Bethesda’s RPGs are no stranger to bugs, with characters breaking established in-game rules by dashing across lethal radiation fields or simply not responding to dialogue. A common phrase fans of the developer’s games have adopted is “Bethesda’s bug,” which is what they say when the issue could be a bug or reframed as a feature that fits in with the world. Most of the time, reframing is necessary because the bug is never patched out.
Starfield isn’t immune to these bugs either, though it is certainly the least-buggy Bethesda game I’ve ever played. However, I have encountered a few Bethesda bugs that I’ve managed to explain away because the game is very forgiving of the type of character I’m trying to be. That’s why when I fell through the map last night, I didn’t think anything of it, instead hopping back into the world and carrying on with my day.
When Bugs Become Features
While developers don’t share them enough, there are plenty of circumstances where bugs have become features because they either just work or aren’t harmful enough that they warrant removal.
My favorite example is FTL’s oxygen mechanic, which players use to put out fires by opening doors to remove all the oxygen so the fires go out. All while keeping their crew in areas behind closed doors. The developers didn’t design this as a feature but left it in because it works so well within the context of the mechanics.
Starfield is filled with situations like these, and I’ve no doubt that more will be discovered over time as players eventually reach the end of their playthroughs. The bugs we encounter don’t break the game and pull us out of the universe, though; they just add to the general atmosphere.
Starfield’s Bounty Bug
The best example of the biggest Bethesda bug I’ve found in Starfield so far is gaming the bounty system. Players will gain bounties with the major factions as they commit crimes and steal items around the galaxy. Once they have a bounty with a faction, they can’t land on a planet within that faction’s system until they’ve paid it off, or they’ll be arrested.
The biggest trouble I had with this system was paying the bounties off. You can only pay off a bounty with one faction from a planet in another faction’s controlled region of space. It makes sense since a faction wouldn’t allow a bounty-avoidance service within its controlled region. However, it can benefit from more visitors if it allows that system to function for other bounties.
That said, when you have bounties with multiple factions, like myself, and know where to go to pay them off, you can’t fly anywhere. I jumped to one system and was being scanned and about to be offered the chance to battle for my life or turn in all my stolen goods and pay a fine. I instead chose to Grav Jump away to a different system and avoid the scan entirely. As far as I know, this is an intended feature.
What isn’t an intended feature, though, is my workaround for bounties. It’s possible to teleport to a point on a world you’ve already visited, even in systems controlled by factions you’ve got a bounty with. So that’s what I did, and I paid off the bounty with one faction to allow me to fly to a planet they control and pay off my other bounty.
This is the perfect Bethesda bug, blending a system within the game with a clear exploit that it feels like Bethesda was willing to live with. I say this because you can, of course, be scanned by security on a planet in a system where you have an active bounty and get arrested just as easily. It makes for some hilarious moments when the security guards ambush you as you mind your own business, completing quests.
I fell Through the Map, and I’m fine With it
Using exploits like the bounty bug I’ve just explained is a conscious decision, but one that makes more egregious bugs seem like less of a big deal. For example, during a mission for the Crismon Fleet, I was sent to a luxury starliner.
While exploring the starliner and possibly looting every guest’s room, I fell through the map. It wasn’t a bad fall, probably about 4 feet. I landed on the roof of the starliner’s corridor below, but I could see the entire map’s skeletal structure and shape.
This should have destroyed my immersion, and I honestly expected it to crash the game and cause me to lose an hour or so of progression. Luckily, I just dropped back onto the floor below and went about my day.
I was so willing to forgive Starfield for this huge bug, something that’s so much bigger than the minor bugs we expected to see in the game upon release, because of the exploits I’ve been using for my entire playthrough.
No, Starfield isn’t a perfect game. Compared to the last major release I lost myself in, Baldur’s Gate 3, it’s not even close. At one point, I dragged a pirate into the space police’s secret base, and neither the pirate nor the space police batted an eyelid.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, I would have killed multiple named characters, destroyed questlines I didn’t even know about, and probably started a war with the ensuing battle. Starfield doesn’t do this, but it’s not built to, and because of that, I don’t expect it. With that expectation set, my love for Starfield hasn’t lessened at all. I’m still enjoying every second in that universe, and that won’t change.
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