Welcome back, gamers! Today I’ll be discussing Starbound; an affordable indie gem that I’ve been following throughout it’s development. After launching a Kickstarter-style pre-order on the Humble Store and Steam back in 2013, Chuckle Fish Games was able to raise over 2 million dollars. After a few years, Starbound was released from its early-access beta. At the moment, Starbound is only available for the PC but will be coming to consoles in the near future. Fans of Terraria will find Starbound’s gameplay to be quite familiar. Despite the similarities, Starbound remains a unique and pleasurable experience. Prepare yourselves for a grand adventure across the unknown universe!
Systems: PC, OS X, Linux (Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita TBA)
Developer: Chuckle Fish Games
Publisher: Chuckle Fish Games
Release Date: July 22, 2016
Price: $14.99 (on Steam)
The first step before blasting off into space is character creation. Starbound offers 7 different races to choose from. The effects of choosing a race are mostly cosmetic but will decide your characters general appearance, which type of spacecraft they receive, which clothing and armors are available, and the way NPCs interact with your character. The Novakid race, for instance, has cowboy themed clothing, armor, ship, and can craft guns instead of the typical swords and axes that are available to other races. Each race also has their own history, architecture, culture, and settlement types to discover while exploring the universe.
One of the biggest additions featured in the final release is the major quest line. The game now begins with a full intro that also serves as a tutorial. The tutorial teaches basic movement controls and how to interact with the environment. But most importantly, this is where you receive your own official matter manipulator. By the end of the prologue, disaster strikes and you have no choice to flee to your newly acquired spaceship and escape destruction. After reaching the starter planet and following the first few instructions, you will open up a gateway to a universal hub called The Ark. This is where you will find the main quest giver who will send you across the stars in search of ancient relics. Each race has their own heavily guarded relic and in order to find them, you will have to track down settlements of each race looking for clues to each relic’s location.
Much like Terraria, Starbound’s main focus is on survival, exploration, gathering resources, and crafting. To survive, you must eat regularly, keep warm/cool, manage radiation, and fend off dangerous alien beasts. Food comes in all shapes and sizes. You have the option to hunt for meat, gather fruit and vegetables, and even prepare cooked meals. If the hunter-gatherer lifestyle doesn’t suit your taste, you may also settle down and build a farm to grow food. There are also some animals for sale at The Ark which produce other foods such as eggs and milk. Once you’ve built a campfire or stove, you unlock different recipes that are much more beneficial than eating raw food.
Exploration is vital in Starbound. You never know what lies in wait at the far edges of the universe. What sets Starbound apart from Terraria the most is it’s HUGE variety of planets and planet types. Planets are procedurally generated with billions of potential variations, so each playthrough will be unique, and you never know for certain what you might find while exploring. Each planet has its own biomes and mini-biomes. This means some will have forests, some may be completely engulfed in darkness, while others may be entirely ocean planets. Each planet surrounds a star. Stars come in different tiers of difficulty which show on the ship display, so be cautious before venturing onto an unknown planet or you may become some overpowered monster’s next meal.
In order to progress between tiers, you must gather resources from each planet and craft the necessary equipment to survive on the next type of planet. Although this makes the game quite a bit more linear than it had been in beta, it sets a good pace to progress along the main storyline. Each tier of planet type has it’s own types of ore that will be required to craft better sets of equipment, weapons, and other survival gear. To obtain enough ore for crafting, you must dig deep into each planet. Ores and items can also be obtained from within treasure chests, or by performing side quests.
Side quests can be obtained in most of the non-hostile settlements across the univers. Most of them are simple fetch quest. You may also be given some rescue/escort quests where you must locate a stranded settler and escort them back to their friend. My favorite mission types were the bounty hunting missions. These tasked you with tracking and eliminating a target. Sometimes the target is a group, an animal, or an outlaw. Be very careful when taking bounties because they are often quite difficult compared to regular enemies. Sometimes, when an outlaw has been injured to half of their health, they might surrender and offer to join your crew. Just keep in mind that these outlaws are masters of deceit and if you show mercy, you may end up unarmed with a rocket-launcher pointed at your face.
