I know. I know. I can already feel people cringing and facepalming at the very thought of comparing these oh-so-different games. A Bethesda RPG vs a Space Sim perpetually in the making vs a 2014 Space Sim vs a Space Empire Building Sim? Just why!?
Because I can. And because there are hundreds of those boring, normie reviews out there already. I wanted to do something different.
Before we start, I want to get something out of the way: Starfield’s biggest flaw is that it was marketed as a space game when its not. It’s not even Skyrim or Fallout in space. Its Skyrim/ Fallout in the future. Forget Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen, even X4 or Stellaris have more space stuff than Starfield! But that doesn’t make it a bad game as we shall find out. Just a badly marketed one.
Starfield’s biggest flaw is that it was marketed as a space game when its not. Space is a mere background.
If you approach the game with that attitude, you will not be disappointed. That is why I took this approach to this review. To squeeze any notions of this being a space game out of your system. So that you can LOVE it for what it is – an RPG set in the future.
Star Citizen Graphics
Elite Dangerous Graphics
Graphics may not be the most important thing for many gamers, but they are very important to space gamers! After all, graphical fidelity is what delivers that precious, glorious immersion. Star Citizen really sets the bar here and some of its scenes can be shockingly good. But the lack of Ray Tracing is evident and a lot of the game’s assets are quite dated at this point. This is why you don’t take decades to make a game.
Starfield has only small tiles that it has to render and those tiles obviously tend to be more detailed than Star Citizen’s planet surfaces. But that’s because Star Citizen renders millions of miles of planet surface where Starfield only renders a dozen. If you see a mountain somewhere in Star Citizen, you can actually go there. If you see a moon, it’s actually there in its entirety and you can go there seamlessly without any loading screens.
Starfield on the other hand has smaller tiles so it can pump a lot more detail onto those tiles. You can’t actually go beyond those tiles. The mountains you see in the distance may be pretty, but they are just a background. You can, of course, create more tiles but they are all disconnected and artificial.
Some of the things in Starfield look pretty good, like all the inhabited buildings, space suits and weapons. But the outside areas like mountains and especially the trees look really bad. Like they are from a 10 year old game. Character faces are pretty bad too, including their animations. You’d expect better character focus from an RPG. The Creation Engine is really showing it’s age.
Common options like a FoV slider is missing. A lot of ultrawide and super ultrawide resolutions are unsupported. But the biggest issue has definitely been the lighting. I don’t expect Ray Tracing support on this game, but its lighting is just so bad and makes everything look washed out. Starfield can probably get away with a lot of that since its an RPG which has lower graphics expectations than a space sim. But it is something that has to be kept in mind while discussing the game.
Elite Dangerous looked pretty good when it first came out but its been quite a while since then. However, I still think it is the best looking space game in VR and the only game in this list with proper VR support. That alone gives it some extra points.
The universe in X4 looks good and the ships look amazing. The stations look pretty good from the outside but extremely bad from the inside. The characters look the worse by far and almost embarrassingly bad.
Star Citizen Performance
Elite Dangerous Performance
Both Star Citizen and Starfield are performance hogs but for different reasons. The problem with Star Citizen is the network code. The game is an MMO and your local client has to communicate with the server and the server is often at breaking point! But Star Citizen is a game in Alpha, so that is to be expected. It used to be much worse but now it’s mostly playable. FPS is not an issue but the online network performance still is.
With Starfield, the performance issue is more concerning. I have an AMD 7950X3D and an Nvidia 4090 FE. I get between 70-125 fps on a 3840×1600 monitor on Ultra settings. It sometimes stutters and dips to below that as well. This performance, without Ray Tracing is totally unacceptable. Starfield is the only game that performs this poorly on my top end system and may just be the worst optimized game I have ever played.
