Starbound by ChuckleFish (2013 “Beta”)*
Any gamer can agree that playing with friends is certainly more enjoyable than playing alone. For sandbox games like Minecraft or Terraria, this goes without saying, but striving out on your own still has its own rewards. In the case of the 2D open-planet sandbox title Starbound, playing with friends doesn’t just enhance the experience, it’s a certain necessity. The reason for this? Grinding. What sets Starbound apart is its in-game currency called “pixels”; so even if you mine that perfect amount of diamond to build that shiny new drill, collecting these “pixels” will slow your progress in ways Minecraft and Terraria do not. With fairly steep requirements for upgrades and items, playing Starbound with friends numbs the pain of this arduous task, but attempting to do it alone can make for a pretty cold universe.
All of that aside, Starbound still excels in its game design where anything and everything can be torn down and rebuilt to your liking. You start off slow with a multi-tool “*matter* manipulator” and a fresh planet to beam down to, after being unceremoniously banished from your home-world off-screen. After doing pretty normal survival tasks: building a house, finding food, exploring your surroundings, you are free to find alien settlements, mine deeper for rarer materials, or read up on the lore of the six playable races.
With numerous materials to work with, getting your home just right can take a while, especially for those with more lavish imaginations. From mining unique rocks to “liberating” decorations from the house of your alien neighbor, it’s every perfectionists’ worst nightmare when the possibilities keep expanding. Don’t get too comfortable though, the homes you build don’t travel with you so you’ll have to start construction from the ground up with every new planet. This lack of permanence serves to enhance the exploratory features of the game, despite the frustration of having to tear down your dream home every time you move.
If you manage to exhaust all of your options, fan-made ‘modifications’ can be used to spice up your universe. Integrating new environments, weather, and even increasing the variety of your farm crops provides fresh gameplay for your crew long after defeating the final boss. Since Starbound is still in early access beta, the developers promise many new additions to the game including more stable builds; but it appears that the fan-base is creating newer material at a faster rate than the creators.
While your busy building your castle in the sky, fighting off rock-spitting monsters, or visiting a new planet, an impressive, yet simplistic, soundtrack fills the air around you. Fitting with the theme of exploration, the tone beckons a new frontier with a solemn/peaceful attitude. With the variety of musical instruments added to the game, you can harmonize with your fellow explorers as a band.
Even with all of these delightful features, I cannot imagine venturing out alone without giving up eventually. Since most of these crucial “pixels” drop from fallen enemies early on, the current combat system of “click-run-click” makes this process even more repetitive in nature. Later on you are able to refine the ore you mine into pixels which makes things easier, but just replaces dangerous monster hunting with tedious mining. If you really want to get the most out of Starbound, bring some fellow space explorers or else progress will far and few between.
*Version Played: Enraged Koala 26/04/2014*
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Music – 8/10
Visuals – 7/10
Flow – 6.5/10
Story – 5/10*
Final Score – 6.6/10
*Being a sandbox game, the story is left to the lore of the races with no further developments*
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