Through hardship, to the stars
I wasted all my fuel on the latest jump through space, hoping that this newest planet will have the resources I need to continue expansion. As I beam down to the surface, I am greeted by the warmth of an unfamiliar star – sand is baking beneath my feet. As I turn to take in my surroundings, I hear a feral scream and am jumped by a beast with three eye-stalks and a gaping maw with seven rows of sharp teeth.
I release a hiss and wield my Choppy Leaves, aiming to snap the beast in half! As I take damage, the beast weakens, and eventually succumbs to my onslaught of leaf-blades. “Aha,” I preen, brushing back a petal, “Floran triumphsss again.”
Starbound is an (early access) indie sandbox with emphasis on survival, crafting, and adventure. That’s a lot to put into a game, but here it is. Starbound can be summarized as “Terraria in space,” but I think I can do a little better than that. I didn’t like Terraria, and I have really enjoyed Starbound through its constant patching and changing (almost always for the better). The game is still in beta and is still classified as early access, but it just got a large, stable patch applied so I feel like it is an excellent time to talk about the game.
Let’s talk about races: there are seven playable races, all with different racial crafting recipes. Apex (monkey), Avian (birds), Floran (plants), Glitch (robots), Human (duh), Hylotl (fish) and Novakid (stars) are the basic concepts, and each have their own associated culture. (You can learn about the culture(s) by stumbling across books and towns during your explorations.) From here, you mine and craft like you did in Terraria, but there are different things that you need to find and craft. The most interesting part of this will be your steady advancement – you will have swords, wood burning ovens, and other simple items… but later, you will gain the ability to craft circuit boards, proximity scanners and sensors, and even more advanced technology.
To get to the higher levels of crafting, you must travel to a different planet, which requires you to leave the safety of your current planet and ship off into space. The most recent patch has also added quest gates to exploration, so before you can get to certain planet tiers, you will have to advance the quest lines. Most of the quests are easy to beat, so advancing to the next star cluster or planet tier is not difficult. Let me explain – this patch removed sectors, which I actually enjoyed more than the current system. Sectors separated planet difficulty by, well, sectors (alpha being the easiest and ‘X’ consisting of the most difficult planets to survive on). Now, planets merely have hazards that you must unlock suits for through quests. This means that biomes are limited to their own relative difficulties, and you will never see them out of that difficulty – no hard forest planets, no medium difficulty lava planets.
While it is hard to say developer Chucklefish removed some variety from the game because there is so much possible variety to planets, they did. Now there are combinations of biomes and hazard levels that are unachievable. On one of the previous patches, I had set up a homeworld on an X Sector forest world that also had snow. It meant I could grind high level monsters, get the always necessary fuel, and still enjoy a varied environment. However, I haven’t played so much of the game that I will say that the worlds have become repetitive. I’ve yet to come across a planet that is even remotely like another (unless you count it having similar trees).
Now let’s talk about multiplayer: because most things that have an excellent single player experience don’t always fare so well in the multiplayer realm. Starbound is not one of those games. You can kill monsters with your friends, explore ancient ruined civilizations with your friends, share worlds you have discovered and terraformed with your friends; the multiplayer experience is as open ended as the single player.
Starbound is in development by Chucklefish for PC and is currently available in its early access form through Steam for $14.99. The universe is constantly evolving, through your adventuring and through the constant patching/hotfixing of the creators. This game is something you can sit down and accidentally spend ten hours playing when all you meant to do was update it to the latest patch.