Impressions: Starbound

starbound
Keen and I bought into a 4-pack for some game a long time ago. Eventually I forgot what it was called altogether. Every now and then I’d ask him something like, “Remember that 4-pack thing we bought? Did that ever come out?” and the answer was usually an “I don’t know.” Then one day Keen says, “Hey, remember that 4-pack space game? The beta comes out tomorrow.” Now you have a little behind-the-scenes insight into the goings-on of our operation.

So anyway, the game is actually called Starbound and if I had to sum it up briefly I’d say that It’s basically Terraria in space. There’s a lot more to it than that but it’s the easiest way to get the point across. It looks very similar to Terraria and plays quite similarly as well. Dig holes, craft stuff, put up blocks in the fore and background, etc. I don’t know what game did this art style and gameplay-type first since there seem to be several of them but you get the idea.

The really exciting part about Starbound is the ability to travel to different planets, solar systems, and quadrants. There are several different planet types like forest, snow/ice, arid, jungle, desert, and moon. You aren’t just stuck on the first world they drop you on. Actually, they don’t drop you on a world at all.

starbound-houseAfter picking one of several races and making your character you appear on a ship in orbit of a planet. You aren’t able to do much with your ship at first but once you fuel it up you can start traveling. There are also storage areas and a 3D printer thingy, which we haven’t really completely figured out yet. I was able to scan in a few items, mostly containers, and it created a schematic for them. Then I could replicate the item for some of the game’s currency called Pixels. We’re hoping that eventually you can do more with your ship like upgrade it or do space battles. We’re trying really hard not to look at a wiki or something that might spoil it for us.

When you beam down from your ship for the first time you wont have much except what you were able to get from your ship, which I think amounts to a flashlight, some seeds, a weapon, and reclaimer tool. The game features a quest system that basically gets you through the early stages of survival by instructing you to do things like “build a fire,” “Build a hunting bow and get food,” and so on. Warmth and hunger are two things that you need to keep an eye on. Warmth is really only a problem at night, or if you go to an ice planet, but your hunger slowly ticks down over time. You need to either find some food or kill something and cook it. The easiest way to do that is with said hunting bow, which gives you a greater chance of getting meat or a hide from an alien creature while your sword will giver you lower odds but will get you money from kills.

Crafting in Starbound is pretty simple. You can make stuff with different materials and by using different facilities like work benches and anvils, which will get upgraded over time. There seems to be a sense of progression since you are always trying to build your way towards something, which usually starts a boss fight that will drop a special item you may need. Planets are ranked by level so you have a pretty good idea of how difficult one may be. Right now we seem to be doing alright with planets up to level 10 but we’re struggling to get better equipped.

One of my favorite parts of the game so far is just traveling to other worlds and exploring. You don’t even need to dig below the surface to find cool stuff. The planets loop back around on themselves so you can run around the whole thing and see what it has to offer. Sometimes you may find friendly settlements and people who will sell you stuff, but mostly, from my experience, you will find guys who want to put holes in you. There are lots of random neat things to be found like hidden science facilities, ancient temples, evil ninja campsites, etc. Not only are they interesting to encounter but they give you the opportunity to get some good loot. While exploring one planet I actually came upon a large monster that dropped an awesome legendary sword upon its death. Another time I found a secret facility that went deep underground and after traversing an electric death gauntlet I found a nifty boost power-up. Cool stuff like this makes exploring fun.

The game is still in what appears to be early beta and there does seem to be a lot of stability issues, but both Keen and I love what we’ve experienced so far. We’re eager to see where this game goes in the future and what is still left for us to discover.

Update: We wanted to post screenshots of our hobbit hole we were building, but today they wiped all characters.  To be fair, they did warn everyone that this would be happening frequently throughout the beta.

  • Isn’t any fun singleplayer?

