I’m on a distant planet, seeking out better gear while taking in the epic sights. I should be alert for the dangers that lurk around every corner—pirates, mercenaries, or goddess forbid, terrormorphs—but it seems I keep running into walls for seconds at a time. Why? Because I keep falling asleep.
According to Starfield I have played for four days, six hours, and 46 minutes. That’s 114.1 hours, according to Steam.
I regret none of it. While I have more than my fair share of criticisms over what I perceive to be a dramatic number of weak points in Bethesda’s latest epic, they’re often outweighed by my enjoyment of the game’s wonderfully large sandbox. But though its gun fights can be very engaging and the main story particularly catches my attention, I often find myself falling asleep while playing, both at home and even here at the Kotaku offices. I usually catch myself after what feels like less than a minute, but sometimes my narcoleptic reverie seems to last longer.
Adventures in somnolence
It seems I am not alone in my Starfield snoozing. As one Steam forum member commented, during its quiet moments the game basically turns into a space-themed ASMR trip. You’ll come across massive facilities populated with incredibly easy enemies; who upon their swift elimination leave behind an entire fortress of lockers, boxes, and shelves to sift through. That’s some sleepy work right there.
If you want, Starfield really can drift into being an incredibly chill game. When you’re just exploring and surveying, the Star Wars-esque music barely intrudes and it’s easy enough to avoid combat with humanoid and alien threats alike. What remains is just gentle ambient music (which I do often replace with SomaFM’s Drone Zone station) that comes and goes as you wander empty, spacious planets, some with wild backdrops of stars and looming planets.
And moving through the game’s “dungeons” (typically what it calls “abandoned facilities”) just has this rhythm to it that’s…well there’s a reason I’ve played it for over a hundred hours thus far. It’s soothing.
Late-night sessions also see little interruption with my sleep, somehow. Whereas other games would sort of spark a more active part of my mind, I’m finding that Starfield is an oddly comfortable way to unwind (granted, that unwinding session starts at around six o’clock in the evening and goes until like, uh, 3 a.m. sometimes…). I seem to fall asleep rather quickly after a long Starfield session of sightseeing and repetitive dungeon crawling.
I also find Starfield’s narrative beats more contemplative than actionable. In previous Bethesda games my character felt a bit more important, or had more clearly important things to do. The immediacy of the civil war in Skyrim was everywhere. In Fallout 4 I lost my damn child—how could I just idly wander through abandoned, radiated hallways with that in the back of my mind?
In Starfield, the backdrop of the lore, how Earth lost its atmosphere, it fills me with the urge to contemplate and think more so than act—because what can I even do? The massive sizes of the UC and Freestar Collective, combined with the gargantuan breadth of the galaxy, make me feel tiny by comparison. I’ll avoid spoilers, but even the revelations of the main quest make me feel more an ephemeral part of the backdrop of the galaxy than an active hero. The everyday citizens, the governmental bodies, the corporations, they all feel so small by contrast to the vast emptiness of space and time.
Sure, most quests still rely on that old Bethesda motif of “thank god it’s you, here’s TMI, now help me with my most dire problem,” and many of those quests are starved of meaningful choice. There’s a fair critique to make that more than a few storylines feel boring because of this. But aside from how the quests are presented, I don’t often feel a fundamental need baked into my character to go out and save Starfield’s world. Galaxy, whatever.
So while I do wish NPCs wouldn’t talk to me like I’m an obvious protagonist, Starfield overall does a great job of letting me feel like my time is my own. I can wander silently, blissfully, just drifting across the stars. And then, you know, drifting off myself.