I learned this the hard way.
As you complete side quests and defeat outlaws, other NPCs will begin to become available for recruitment. These crewmembers can come in a variety of roles such as soldiers, medics, engineers, mechanics, and tailors. Each role has with different abilities to aid you during your travels, and two of them can even join you as followers to aid in battle. After recruiting a few crew members, you will need to upgrade your ship before any more recruits are able to join you. Ship upgrades require upgrade modules which can found scattered across the universe. Ship have multiple upgrades and allow you to expand you ship by at least twice it’s original size. I really liked the extra room in my ship to hoard all of my ill-gotten loot and display my finest items collected during my expeditions. Crew members can be helpful, but ultimately seemed more like an extra feature added at the last minute.
Crafting is life in Starbound. Not only is crafting essential to progress, the crafting system is very robust and fun to use. There are so many things to craft and the system functions almost identically to Terraria’s crafting system. Best of all: it’s simple! To begin, you just need to gather basic resources like wood and stone to craft a workbench. There are various workbenches, such as sewing machines, anvils, and alchemical workshops, which can be used to craft different kinds of items. As you scour the dungeons across different planets, you will also collect blueprints for crafting new weapons and furniture. After completing the first planet or two, you will need to craft an Environmental Protection Pack. The first EPP will give you the ability to breathe on moons or anywhere without a breathable environment. Later you must upgrade the EPP to be able to endure harsh radiation and extreme temperatures.
After collecting enough information on the race you have been tasked to investigate, you will receive coordinates to their sacred relic site. Each area has a challenging dungeon area that you must complete. After completing an obstacle course and downing a few baddies you will encounter a checkpoint and a boss arena. Once you reach the checkpoint you will no longer have to start from scratch if you die while fighting the boss. Each boss is completely different and requires a different strategy. Even if you are a skilled combatant, you will still have some problems with these bosses without adequate armor and weapons. I really enjoyed each boss fight and only managed beat one of them on my first try, and that was only because I was over-loaded with health items.
Not only are the worlds procedurally generated, but so are many of the weapons and enemies. There are countless swords, shields, hammers, axes, guns, throwing stars, and so much more. You can mix and match any of the one-handed weapons, so you could even use a gun with a shield if you’d like. Two-handed weapons have an alternate attack instead. These secondary attacks are usually pretty awesome. There are shotguns with grenade launchers, remote control rockets, flame-throwing swords, teleport abilities, and all sorts of other epic abilities. There are other neat items like grappling hooks and flashlights to get you out of a tough situation or to help with mining. I collected hundreds of items during my playthrough and probably haven’t even seen half of them. There are even some pokeball-like items you can use to capture animals to use in battle! Need I say more?!
Final Judgment: 88%
There is so much to do, explore, craft, and build in Starbound that I could fill a small book trying to cover it all. I really enjoyed the expertly-crafted pixel-graphics and engaging soundtrack. Starbound does a lot of things right. Unfortunately, many of those things have been done before and some of the features that set it apart from it’s competitors (:cough: Terraria :cough:) were a bit too ambitious. I enjoyed the procedurally-generated weapons, animals, and planets but I think after a while they all just seemed kind of bland and repetitive. The fact that they included 7 playable races gives it some replay value but I think I’ll give it a rest for a while or just continue to build fancy buildings on my current character. Terraria fans and anyone else looking for a fun, challenging crafting adventure across the universe should definitely not pass up a great game like this. Especially at such a great price!
- Amazing art style
- Great soundtrack
- Tons of items
- Unique alien races and ships
- Sandbox building
- Deep crafting system
- Electrical wiring and rail systems
- Challenging boss fights
- Character creation
- Survival aspects
- Permadeath option
- Tons of biomes, creatures, and settlements.
- Lots of noticeable lag
- RNG woes
- Lots of the content is purely cosmetic
- Very linear
- Some creatures appeared far too often on most planets
- Items can randomly disappear
- Fetch quests
- Gimped pickaxes (worthless and uncraftable)