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After seeing the growth of RPGs like Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur’s Gate 3, I can’t wait to see where Starfield goes

After seeing the growth of RPGs like Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur's Gate 3, I can't wait to see where Starfield goes
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RPG fans are spoiled for choice right now. Shortly after Larian Studios capped its three-year run by releasing Baldur’s Gate 3 from Early Access, Bethesda dazzled fans with a long-awaited launch for Starfield. Things don’t get any easier if you’ve found yourself fixated on making time to play, as Cyberpunk 2077’s newly released 2.0 update and Phantom Liberty DLC sees CD Projekt Red’s vision for the game fully realized after a bumpy few years.

While all three RPGs comparatively demonstrate the design philosophy of their prestigious makers, playing Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 leaves me wondering where Starfield could go. While Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 are nearing the end of their respective development journeys while Starfield’s has only just begun, each differs in what they can please their loyal fans.

 

Preem team

The story of Cyberpunk 2077 is one of a remarkable comeback. While playing the dystopian RPG on PC at launch showed what was possible for the game if you were willing to ignore NPC quirks or progress-blocking bugs, playing on a console meant looking to the PC to hear what was supposed to be accessible.

While subsequent releases from other studios hit the scene, CDPR worked behind the scenes to reassemble Cyberpunk 2077. With bugs ironed out and performance issues subsequently resolved, the studio was able to steadily add features that would further enliven Night City.

Cops are now more likely to do their job after remaining a relative bystander, offering a Grand Theft Auto-like determination to take you down depending on your anger level. The addition of vehicular combat and quick hacks offers more role-playing potential for those looking to raise hell and fight authority on the open road.

We could talk about how reworked perks and cyberware offer greater gameplay fluidity in how your V approaches the task at hand, but that ignores the fact that I plan to spend most of my time in Cyberpunk 2077 just driving around. Three years later, Night City is still a sight to behold, and the gradual improvements in how it feels to wander around scratch an itch I often find myself returning to GTA 5 for. Cyberpunk 2077 has always looked great, but improvements to gameplay and character customization – even something as simple as a transmog system – allow for a deeper sense of immersion in Night City as you craft your story.

critical success

In contrast, Baldur’s Gate 3 is designed to reach its full potential over time. Originally released in Early Access, Larian continually revamped the game’s first act to better reflect fan feedback, with new classes and eventually multiplayer functionality being added periodically to keep things fresh. By the time Baldur’s Gate 3 was fully released, players were finally free to see what the rest of the game had to offer, and the enthusiasm proved contagious enough to capture the attention of many beyond the D&D hobby or Baldur’s Gate itself.

Baldur’s Gate 3’s pleasures are many, but the RPG also shines by letting you play your way with a degree of flexibility that many will struggle to match. Cyberpunk 2077 has gradually introduced more tools to revive your V as you wish, but life paths do little more than start you somewhere else and offer a few dialogue options. Baldur’s Gate 3, meanwhile, provides the kind of differentiation that will inspire a whole new run. Playing as a Druid equips you with dialogue options to more easily traverse a previous area or enjoy what talking to animals brings – humorous or not. If you’re not the violent type, playing as a humble Bard gives you the option to talk your way out of anything.

How your Baldur’s Gate 3 race or class affects your gameplay is further supported by the openness of each level. Aside from dialogue triggered by approaching a certain level, many bosses hang around until you fight them. While it’s always been the traditional route for those playing classes that can deal massive damage, smarter players can always find a way around melee combat—like this fan made a scary villain helpless by giving him a flower.

This sense of openness is also reflected in the attention paid to side quests. Each excursion from the main campaign adds depth to a character or location while maintaining the outcome of an action. Not only does this give you plenty to chat with others about and encourage another game, it also makes Baldur’s Gate 3 feel like a real D&D session has come to life.

Charting a path forward

What Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur’s Gate 3 have in common is that we’ve seen what their creators plan to deliver. While CD Projekt Red turns its attention to Cyberpunk 2, Baldur’s Gate 3 director Swen Vincke has already moved on to his “next game” because his “creative path” is “now over” – but he hasn’t ruled out DLC entirely. This doesn’t mean there won’t be new patches for both games that offer something new, but rather that the puzzle is largely complete.

Starfield is a brand new game. The launch of the space-set RPG marked the first time many people got their hands on the game, and there’s a lot to like. Bethesda’s plan to offer an open sandbox echoes Todd Howard’s “See that mountain? The “you can climb it” mantra has been preserved intact and elevated – except the mountain is a moon. There are a few notable side quests to try, as well as some mind-blowing changes introduced in New Game +, but the journey between all the main beats offers plenty of distractions. If you’re not dogfighting among the stars, you’ve got plenty of time to waste building ships, bases, or fishing.

Starfield may lack some of the polish that Cyberpunk 2077 offers, and some decisions may not appeal to everyone – the character staring directly at you in Bethesda’s classic dialogue screen isn’t as dynamic as Cyberpunk 2077’s more interactive verbal exchanges. While Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 offer different ways to ignore the main campaign, preference likely plays a role as well.

It’s a fair choice between three industry-changing RPGs, but it’s worth noting that Starfield is just at the beginning of its journey to get there, where Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 are now. Bethesda games are offering greater community freedom through the type of modding that has kept Skyrim and Fallout going for years, and Starfield will open the floodgates to fans’ most creative tinkerers next year.

Work has already begun in the near term to deliver the quality of life features the game is missing, and bigger plans like DLC for the next decade are on the horizon. While Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 are monuments in their own right, they make me wonder more about what Starfield could be in a few years than what it isn’t right now.

Todd Howard calls out Starfield hoarders: “No, you don’t need trays and pencils,” and I’ve never been angrier.

 
 
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