For as long as RPGs have had locked doors, video game designers have developed ways to let players unlock these doors without a key. Some of these unlocking minigames are fine, but many are annoying or boring, and some are downright bad. Starfield might be one of my favorite lockpicking minigames ever. Really.
Starfield, Bethesda’s latest and biggest RPG, launched in early access on September 1 after years of hype, rumors, and shiny trailers. Revealed back at E3 2018, the massive space RPG lets players create their own character and explore a galaxy filled with over a thousand planets, complete quests, and design their spaceships. Of course, this world is full of locked doors, closets, gates, and chests holding ammo, high-powered weapons, and mysterious goodies. But don’t worry, this time around, lockpicking is fun!
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In past Bethesda games, lockpicking was often a minigame that involved moving a pick around with your joystick or mouse until you found the right location and then clicking it open. It was fine and totally serviceable, but I often tried to get perks or skills to let me auto-unlock chests in Fallout and Elder Scrolls as I eventually grew tired of doing the same basic thing over and over again. That’s not been the case with Starfield.
In Starfield you digitally lockpick containers using a new method that involves various circles, gaps, and “digital keys” that fit into these gaps in specific ways, slotting keys in for each ring of the lock to and eventually unlock the chest. At first, I was confused by it all.
For example, I saw an undo button, hit it to fix mistakes, and then realized that I was using up my digipicks with each press! Whoops. Don’t do that.
But after the second lock, I got the hang of it and now I love unlocking stuff in Starfield. The lockpicking has a similar feel to a really simple, but fun mobile puzzle game. Spinning the circular keys around to fit the various gaps feels great and once I got better at it, I could start to see where keys should go without even testing before committing. And nailing a lock in Starfield gives me the same little burst of endorphins that a good puzzle game provides.
So yeah, I would definitely play this on a phone if it had a few more mechanics and features. Bethesda, I know you probably have so many other things to worry about right now after launching the biggest game of the year, but also: Can you please make the digital lockpicking minigame a phone app? Thank you.