And even that performance is with a top end system. For older GPUs, this is going to be a major headache. I tried with my older, mid-range system which has an Intel 10700K and an Nvidia 3080 FE at a lower 3440×1400 resolution and the frames just melt away and go into unplayable territory. Tweaking some settings will help get some fps back, but it’s still not that great. For some reason, they didn’t even implement DLSS although AMD FSR is available. This is the level of performance I would expect with Ray Tracing on, but Starfield doesn’t even have ray tracking. Bethesda does have something to work on.
Elite has good performance which is not surprising given its age. I never had issues with it, even in VR.
X4 has pretty good performance when you are in your ship. But the map and other menus where you spend half your time, cut the fps by half and pushes into troublesome territory. It’s not a big issue because you don’t need a lot of fps in the menu anyway, but it can be a little annoying nevertheless.
Star Citizen’s characters look extremely detailed. You have an infinite number of possibilities and can tweak your appearance a lot. There are some advanced technologies at play like DNA splicing which take it to a whole another level. I don’t think any game even comes close at this point. Just look at all the details in the image below. The skin, eyes, the lips, the lighting and texture, its all so next-gen. Even the hair choices are far more realistic than the goofy styles bethesda goes for.
Starfield’s character creator is also really good but it just pales in comparison to SC. There are plenty of choices and you can make decent characters. The problem is not the character creator itself but rather the graphics because your character still exists in the same graphics engine.
Elite’s character creator is pretty basic so not much to be said there and X4 doesn’t have one at all.
Star Citizen Gameplay
Elite Dangerous Gameplay
Star Citizen is obviously missing 90% of its gameplay currently. But we do have basic iterations of a lot of gaming loops. Mining, trading, bounty hunting, basic story missions, prison system etc. All of that is bare bones still, but the foundations are there, and they are solid.
Starfield is different. It’s a Bethesda RPG through and through. Like Skyrim or Fallout, you have thousands of missions that vary in quality and value. However, they are all fun and engaging for the most part. You can and should get lost in all the side activities that are on offer and you can simply get distracted from the main quest for hundreds of hours. There are meaningful goals like upgrading your ship which requires a lot of resources, some trading, base building and a lot of other gameplay loops. You can even engage in piracy.
The main thing to remember with Starfield is that it is a very curated experience. Story missions are very tightly knit together and guide you through a very specific path. There are tonnes of dialogue options and understanding the background of a character or mission is a bigger focus then the actual gameplay execution. Not saying that this is a bad thing at all, it’s just different. In Star Citizen, you have to create your own gameplay.
Elite is the classic definition of a mile wide and a foot deep. The gameplay is kinda shallow. I bounced off it several time and I still find it hard to get back into it. It’s fun to fly around but the larger gameplay just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not engaging enough. Bounty hunting and mining are decent but you can only do so much of that. I don’t like the grindy parts.
X4 gameplay is amazing because. The quests are a bit clunky but they are there and give you a goal to pursue. The Empire building and faction wars are the best part. You can build massive fleets of carriers and destroyers and pilot any ship yourself.
Which one you like more is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I like them ALL. GIVE ME ALL THE GAMES!! Why limit yourself?
Star Citizen Space Combat
Starfield Space Combat
Elite Dangerous Space Combat
X4 Space Combat
Ship combat is perhaps one of the strongest features of Star citizen. I have been fighting space battles in Star citizen since 2015 when Arena Commander mode first launched. The ship combat is satisfying and engaging in Star citizen. I still expect some improvements especially to capital ship combat which doesn’t feel epic enough yet, but I am confident it will get there. You can actually have your friends man your turrets and the multiplayer mayhem makes this unique in this list.
By comparison, Starfield’s space combat is very simplistic and almost arcadey. It’s not really the focus of the game but I still would have preferred slightly more depth. I think this is one of the areas where Starfield falls short. What’s the point of spending so many resources to upgrade your ship when you are just going to have such an unsatisfying combat system to to use them for?
X4’s space combat is the closest you can get to capital ships duking it out in a space sim today.
Elite Dangerous has a pretty good combat system but its pretty basic. Many of the advanced features simply don’t exist when you compare it with Star Citizen. However, its leagues beyond where Starfield stands.
