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By eremeticskeptic26-04-2014
drcoolio345 (editor)
Grawne (editor)

The Defence

Adventure, Casual, Indie, Role Playing
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i3
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
4 GB
4 GB

Currently in beta, Starbound, a cute little pixelated pseudo-RPG from Chucklefish, Ltd. is a new take on an old game. The premise is simple: you are a space traveler fleeing from your home planet, and your ship has run out of fuel. After creating your character, you must beam down to the planet below you, gather supplies to build a distress beacon, and call a friendly ship to your aid so you can leave and explore other worlds. While there are missions assigned to you in-game, these missions serve mostly to guide you along the mechanics of gameplay, instead of conveying a particular story.

The character creation in Starbound is an admirable and unexpected feature for a game such as this. Many games that focus on crafting items, and world exploration, lack any significant options for character creation. Starbound, however, offers six races to choose from when creating your character: Apex, Avian, Floran, Glitch, Human, and Hylotl. A seventh race, the Novakid, is planned, but not yet available. I personally have a penchant for playing non-human characters, so I ended up using an Avian for my playthrough after toying around with the character creator.

Just look at that variety. It's irresistible.

Just look at that variety. It's irresistible.

In order to assist your crafting pursuits, your character is equipped with a “matter manipulator”, an all-in-one multi-tool that breaks down designated objects into materials that you can use. The matter manipulator cuts through anything from trees to obsidian and it was nice to skip over the tedium of a multi-stage crafting system. However, to balance out the matter manipulator’s usefulness, the developers of Starbound have apparently decided to make the process as slow as possible. To find many of the ores necessary for crafting, you must cut through obsidian, which takes a while to break through. In order to utilize the matter manipulator, you must hold down the left mouse button until the four-tile area you’ve targeted is completely broken down. This ranges from irritating to obnoxious, especially when you’re trying to get gold ore out of an obsidian foundation. Ores take even longer than the obsidian to break down, and when you find them, you have to break them down along with the ground that they’re nestled in. The process can literally take two or three minutes, a time in which I found myself wishing I was doing anything else.

Hunting for materials isn’t a peaceful walk in the park however. Starbound’s landscapes are brimming with a multitude of enemies that spring at you from the sides of the screen, where they lay in wait to wreak havoc upon your character. Switching to your weapon of choice (I opted for a wooden axe) and mashing the left mouse button is pretty effective strategy for most of the enemies, but you have to have a pretty solid reaction time in order to stay alive.

Helloooooo déjà vu.

Helloooooo déjà vu.

Crafting your objects is done in a similar fashion to many other games, notably Minecraft. While your crafting options don’t give you Minecraft’s convenient 3x3 panel, where you must remember the unique recipes for each and every item, Starbound crafts items for you automatically when you have enough materials and choose to craft it. The choice to model crafting after other popular games was smart thinking on Chucklefish’s part. It makes the game a bit more intuitive to play, and doesn’t require that your player remember absolutely everything about the game in order to get the most out of it.

The sound design in Starbound is excellent. The background music is, for the most part, the gentle, piano-heavy ambient music that one would expect from a game of its nature. However, the music does change accordingly when combat scenes arrive. The combat music complements the hectic nature of combat in-game, and serves its purpose of getting you excited (and a little stressed out) pretty well. The sound effects are also pretty great, with the beam up/down noise sounding exactly the way you would expect. The matter manipulator’s clicking as it chips away at landscape and the crackling of the campfire also felt spot-on.

((Fire crackling intensifies))

((Fire crackling intensifies))

The graphics of Starbound are in line with the graphics of most 2D side-scrolling games of its genre. Like Terraria, the graphics in Starbound are simple and pixelated, while still conveying detail. To give the illusion of depth, the game includes a second, darker layer after you’ve chipped away at the accessible landscape, and includes shading when appropriate.

I have one main complaint with the Starbound beta; finding the necessary materials to create things needed to progress in the game takes an exceedingly long amount of time. Crafting your distress beacon takes a lot of ore, a lot of planks, and a lot of time. When you’re done crafting and can finally place the distress beacon, you don’t get the rescue you were hoping for. Instead, unfriendly aliens come to your call, sending little troops down to shoot at you, and lowering their flying saucer to smash you into the ground and fire at you with their “big guns”. This destroys your distress beacon, and if you don’t win the battle against the ship, you’ll have to create another one from scratch. This can leave you unsatisfied and feeling like you just wasted your time.

Starbound’s biggest attraction is perhaps its community; dedicated players are already building mods for everything from characters to in-game items. You can also play in multiplayer worlds and with friends, much like other Terraria-style games. All in all, Starbound has a lot going for it, but the degree of tedium involved in many aspects of the game does not do a lot to set it apart from similar games.

Comments (2)
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Posts: 5

Eh, really? Besides Edge of Space and that Omnom game thing (and Terraria ofc), I don't see what other game is like that. Starbound for me fills quite a specific niche, and that's for those looking for a sci-fi version of Terraria, and imo it does the job really well.

I still favour Terraria though. Fantasy just seems to work better for a 2D sandbox.

Posts: 297

There's too many of these games coming out now, trying to copy each other. This leads to over saturation and then communities and split and you dunno which one will be better than the other, and you could waste countless hours trying to find the perfect one for you while you end up buying and then quitting a lot.