    The problem I faced with Terraria was that I got playing it late, after a lot of people I now had stopped playing. And on top of that I never seemed to be able to play at the same time my friends were, so my Terraria experience was purely single-player. Which I feel made learning the game a bit tougher, and also I think had a hand in me getting bored with it so quickly.

    • I’ve had an awfully busy last few days and Graev has spent many, many hours playing solo. He seems to be having a good enough time with it. Personally, I think the fun is had with friends or a brother. We get to work together, help each other, stockpile resources together, and explore. I always have more fun sharing my experience with someone else.

  • Sorry, but I see no point in going back to Miner 2049’er on my Colecovision.

    Outside of maybe Hotline Miami and Spelunky…which I’ve played for a grand total of 2 hours combined…I see no point of for the indy excuse for bad graphics.

    Seriously, enough already. It’s a cash grab.

  • @jim I don’t think it is that at all and they are not trying to cash in by using “bad” graphics. They are small companies with limited resources and funds and using this sort of style enables them to experiment with mechanics far easier. I doubt these indie games would be as interesting, mechanically speaking if they were done with the big creation programs like unity or unreal.

    Look at a difference in the indies.. you get dear esther or gone home, games focusing on a single mechanic or interest; or we Minecraft that give us expansive tools to create with and the randomly generated fun of roguelikes. Even the big publishers have trouble creating sandbox type games without it costing hundreds of millions and/or being buggy piles of code

    These bad graphics you talk about also open these games up to be easily moddable by the above average player. That extends the life and interest in these games beyond many other big name and graphic titles.

    And all this for a reasonable price as well. I’d much rather an experience like this that lasts me ten to hundreds of hours, offers something unique in an industry of clones and costs the price of a lunch

  • @Jim: I’m curious about whether or not you played games 15+ years ago. These aren’t “bad” or even dated graphics. This is a STYLE of graphics. Believe it or not, making graphics like this isn’t easy and it takes artists with talent.

    j3w3l makes a good point about big publishers releasing garbage. I see those games as being cash grabs where someone finally says, “Just release it so we can make something back.”

    I don’t think Starbound is a cash grab at all.

  • All those sports games comming out each year is a much bigger scam than indie games. I dont play that many AAA games anymore, but indie games can still hold my attention! And those games are some of best value

  • Personally I am enjoying the hell out of the game and only playing it single player. Since I know they were going to do and are going to do another character wipe soon I am just barreling through space and checking out different worlds. I have laughed a few times out loud at some of the things I have encountered. Just last night I came across an npc selling sweat pants, track suits and shoes out of a wagon on a moon. His words were something along the lines of ‘Behold the awesomeness of my average clothes for sale’. I killed him… it was satisfying.

    Some of the worlds have been a bit meh though. The trees look different or not like trees at all on some worlds… but still all yield unrefined wood it seems. One post I read on the forums talked about greatly altering the physics of some planets to give it more of a true exploration feel. Higher/lower gravity and things like that. Lots of potential.

    As for the graphics… that has never been the biggest selling point to a game for me. A game could be absolutely stunning and magical looking but dull and boring and I will never spend anytime with it. I game could look very basic but have amazing mechanics that keep me playing. To each their own I suppose but I prefer substance over flash.

  • I snagged this myself having not really gotten into minecraft or terreria prior. I got this based purely on potential, the space travel got me mainly lol. A few things I hope are added would be different atmospheres on the planets and some form of space combat to the likes of FTL. Hell I’d love to see FTL somehow just manipulated and implemented in this. Far fetched idea but FTL would compliment the space feel perfectly with this game.

    My one minor gripe is how derpy some of the alien monsters look.

  • Don’t worry about the temptation to look up stuff online. There are a number of wiki’s out there but they are largely useless being completely full of stubs with no useful information.

    I’m liking the gameplay so far my only gripes being that combat feels very lackluster, and everything whether it’s stone, grass, dirt, gravel, sand or mud in all of their dozens of varieties seem to have the same friction co-efficient which is super slippery.

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