NOTE: At the time of this reviewing, the game “Starbound” was still in open beta.
This game is Minecraft meets Mario with a dash of Terraria. In one word, it’s awesome. You’ll start with your own spaceship, and although you can designate any of the gorgeous pixel-art planets as your “home,” this will be where you begin your adventure.
Each planet you travel to will be radically different from the last. You’ll face different foes, be amazed by different level design, and crave mining and scavenging materials from your surroundings, as varied as they are. Once you’ve depleted the planet of its resources and vanquished your goofy enemies (think: UFO’s full of violent penguins) you’ll be well on your way to the next planet, ready to do it all over again.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This game is the antithesis of repetitive. It never repeats itself thanks to the nearly infinite potential for planets and each new planet brings a new adventure.
You’ll need to use those resources that you extract to build things that will aid your survival. Without them, you’ll stumble upon icy planets and die of hypothermia or, equally as worse, be beamed onto a sweltering volcanic piece of rock and burn alive. Using the resources you have already mined and a little imagination, you’ll need to craft things that will keep you alive.
The environment is malleable, in that players can destroy and build what they see fit. It seems like everything in “Starbound” is against you and will try to kill you at every turn, but that just adds to the excitement where you’ll need to outsmart and overpower your enemies. You’ll build crude tools and shelter at first, but as you explore more regions and acquire more resources, you’ll gain the ability to make better tools necessary for survival.
In addition to raw materials, finding tech gives your character special abilities and powerups, contributing to an already growing arsenal of weaponry and knowledge. The game, however, is still unfinished. Given that it’s in open beta, it lacks a story line and coherent connections between the various planets and adventures. Its still an incredibly fun game, definitely a “should-buy,” but in the future as updates are released, it could become truly amazing.
In addition, although the planets and environments look great and function extremely well, they are a bit small. Although that’s a minor problem given the sheer amount of worlds that you can hop, bigger worlds means more resources and would ultimately further your quest.
The controls for the game couldn’t be better. The familiar arrow-key controls take almost no getting used to, and the game is extremely responsive. On a technical level, I experienced little to no bugs playing it, and it would rarely take more than a few seconds to load any given planet.
From a story standpoint, the beta still has a lot to offer. It offers a number of story missions, boss fights, and free-roam adventures that will keep you busy until new content is released. You’ll spend a lot of the early game scavenging and trying to get acquainted with the types of goods you can craft, but once you develop knowledge of the game’s mechanics the adventure will start to take off. It’s that prospect of adventure that will keep you playing through the first half hour of this game.
In addition, no other game has tried to kill you as hard as Starbound. The weather can kill you. The planet can kill you. The planet’s inhabitants can kill you. You can kill yourself. This game involves a principle struggle for survival, but thankfully you don’t have to go it alone.
You have the freedom to roam solo and hone your skills or play in multiplayer games and keep the loot that you find. A growing community base for the game and numerous resources online help with learning the mechanics, and bugs are being ironed out pretty fast.
You can send a planet’s coordinates to friends, asking them to play with you or you can undertake the struggle to survive on your own. Either way, that’s the beauty of this game, in that no two players will have the same experience.
By no means is Starbound a finished game, but given the fact that it’s a great game in its beta stage makes it that much better. Invest a little time into Starbound, and the game repays you with addictive music, gorgeous graphics, and tantalizing worlds to explore.
Starbound is available on the Steam store for Windows and Mac OS X.