X4’s ship combat in itself is pretty basic, comparable to Starfield actually. However, you can control an entire fleet in X4 and even jump around from one ship to another. That really sets it apart from the rest. X4’s space combat is the closest you can get to capital ships duking it out in a space sim today.
Star Citizen Ship Designs
Starfield Ship Designs
Elite Dangerous Ship Designs
X4 Ship Designs
Ships are the bread and butter of Star Citizen this is not true just for the players but for the developers as well because this is how they make most of their money.
Star Citizen has around 200 ship designs now and these have been created by the developers so they’re all top notch with immense attention to detail, multiple decks, elevators, turrets, missile racks, ground vehicle pads, hangars for fighters, advanced features and so on.
Starfield ships are nowhere as detailed, but they allow for far more customization. This is another area where I think there is no comparison between the two games as Star Citizen clearly has a massive advantage here. You can make Starfield ships look different with customization, but they simply don’t have all the advanced features that ships in Star Citizen do. Ship designing in Starfield is mostly just salad dressing. It doesn’t add any features over the base ships. Starfield has very good interiors and it’s the only reason it is in this race.
Elite Dangerous ships are functional but at the end of the day, they also pale in comparison to the advanced features that Star Citizen and even X4 boasts of. They feel better than the cringe designs of Starfield.
X4’s ship lack detail but there is a lot of variety and that is why it scores well. What I mean is that 1 vs 1 and X4 ship is nowhere as detailed as a Star Citizen ship. But unlike Star Citizen where most of the capital ships are still in the JPEG stage, X4 has actual carriers and destroyers that you can deploy today. Not to mention all the alien race ships, some of which are awesome.
Star Citizen Ground Vehicles
Starfield Ground Vehicles (Jetpack only)
Elite Dangerous Ground Vehicles
X4 Ground Vehicles
Starfield doesn’t have ground vehicle. It figures because the tiles are so small, what would you even do with ground vehicles? They do have a jet pack though which is pretty cool on low gravity planets.
Star Citizen has dozens of ground vehicles. Buggies, hover bikes, rovers, missile launchers, even a bloody tank! And more are on the way! I find them to be pretty fun. I am a big fan of off-roading in real life as well and with Star Citizen, I can do just across alien moons and planets! The community even organises long races akin to the real world Dakar rally and it’s super fun.
Elite Dangerous has only two ground vehicles but it’s better than nothing. You can drive them around and it’s a little clunky but at least it’s an option. X4 has no ground vehicles as it has no landable planets.
Star Citizen Space Exploration
Starfield Space Exploration
Elite Dangerous Space Exploration
X4 Space Exploration
Exploration in Star citizen is probably one of its best features. You can actually explore everything. Go anywhere on a moon or planet or even in the vast emptiness of space. They lose a few points because there is currently only one solar system to explore. Although around a 100 solar systems are planned eventually.
Some people argue that this is pointless because there is nothing to do there. But these people miss the point of exploration. Even in the 19th and 20th centuries, exploration was about the vast wilderness where there is no human habitation. You don’t go to just Points of Interests. You go where no one has gone before simply because you can. Space is big. Space is empty. And games like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous capture that.
Space is big. Space is empty. And games like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous capture that. In Starfield, you hardly spend 2-3% of your time in space.
In Starfiled, there is no Space Exploration. None. You just fast travel between points. Do I hold that against Starfield? No, I don’t because it isn’t that type of a game. I concede that some marketing and dev comments made it seem like that was the case, but that is water under the bridge now. The fact is that this is a Bethesda RPG and as an RPG, it actually punches above its weight when it comes to exploration.
Elite has the best Space Exploration by far. In fact, that is what I love most about the game. You can fly in any direction and 99.94% of its 400 billion star systems are still unexplored! Sure, they are procedurally generated and not super unique, but at least it’s something. It gives you that feeling of being in an empty space, weeks of real time away from any human settlement.
X4 has about 130 star systems and it can take some time to explore them all. They are not on real scale though and each system is usually just a couple hundred kilometers across. But its still better than what we have in Starfield currently.
