists plan to overhaul this title.

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