It's safe to say that Redfall has had a rocky start. It may have just been released, but Arkane Austin's vampiric FPS has already struggled to sink its teeth, with a muted reception from critics and players alike so far. While Redfall has some interesting ideas, the overall consensus seems to be that it fails to pull them off in any meaningful or engaging way. And as a new experience that's being measured against Arkane's previous line-up of immersive sims, many believe the latest co-op shooter doesn't meet the same level of quality the studio is known for. In our Redfall review, GamesRadar+'s very own Sam Loveridge said that it's "ultimately not up to Arkane's usual standards. It feels rushed, unfinished, and unsatisfying to play".
The response to Redfall has already sparked a lot of discussion surrounding the state of the game at launch. But its underwhelming performance has also stirred up thoughts around what this could mean for Microsoft and Bethesda's other highly anticipated release: Starfield. With fans expressing their worries about the upcoming space-faring RPG, it's clear that Starfield is going to be under even more pressure than it was already to deliver later this year. As it is, I can't help but feel that this ever-mounting anticipation is far too heavy for any one game to carry. With each passing month, Starfield is being put up against so many expectations that I fear it's going to have a hard time measuring up to them.
When it comes to a game like Starfield, the sense of anticipation is already astronomical. After all, we're talking about the first new IP from Bethesda in 25 years, not to mention the first major single-player release from the studio since the launch of Fallout 4 eight years ago. Bethesda Game Studios has made a name for itself with two hugely popular RPG series, and the prospect of another is naturally going to drum up the hype machine.
One of its biggest, most memorable adventures, Skyrim, is a game that never sleeps – it's been re-released on just about every platform imaginable, meaning generations of players continue to get swept up in the ways of the Dragonborn. With so much scope for discovery, immersion, and exploration, Skyrim has long been considered one of the best RPGs around, even when it had its share of problems at launch with its own blend of jankiness.
Still, when such a reputation has been built up over the years, it's easy to understand why fans of the previous games (myself included) are excited about the prospect of a new experience. But just like Arkane, that reputation brings with it high expectations about future offerings, which has put a level of pressure on Starfield ever since it was first announced.
From everything we've seen so far, Starfield does look set to harness all of the signature ingredients that make a Bethesda RPG a Bethesda RPG - character customization and progression, player choice, and much more.
Even so, as a new-gen entry coming to Xbox Series X and PC, I think there is a level of exception that comes from seeing the studio deliver something new that makes the most of the latest hardware's capabilities. I myself can't help but wonder how it will compare to other current-gen open-world adventures and if it can deliver something that feels fresh and new when it comes to a studio with such a long history of RPGs.
Given how much love there is for games past, there's already a high bar set for Starfield to reach even before all of the ambitious features Bethesda has teased. From what has been revealed so far, the developer is promising some features that players already have some concerns around. Namely, that it will have huge scope with more than 100 Starfield star systems and 1000 planets to explore. It certainly sounds impressive, but with the community already questioning whether this can actually be pulled off in a meaningful way once again brings added pressure to the table to deliver.
Both Redfall and Starfield were among the upcoming Bethesda games that were delayed into 2023 – leaving an unfillable gap in the Xbox Series X lineup last year. Starfield was then delayed once more, pushing its launch to September of this year. In spite of Redfall's delay, it was still met with a disappointing launch, which might lead to the question of whether or not it needed more time. Of course, we have no way of knowing the ins and outs of the development and what happened behind the scenes, but this could also give rise to similar fears about the release of Starfield this year. And it seems that Redfall's launch will only put further pressure and scrutiny on the upcoming RPG in the months ahead.
No game is going to be a winner with everyone, and that will surely be true of Starfield, too. Still, there's no ignoring the fact that expectations have only skyrocketed with the launch of Redfall, and it feels like Starfield needs to do well to see out the latter half of Xbox's lineup this year. While I do think it's best to temper expectations, I also think the pressure will only continue to mount with the Direct showcase coming our way next month. It remains to be seen if Starfield will deliver, but I at least hope we get an interesting adventure that plays to Bethesda's strengths in space; which is arguably one of the best settings to explore.
Look ahead to more releases with our roundup of upcoming Xbox Series X games.