Star Citizen Planetary Exploration
Starfield Planetary Exploration
Elite Dangerous Planetary Exploration
X4 Planetary Exploration
Planetary exploration in Starfield seems pretty decent at first. The inhabited outposts are filled with little trinkets that makes them feel lived in. They are detailed and well crafted. There are laptops and notes which you can and should read as they really add to the narrative. But after a while I realised they are the same outposts copy-pasted everywhere. Sure, Star Citizen does this too which is why they also get a low score.
The random tiles on planets are all samey and boring. And since you are forced to walk, you don’t feel like exploring the planets anyway since it would take a long while. In Star Citizen, if I see a mountain or lake or something interesting, I can actually drive or fly to it. I would have preferred a 100 well-crafted systems over a 1000 barren, boring ones.
I would have preferred a 100 well-crafted systems over a 1000 barren, boring ones.
The outposts on Star Citizen are not much better either. They are even more generic and repetitive. But Star Citizen does have some advantages. Some of the planets have rivers, caves, oceans, mountain ranges, valleys and plenty of other features to fly or drive over. And yes, I do enjoy flying around there just like I enjoy flying around in Microsoft Flight Simulator or DCS world. That is what exploration means. Despite all its flaws, this is what keeps bringing me back to Star Citizen.
Elite’s planetary exploration is mediocre. It feels like something from a much older game and not really a fan of it. X4 has no planets.
Lore/ World Building
Star Citizen Lore
Elite Dangerous Lore
Star Citizen definitely has the better lore because they have been producing lore since 2013. You have tens of thousands of pages of lore and several hundred videos. Star Citizen has produced some of the best fiction in the history of sci-fi. Their ships ads are so much fun, their ship brochures feel like the real thing and even their in-lore fiction is pretty good.
Bethesda games also have decent lore. There are thousands of notes and diaries scattered around and it’s quite fun reading them. I personally am a big sucker for the lore and enjoy reading it all. But Star Citizen’s longevity clearly gives it a edge here. Beating Bethesda on lore is a tall order but it is what it is.
Elite’s lore is kinda meh.There is some of it but it really isn’t the focus of the game. There are faction that you can get dive but I never felt like there was a larger narrative going on.
X4 again benefits form its longevity. I have been playing the series for >15 years now starting with X3 Terran Conflict. The series has existed far before that but they never really focus on lore much. There are also quite a bit of contradictions.
Campaign/ Story missions
Star Citizen Campaign
Elite Dangerous Story Missions
This one is easy because the actual story campaign of Star Citizen (called Squadron 42) hasn’t even been released yet and is unlikely to be released anytime soon. So, we can’t really make a comparison. Even though Squadron 42 has a fairly star-studded cast including Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill Henry Cavil, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, it remains to be seen how good the story actually is. Squadron 42 is likely to be ~20 hours long while Starfield will provide you with several hundred hours of missions and side quests.
Starfield on the other hand has already proven its mettle on this front. The various side quests are fun and engaging even though the main story falls flat. I haven’t played through all side quests yet, but I have completed some of the faction quest lines and I like what I see so far. It’s no Read Dead or Witcher, but it’s decent.
I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here, but the main quest line and its consequences on the world is a big let down in Starfield. It destroys what makes Bethesda games good and I almost abandoned the game because of it. Luckily, you can just ignore the main quest and keep enjoying the wonderful side quests which are the only thing carrying this whole game and then some.
Starfield’s side quests are amazing and the only thing carrying this whole game and then some.
Elite doesn’t have a campaign as its more of a build your own story type of game. There are missions which frankly have little to no story value.
X4 does have a lot of very long campaigns but they can be a bit clunky sometimes. The overall narrative isn’t there but at least you get plenty of direction and objectives to keep you busy for hundreds of hours.
User Interface/ Experience
Star Citizen UI
Elite Dangerous UI
This is one of the areas where none of the games do to well.
