Starfield review score drops to a new historical low on Metacritic

Starfield, on the Xbox Series S/X, is now tied with Fallout: New Vegas on the Xbox 360, with an 84 Critic Score on Metacritic.

Such is the curse of being a game made by one of the video game industry's most esteemed developers.

Bethesda Game Studios has a reputation for creating some of the most immersive Role Playing Games available on the market. It might not have a treasure trove of titles in its decades in the industry, but each one, starting from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind all the way through even 2018's highly criticized online multiplayer title, Fallout 76. And, while Starfield somewhat lives up to the studio's reputation, it doesn't quite match up to the expectations by both users and critics alike.

Make no mistake, Starfield has been drawing in players. Ahead of its launch, roughly a million players logged on to go and explore the cosmos while it later logged six million just a few days after coming out.

Unfortunately, as time passed by, and more critics got a chance to enjoy their own adventures, Starfield's Critic Score on Metacritic on the Xbox Series S/X, which started at 87 as the game went live on August 31, has dropped down to 84, as of the time of writing. 

Starfield's review scores aren't indicative of a bad game, it's just that it isn't reviewing as well as expected.

Most developers would love to have their game have a Critic Score of 84 on Metacritic. But, as has been established in the past many times already, Bethesda isn't just any other studio. It's one of THE studios in the gaming industry. As the kids say these days, Bethesda is HIM. The only problem? Starfield isn't IT. 

Here's a rundown on the Critic Score of every previous Bethesda game on Metacritic:

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 96
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - 94
  • Fallout 3 - 93
  • Fallout 4 - 88
  • Fallout 76 - 49

Basically, Starfield can only trump Fallout 76 in Bethesda's storied lineup, which isn't saying much.

Starfield's review scores are beyond saving at this point but Bethesda is probably hoping that it doesn't slide down further.

To put this further into context, Starfield's Critic Score of 84 is more than ten points lower than current Game of the Year frontrunners: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur's Gate 3. If we factor only games that came out on the Xbox Series S/X, Starfield isn't even in the Top 5. Leading the pack is Forza Horizon 5 at a 92 followed by Microsoft Flight Simulator at a 90 with Psychonauts 2, Hi-Fi Rush, and Halo Infinite, all tied at 87.

Again, 84 is still technically not the end of the world, but it's not what you expect from a Bethesda game. Don't forget, Microsoft bought ZeniMax Media to make Starfield exclusive on the Xbox Series S/X.

Many years ago, the gaming industry was rocked by talks about bonuses given only to developers if their games had a high Metacritic Score. Bethesda, specifically, required a minimum of 85 from Obsidian for Fallout: New Vegas for a hefty payday. Fallout: New Vegas ended up only getting an 84 Critic Score on Metacritic on the Xbox 360, which, in hindsight, is a score that's much lower than it deserved. 

Perhaps the only saving grace for Starfield now is for the critics of tomorrow to look back and "regret" giving it a score as low as 84 (and dropping).

It's one thing for the User Review scores of Starfield to drop but it's another thing entirely for this to include even the Critic Scores.

Still, in a day and age when review bombing seems "normal" - Diablo 4, Final Fantasy 16, and Horizon Forbidden West were all victimized this year alone - Starfield is the only one that many saw as a GOTY Contender to achieve a score this low. Diablo 4, which is currently being ridiculed for its low Twitch numbers and failing to draw a crowd to a live event, scored much higher than it did.

The worst part is that Starfield doesn't seem to be converting anyone outside of the usual Bethesda fanbase, which is a problem. Initially, Starfield helped Microsoft sell more Xbox units, but it remains to be seen if it can sustain this. Not to mention, a quick search online will tell you that most of the reviews from casual audiences, although not quite as negative as most make it out to be, is middling at best. 

Besides, it was somewhat expected for Starfield to get review bombed as it has since become trendy for internet trolls to trash Bethesda's games since the honeymoon period of Skyrim ended. Even the best-selling single-player RPG of all time isn't spared from this predicament. Yet, there's a difference between the casual gamer telling everybody that Starfield is a bad game and critics highlighting the flaw of what should be a system seller.

For a Bethesda game, anything lower than 84 would mean that Starfield is close to hitting rock bottom. 

Thankfully, this hasn't happened yet. 

This low review score isn't the kind of history that Bethesda thought Starfield would be making when it was in development.

What's clear here is that Bethesda and Microsoft has landed itself a solid game. They might not completely admit it, but Starfield didn't stick its landing, at least critically. It's a divisive game, with a huge split between people treating it as the next big Bethesda game and those who see it as just another game. 

If it's any consolation, a common sentiment about Starfield is that the foundation for an all-time great is there - Bethesda just needs more time to flesh things out. Maybe, just maybe, in an ideal world where the COVID-19 global pandemic didn't happen, Bethesda would've had a chance to build on the infrastructure that's already there and turn Starfield into a game that doesn't need to rely on an expansion and DLCs as well as mods to fully realize its potential. Alas, this wasn't the case. It's easy to see where most of the valid criticism is coming from - Starfield is just Skyrim but in space, when it was marketed to be so much more.

