Can Starfield Carry the Gauntlet BioWare Lay Down? We're not sure
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Featured Image Credit: Bethesda Softworks and Electronic Arts
I’m incredibly excited for Starfield. As a Bethesda fan, particularly Fallout 4 which was one of the first shooters I completed on my own, I’m hopeful that this isn’t a case of misplaced hype running rampant. However, while I’m already mentally planning out who I might romance, I can’t help but have reservations about Starfield taking up the gauntlet that BioWare dropped with Anthem.
Anthem is a game I’d like to forget, for it represented a foolish move from BioWare to remove elements that made franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age the beloved titles they are. The reason those games resonated with so many is because they understood the intricacies of character development, especially romance; while Baldur’s Gate 3 is a fine example of this, it comes from the rich foundations of Dungeons & Dragons, whereas ME and DA were originals.
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If we’re being totally honest, BioWare’s darling ran because Jade Empire and KOTOR (the OG) walked. Back in the 00s, video games didn’t really give us in-depth romance like was thrust upon us when BioWare dropped those bangers. Since that day, when people think of RPGs, it’s unlikely they don’t think of any or all of the titles I mentioned above.
Compared to Bethesda, BioWare is legendary in terms of romantic interests. It’s not that Bethesda hasn’t attempted to include this – Fallout 4 allowed romance in a way that previous titles hadn’t. However, the connections made were surface only; depth was hard to find, especially when giving your heart to the likes of John Hancock or other romanceable companions.
Obviously, there’s an argument here that games don’t owe anyone romance. I once had an impassioned DA fan tell me that romancing characters was the pinnacle of incel behaviour, and I was no better than a harassing fanboy. Although I can understand the angle they’re coming from, personally I don’t see how romantic options immediately lead to harassment and a demand for love. We’ve all experienced attempting to romance an NPC, only for them to reject us; I still see Fenris walking away from Hawke, my dreams of a passionate night dashed in mere moments. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I loaded an earlier save to specifically rectify the problem.
Now we’ve learnt that Starfield will have a total of 20 companions for you to meet, with at least four of them romantic, there’s ample opportunity (if Bethesda has seized it) to climb the golden heights that BioWare once occupied. For me to be satisfied that Bethesda has even come close, the game would need to offer more than a “yeah, we’re dating” throwaway comment. I want love, sex, gifts, cuddles, even arguments – I want the good, the bad, the ugly, and the disturbing. If I’m not totally invested, it’s going to fall short for me.
Perhaps I’m asking too much. After all, BioWare eventually flew too close to the sun and lost their wings, but with DA: Dreadwolf on the way (someday, somehow) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll respect the fans and leave the franchise untampered. While I cling to hope for one franchise, I extend it to another; whatever comes, I’m sure Starfield will be incredible. The question is, whether it’ll be as good as Mass Effect or Dragon Age.