Reviews have started pouring in for Starfield, the highly anticipated and allegedly gargantuan space RPG from Bethesda, which comes out worldwide on September 6. And though the reviews are mostly positive, and reports suggest that this may be the least buggy Bethesda launch yet, one content creator has pointed out a major problem with the Xbox and PC exclusive: accessibility.
Steve Saylor, a content creator and accessibility consultant who has worked with studios like Naughty Dog, Ubisoft, and Raven Software, posted a Starfield accessibility review on YouTube, calling it “extremely disappointing.” “I didn’t know when Todd Howard said on @KindaFunnyVids that they would have big font mode that was all they would have,” Saylor tweeted.
Starfield’s accessibility problems
“If folks were hoping space would be accessible, it is not,” he says in the 13-and-a-half-minute long video. “I wish I could say that this was going to be the first accessible hit from Bethesda–it is not. Sadly, not even close.” Saylor’s video then shows the accessibility tab in Starfield’s settings menu, and the four options available: general subtitles, dialogue subtitles, toggle iron sights, and large menu fonts, all of which can simply be toggled on or off.
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The big font mode is a crucial feature, since so much of Starfield relies on navigating text-heavy menus. “For the majority of the in-game menus—and there are a lot—the text is not perfect, but manageable,” Saylor, who is legally blind, said before pointing to the enlarged text’s lack of further customization options as another problem.
But the lack of font customization is most egregious when it comes to subtitles. There’s no ability for players to change the font-type, color, or background opacity for the subtitles, and since Starfield uses a stylized, computer-y font throughout, Saylor worries that it may be an issue for folks with dyslexia. “If you’re not happy with the default, you’re out of luck,” he said. The biggest issue is the contrast—there’s so little contrast throughout the menus and the in-game hud, and because the text is white it can often get lost on lighter-colored planets or even in bright parts of space (though Starfield swaps the font to blue when in your spaceship).
The Xbox Series X and S version offers some degree of button remapping that could help players with motor disabilities, but it’s unclear how well that works on PC. Saylor notes that Starfield has a small selection of “okay” accessibility features that don’t require customization, like a center dot that helps with motion sickness and high-contrast visuals when using the in-game scanner. But the overall offering pales in comparison to that of blockbuster games like The Last of Us Part II, which has around 60 different accessibility options including a high-contrast mode, a magnification feature, text-to-speech options, and customizable subtitles.
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Despite all of this, Saylor makes sure to point out that he still loves Starfield (he praises its “gorgeous soundtrack” and “intriguing” companions), and makes it clear that the blame for its lack of accessibility should not be placed on Xbox’s shoulders—Microsoft has made accessibility a cornerstone of its gaming business in recent years—but on Bethesda’s.
“Some folks may think that modding will help with accessibility, and yes, modding Bethesda games has helped in the past. But that is not the best way to get around accessibility,” Saylor told Kotaku over X (formerly Twitter) DM. “Only because if Bethesda releases a patch or an update, that mod could break, and it’s up to the modder to want to go in and fix it. Which can take time and there’s no guarantee it will be done. I wanted to add that to my review, but didn’t have time.”
It’s unclear if future Starfield updates will add more accessibility options, but with Bethesda now under the Xbox umbrella, you’d certainly hope so. Starfield launches for Xbox and PC on September 1 for players who shelled out for the special edition, and September 6 for everyone else.