Microsoft didn’t bring down the house with its Summer Game Fest showcase, but it didn’t need to. Amid an epidemic of pandemic-born delays and a procession of ho-hum presentations even from the likes of “world exclusive” wizard Geoff Keighley, all Microsoft needed to do was shake the walls a little. It managed that with a handful of strong first-party offerings — Arkane’s “Redfall” and Bethesda’s “Starfield” chief among them — and a shotgun blast of games from various third parties that ranged from intriguing to derivative.
Quantity paved over potholes when quality was lacking. To an extent, that was the point: Microsoft clearly wants viewers to know that its Game Pass subscription service is best in class, whether you want to blow through your backlog or play creative new fare on Day 1. Microsoft also announced unexpected perks like unlocking all playable characters in popular Riot PC games “League of Legends” and “Valorant.” Especially with some recently expressing Game Pass fatigue, this presentation gave Game Pass a shot in the arm and showed it’s far from limited to Xbox consoles.
The single biggest game of the showcase — aside from Hideo Kojima’s new game in which he sees how many shows he can appear at without actually announcing a new game — was Bethesda’s “Starfield.” Certainly, it ticked all the boxes one would expect from the team that brought the world “Skyrim”: over 1,000 planets to explore, cities teeming with NPCs, near-limitless character creation, a customizable spaceship you can fly and combat that looks … well, who really plays these games for the combat, anyway?
In short, “Starfield” looks Big. In an era where every game, TV show, movie, comic, live stream and YouTube video is content competing for our eyeballs, and everybody’s looking for the next bedrock piece of content that will fuel additional content for years to come, sheer scale is what gets people talking. Hardcore gamers want a game that will last them forever, and if “Skyrim’s” enduring success — numerous re-releases, countless player-made modifications that transform it into anything you can imagine — is anything to go on, Bethesda knows how to make that game.
Will “Starfield’s” 1,000 planets all be worth visiting out of the gate? Perhaps not, especially if there’s truth to reported employee concerns that it was on track to become the “next ‘Cyberpunk’” before its delay to 2023. But in time, players will almost certainly transform it into the outer-space playground of their dreams, regardless of whether the base game succumbs to Bethesda’s penchant for workmanlike writing and bugs. They will also fill it with various nightmares beyond human imagining, because that, more than anything, is “Skyrim’s” true legacy.