After years of hype and teasing, Starfield…isn’t out yet. But the embargo on reviews is up and with it, the first technical review of the game is here. The big takeaway is that Starfield seems to be running solidly on both the Xbox Series X and the smaller, less powerful Series S. This is a bit shocking considering Bethesda’s track record, but likely good news for folks planning to play the game on Microsoft’s cheaper next-gen machine.
Starfield (alongside The Elder Scrolls VI) was first teased years ago at E3 2018. Since then, the hype and excitement surrounding the game, as well as the discourse around it, has grown with each new trailer, teaser, and interview. After all that, players will soon be able to play the Xbox Series X/S console exclusive when it goes live—for those who paid for early access—on August 31. Everybody else, including Game Pass subscribers, will get the game on September 6. So what do you have to look forward to? While reviews aren’t universally glowing, the game at least appears to be technically more sound and stable than any previous Bethesda console release.
On August 31, Digital Foundry posted its first video about Starfield and how the game looks and performs and Xbox consoles. And it’s mostly good news! According to the tech-focused outlet, Starfield runs at a locked 30fps on both Series X and S consoles. And performance is pretty solid, with Digital Foundry saying that the RPG “basically hits a locked 30fps for just about everything you do in the game.” This is true on both machines.
The one caveat here appears to be the game’s larger cities, specifically the two biggest cities in the game. In these areas, it was reported that the game’s performance can start to falter, with framerates dropping and a few hitches. Digital Foundry notes, however, that it never gets unplayable or nearly as bad as the drops seen in Fallout 4’s large city when playing on Xbox One. So that’s good!
Xbox Series S is mostly the same game, with few cutbacks
What surprised me more than anything is how well the Series S version of the game compares to the X version. Yes, there are some differences, including lower-quality reflections, shadows, and some missing detail far off in the distance.
But it seems these concessions in quality helped the Series S version of Starfield maintain a solid 30fps while using an upscaled 1440p resolution. Not bad for a tiny little $300 machine. I get the feeling that Bethesda and Microsoft spent some extra time and work on making sure the pint-sized console could handle the massive RPG.
Of course, some players may be disappointed by how many loading screens you’ll see when playing the game. Digital Foundry points out that on both machines, exploring planets and cities involves a lot of loading screens. These are fast, thanks to the consoles’ SSDs, but still something to keep in mind. This isn’t a seamless open world, which isn’t surprising considering the scale of Starfield and how much is happening in it at any point. The video also notes that some planets feel empty and barren, but hey, at least they run at 30fps!
Overall, Starfield on consoles seems to perform far better than I expected. According to Digital Foundry, Starfield isn’t very buggy either, which seems to be the general consensus, at least in these early hours. That’s a stark difference from—and a big improvement over—Fallout 76, Fallout 4, and Skyrim. It also means that you don’t have to wait six months for Bethesda to fix the game, like usual.