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Starfield is incredible, but following slow NPCs is making me want to put my controller through the wall

Even the best of games can be needled by a frustrating stop-start dance with slow-moving NPCs.

The player character stands next to Sam in Starfield.
Image credit: VG247

Starfield is a really bloody good video game. But it’s also a bit of what us Brits would call a ‘Marmite’ situation, named after an extremely divisive (and it should be noted, extremely disgusting) food product.

What I mean by this, basically, is that it’s a love/hate thing. Some people are definitely going to bounce off Starfield, though I’m not one of those people. I’ve firmly decided that at least for now I’m not tired of the Bethesda Game Studios formula. In addition, I think Starfield is the best one of these sorts of games that the company has made - at least since Oblivion. It’s brilliant. But one thing about it is driving me nuts.

We need to talk about the god damn walking and talking.

Todd, BGS, why do you do this to me? Frequently in Starfield you’ll be asked to follow along with an NPC as they deliver story exposition, usually as they meander to some location that’s of story significance. That all sounds fine, right? No big deal. Except it’s all been designed in the most frustrating way possible.

I know this is a small thing - the most finicky and minor of complaints, but as the guest star of one of the best-ever episodes of the Simpsons once said, “It’s the little things that make up life”. And this little thing has, like I say, been driving me up the wall.

Specifically, it’s all about speed. Starfield’s NPCs typically walk a good half a step or so slower than your character’s walk speed. So even if you’re just idly tilting the stick in the same direction they’re headed, you’ll end up far ahead of them. It’s not like you can run ahead and wait for them, because objective markers typically sit above the NPC you’re following rather than point to their final destination. Besides, if you did that, you’d miss out on that walky-talky dialogue, much of which is interesting, expositional, or both.

You can achieve an identical walk speed to the NPCs by very softly tilting the analog stick part-way - but that just requires a hand position and concentration that doesn’t feel very befitting for these walk-and-talk segments. Like, I’m fine with it - but just let me turn my brain off and focus on the dialogue, just as I do with the stationary dialogue sequences.

In truth, this is just one of those truly garbage video game tropes - it’s by no means exclusive to Starfield. I can name countless games that have this exact problem.. And, well, can we just get past this, please? It doesn’t need to be like this.

Games that do this right come to mind - those that have NPC walkspeeds match the player as a bare minimum. Or better still, you have examples like Red Dead Redemption 2, which has the feature to auto-follow NPCs on your horse, so those long treks following an ally across rolling landscapes can become a relaxing journey where you can even put your controller down and take in the vibes. Final Fantasy 7 Remake had loads of this walky-talky stuff, but it at least had the decency to slow Cloud down so holding the stick would have him walk at the same speed as the NPCs were.

Either way… I hate this. I’m finding Starfield’s life-simmy sort of world and outlook extremely refreshing, and that’s why I’m pushing 150 hours logged in it already. But every time I have to stop walking and wait for a yammering NPC to catch up, I’m taken out of the world just a little bit. If there’s one thing I hope a mod or even an official quality-of-life patch addresses, it’s this.

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