Star Citizen’s UI is clunky and a lot of times just doesn’t work. Its expected form an alpha release but still, this review is as of how things stand today. At least the UI is made of PC so it has that going for it.
Starfield’s UI is also atrocious. Its obviously made for consoles and we PC players have to endure it because Bethesda just doesn’t care enough to make it better for us PC players. I am already using a bunch of UI mods that make the UI better and faster. Shameful display, really.
Elite’s UI is good because honestly, they don’t have a lot to of UI stuff to do. Even in VR, the UI feels nice and realistic. The map is a bit wonky though so they lose some points.
X4’s UI is functional. It’s not the best UI but honestly, they have so many things to manage here that you can’t really blame them too much. You have hundreds of ships to manage and so many commands and messages etc. It could be better but it does carry a lot on its shoulders.
Star Citizen Modding
Elite Dangerous Modding
Mods is where Bethesda really shines. You know which is the game with the most mods on Nexus? Its Skyrim. Do you know which is the game with the second most mods on Nexus? Also Skyrim! Followed by Fallout 4, Fallout New Vegas and Oblivion. Bethesda has essentially taken all of the top 5 slots.
I have dabbled in modding before, and I understand its value and it’s something that is really close to my heart. No studio can compete with Bethesda when it comes to making their games modable.
Most of the shortcomings of Starfield will probably be fixed with mods in a year or two. Something that will never happen with Star Citizen. As if Starfield already didn’t have a massive advantage in modding already, this also happens to be Star Citizen’s weakest area. It is an online MMO so no modding at all as far as we know. We may get private servers, but I doubt it.
In fact, there used to be a mod to get VR to run in Star Citizen which doesn’t work anymore because Star Citizen shoved Easy Anti-Cheat down our throats. So yea, as a VR enthusiast I am really pissed about that.
Elite also doesn’t allow for mods except for a couple of reshade ones.
X4 has plenty of amazing mods available. It’s the closest to Bethesda in that regard. You have mods that fix many of the game’s shortcomings. The reason X4 doesn’t score as high as Bethesda here is simply because Bethesda games have a much bigger audience which means the number and quality of mods is much higher.
Star Citizen Technology
Elite Dangerous Technology
When it comes to simulating entire planets and solar systems, Star Citizen has a dominating lead. Starfield can only generate small tiles across its 1000 planets and moons. I have driven and flown across Star Citizen’s planets and its incredibly fun.
However, being an MMO creates several technology challenges for Star Citizen and frankly, I am not even sure they can even be solved. The thing is that it is very hard to have hundreds of players on the same server and then making sure the server remains stable. We currently have only 40-50 players on a server. They are working on several technologies to make this better like server meshing, Persistent Entity Streaming, Server-Side Object Container Streaming etc, but who knows what the result of that will be.
The point is that Star Citizen is indeed working on some great technologies, but no one knows when they will come online or if they ever will. That definitely matters to me as a long time backer.
Starfield does some things very well but you can tell it’s an old engine. I expected them to have made serious upgrades by now but it still reminds me of the older Bethesda games in terms of engine limitations. I expected a vastly updated Creation engine but it feels wanting, especially on the graphics side. Not to mention lack of DLSS and Ray Tracing.
Elite is quite a bit dated now but they do their credit, they did a lot of stuff like the ability to walk only recently. The biggest advantage that Elite has is VR support which truly is a game changer for space sims.
X4 does pretty well too. Their space stuff is good, you can build massive space stations that massive fleets and it’s just something the other games can’t do currently.
Star Citizen Bugs
Elite Dangerous Bugs
*Higher score is better
There are plenty of bugs in Starfield and some of them are super annoying. The worst one is where characters keep speaking over each other so I can’t figure out what actually anyone is saying! That is super annoying in an RPG which is all about narrative. There are other glitches as well like characters floating away, vibrating or blocking your path, quest icons not updating, buggy ship designer and so on. But I got zero crashes so far.
Update: I have encountered several game-breaking bugs in my Starfield playthrough now. Several of my quests are now completely unplayable and one of them is a major questline making the game unplayable for me.