With Starfield coming out as polished as it is, Bethesda's task now is to expand on what exists - and, while they're at it, fix some of the game's literally glaring issues.

This kind of reception is somewhat reminiscent of what Death Stranding got back in 2020, but the main difference is that Starfield and Bethesda are anything but niche.

Fingers crossed, the conversation regarding Starfield will be much better a year or two from now. But, if we're talking about this year alone, Starfield isn't close to winning any significant accolade at all.

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  1. Eh, Starfield kind of deserves the score it's getting. It's nowhere as good as it promised to be, and for an exclusive new title almost a decade in the making, it leaves a significant amount to be desired. The mod scene does not give it any points, because that's classic Bethesda: leave a game broken and unplayable for the modders to fix up after. That was a big reason Fallout 76 is such a massive failure.

    1. Facts, definitely more hype built around it than what was delivered. I do think however that much of the negativity comes from the players expectations of the game and those expectations being unreasonable. Think diablo 3 and how long that took, and how disappointing that was. Hype can make or break you.

  2. Ao we are just going to gloss over the Review bombing that everyone else is reporting? Lol. 10 of thousands of PS players have taken to all platforms to review bomb it, bc it's an Xbox exclusive. Does it deserve 100? No. But that score is going to continue to drop bc of this. This is awful reporting. Do just a dab of research please. Lol

    1. Chris Gardner, how about you read the entire article where it clearly says its been review bombed like 3 times. Take away all the playstation and xbox fan boys like you are the absolute worst. This game has issues. period. Great article!

  3. Aside from the review bombing that are especially dominant on a platform exclusive game from a studio that previously was not platform exclusive, which is clearly not helpful to scores and sadly renders all of them somewhat meaningless (though that should not affect the critic scores referenced here), there also seems to be a strange and unfortunate mixing of expectations across genres. It's like the movie critics that only seem to like dramas and always trash comedies or action movies -- yeah, but some metrics that's fair, but not really helpful to the fans of comedies or action movies. A good review actually helps people who might enjoy the work know if it's good for them or not.

    Bethesda games are effectively their own genre of game. They are epic open-world RPG's first and foremost, but they are also the only open-world games where the in-game universe is hyper-interactive, where every object can be carried and touched and moved. Does that make a game good? Absolutely not to some people (and fairly so), but to others, Bethesda games are the only games that provide a truly immersive world experience where you can do almost anything you want to do. They do this at the expense of some character animation and graphics quality. Their games also tend to be more CPU bound than GPU bound, for those who care about tech specs.

    So a review is completely fair and justified to criticize, say, character animations as clearly not as good as other games of the day. I think it's also fair to say that the procedural generation of planet surfaces can lead to boring walking between POI's (but those POI's have been fantastic and surprisingly denser than in any prior Bethesda game). But at the same time, the reviews should recognize the things that Starfield does that no other game has done and compare it to other games in the same genre (primarily other Bethesda games, but also CDPR and now Larian) in terms of what it does.

    If you care about scope not just of the universe, but the amount of uniquely hand-crafted locations and quests, Starfield is the best. If you care about having lots of different in-game mechanics so you don't get bored grinding on any one thing for too long, Starfield is fantastic. If you care about plot and story, I think (I've not finished enough to have a well-informed opinion on this yet) based on the spoiler-free reviews I've read that Starfield at least did much better than past Bethesda games. If you like engaging in dialog as a means of storytelling, Starfield is excellent (but not necessarily better than CDPR games or BG3). If you care about huge amounts of hand-crafted locations and POI's, in spite of ALSO having a lot of procedurally generated space between them, Starfield is the king. And so far, from the POI's I've found randomly scattered about, I find them vastly more interesting than anything in Skyrim or Fallout.

    On the other hand, if you care about getting the highest possible framerate, if loading screens offend you, or if you absolutely need a moon buggy to get between POI's, then yeah, on those specific metrics, Starfield will be a "disappointment."

    For me, at the very least, Starfield is objectively by far the best BETHESDA game. Is that better than other non-Bethesda games? Well, that's obviously a matter of taste. Not everyone has gaming interests that align with their games, but reviewers should recognize that and write the review to help fans of the genre know what they'll be getting with Starfield.

    1. Bethesda games extremely lack in the game play department. Being able to do what tou want with barely serviceable bullet sponge game play is not what makes fun. This game has some of the worst exploration out of ang open world game based on nu.bers and distance to objectives and density of the game world. This is a literal desert in space filled with bubbles with invisible walls and loading screens to break up the immersion. This deserves a score similar to 76. Bathesda isn't itself anymore.

  4. Ah yes, the "review bombing" shield once again. Not to mention there's both undeserved 1's and 10's.
    The game isn't terrible but it ain't 80's score good either. At most it's a low 70's range game.

Ray Ampoloquio

Ray Ampoloquio // Articles: 5871

Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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