June 15, 2018

Starbound: Early access done right

Alpha or not, Starbound is already a certified hit after just over a month after the first playable build was released on Steam’s Early Access platform. Outselling a number of other stellar full-release indie games during it’s opening month, Starbound already has legions of fans across the globe. Should you buy into the Early Access build right now, or is it wise to wait a little to see what the game can become?

Dubbed by many as “Terraria in space,” Starbound is a 2D crafting game set in an expansive universe filled with adventure. Similarities between Terraria are immediately apparent, both in function and visuals, but apart from the fact you can gather resources and build items, the two share very little when it comes to gameplay. It comes as no surprise that some of the development team worked on Terrarial, which gives them a basis to borrow from, and improve a formula that has already proven to work.

Players begin on a randomised planet, filled with both friendly and hostile creatures and precious resources. Unlike Terraria, the game gives you a handy quest line which gives your opening hours some purpose, and it also acts as a handy tutorial to teach you the basics of crafting food preparation and survival. The current build only had a handful of quests, eventually culminating in an epic boss battle with some maniacal penguins, but it showcases where the developers are hoping to take the game. As someone who needs some structured tasks to complete between sandbox adventuring, Starbound already won me over on this alone.

Yet some of the best fun I’ve had with my eleven hours of gameplay so far has been the random exploration I’ ve experienced with friends. Meeting up on a planet and exploring the world is a wondrous thing, especially when you stumble upon a random outhouse, complete with a dank sewer system and gigantic shit monsters who fling poop at your face as their primary attack.

Poop monsters aren’t the only thing I’ve found. I managed to stumble upon a city of oppressed apes, being held hostage by an Orwellian government, with signs stating that “Big Ape Is Watching”. I also found a sweet craft market being held by a tribe of friendly bird people, and I bought myself a stunning sweater to keep me warm at night.

Once you have finished exploring a planet, pillaging it for rare resources and destroying shit demons and ape governments, you can fuel up your star ship and fly to another randomly generated planet in the solar system. While the current build may lack quests to keep you busy, the universe it literally endless, offering you tonnes to see and do.

Now for the bad part, the Early Access part where things go downhill. Since the launch of the game we’ve lost character progress at least four times, and due to the hectic number of updates, we’ve have to annoy our server admin to make sure he is updating the client side so we can keep playing. It’s expected in an Early Access program, but if you are the kind of gamer to chuck a tantrum over losing that super rare gold lazor sword, you better hold off for now.

But in it’s current state is Starbound worth the $14 investment? Absolutely. The game is solid enough right now to give you a great adventure, and it’s only going to get better from here. I ‘ve decided to give it a break for a month and let some updates roll in so I can come back to all new content, but one thing is for certain: I will be coming back again and again for what Starbound is offering. A sci-fi adventure that will earn its place right alongside Minecraft as the forefathers of indie gaming.

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