Star Citizen is still in Alpha so it obviously has a mountain of bugs. It wouldn’t be worth it to even list them all. Its playable but treat is as nothing more than an alpha demo.
Elite and X4 don’t have a lot of bugs given all the dev support they have received over the years. X4 does have some annoying bugs still but nothing game breaking.
Business Practices, Management Issues, Delays, Trust
*Higher is better
Let’s start with the big one: Yes, there were some misleading statements about space and planetary exploration made about Starfield. They could have been clearer from the start and avoided a lot of the backlash but they were focused on the massive initial sales spike which they got. Mission accomplished, I guess. There is also a lot of content creator “sponsoring” going around and I would rather not go down that rabbit hole.
There is also the issue of missing DLSS support for Nvidia while AMD FSR is supported as the title is AMD sponsored. Considering how Nvidia has 80% market share, this is a pretty big middle finger to the vast majority of their customers. I hate the console wars and how they force game exclusivity and it’s a shame now we are seeing similar things spill over into PC gaming. I have never seen a game perform this poorly on my 4090, especially one that looks this dated and lacks Ray Tracing.
That being said, all of this is still nothing compared to what Star Citizen pulls every year. At least you can buy the full Starfield experience for 60 bucks and call it a day. I paid £250 for the Constellation Edition and got some pretty cool merch including a smart watch! The game was delayed from last year, but that’s not a massive delay.
Star Citizen. Oh boy. Where to even start. They have done soooo many things wrong at this point that listing them all down would probably take weeks. Everything feels like a money grab. Even the tiniest thing costs real money. Of course, you can buy many of these things using in-game currency but there are still a lot of ways in which they get you.
The way they handle LTI, PTU waves, old money vs new money, concierge perks, broken promises, missing features, artificial scarcity, endless delays, power creep – everything is just wrong. No point getting into too much detail here as it’s just an exercise in frustration. Just know that you need endless patience to deal with Star Citizen’s development.
Frontier Developments don’t have the best record of giving the players what they want. They feel like they want to do their own thing irrespective of what the majority of players wanted. A lot of their actions ended up diving the community. They also seem more interested in squeezing their other franchises rather than supporting Elite.
Egosoft seem like the best ones here. They have been faithful to the players giving them what they want. Even when they had a dud (Rebirth), they supported their game tried to redeem themselves (which they did with X4).
Conclusion and Final Rating
Star Citizen Overall (current state)
Starfield as a Space Game
Starfield as a non-space RPG
Reading this review, you’re probably thinking that Star Citizen and Starfield are not really in the same league. It is true that Star Citizen is vastly superior when it comes to being a space sim with actual planets, actual exploration, superior features and a more realistic universe. However, Starfield is the superior RPG and unlike Star Citizen, it is something you can enjoy today.
Starfield, the Space Game, scores very poorly because there is no meaningful space game there. Space travel is just a fast travel menu and some loading screens. In fact, I think Starfield will actually increase interest in Star Citizen as those who want actual space exploration will be driven towards it.
Starfield, the RPG, I initially rated very highly. I gave it 80%, overlooking the terrible performance, mediocre graphics and a million loading screens. But as I played more and more, all its faults became more apparent. The copy-pasted outposts, annoying bugs, periodic stutters, horrible UI etc. began wearing on me. The final straw has been the game breaking bugs on several quests that I simply can’t complete anymore. This has put an end to my Starfield playthrough until we get a patch or mod fixing things. I hope to get back to the game in a couple of months although knowing Bethesda, it will probably be the modders (aka free labour) who fix it.
Elite is a gem but it suffers from lack of post release support. The devs went off chasing after more lucrative projects and the game suffered because of it. They also didn’t give the players what they really wanted. Star Citizen funding proves how much money there is in the space sim market. A massive missed opportunity for Frontier.
X4 is a game that punches way above its weight. Egosoft is a small studio with a small budget and that does affect the game and makes it look basic in some areas. But it still is the closest we have to a space sim until Star Citizen gets its act together (if ever).