You may very well have thought Starbound was already out, or confused it with another game entirely. It looks like Terraria, has elements of Minecraft and Don’t Starve, and doesn’t particularly stand out in the already bloated survival/crafting genre. What makes Starbound different than all those lookalikes and wannabes?
Those entirely new to Starbound are probably still familiar to the formula. It’s a 2D survival-based crafting game. You create a character and start off in a damaged spaceship and begin a series of tutorial quests that’ll run you through the basics of the game. Mining, crafting, and construction are all at the heart of the experience. You’re hoping to collect components and upgrades for your ship so you can finally leave the planet’s orbit. Once you do leave, you find other planets to explore, mine, and conquer. Each planet is procedurally generated with their own palate and art, and you’ll find new alien races, traders, shops, and who knows what else around the universe.
It can be daunting traversing the vastness of space and venturing into mines all alone, especially when strange monsters are roaming in the darkness of every cave and at nightfall. It’s a pretty big task, and for a single player the scale can be too much at times. The UI has been refined over the years of development, but even after all that time and the good tutorial, there can be a little too much to take in.
In the multiplayer mode you can freely roam space, expand your individual spaceships, and complete your own tasks before meeting up and tackling larger tasks together. You can also warp straight to whoever is in your own party, making cooperation incredibly easy and at the drop of a hat.
Don’t get me wrong, you are rewarded for the lengthy exploration. There are bosses hidden deep within the bowels of some planets, and mixed in among the random terrain are a variety of hidden spaces, which include stuff like mad scientist labs filled with interesting new items or ancient temples filled with treasures. There are even platforming puzzle areas that challenge your ability to precisely jump around tiny platforms, or jetpack past everything altogether.
With the 1.0 edition, Starbound is adding some bells and whistles that help the game stand out more. Steam Workshop support brings all the scattered mods to one place and will hopefully ensure the game will have some longevity. Shortly after launch the workshop is mostly filled with some UI add-ons, character skins, and more music. There are a few new items like a mech that’s suspiciously like the Aliens work loader. I’m really hoping the community can add new and exciting items to the game.
Despite all those wonderful little quirks, it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Starbound is coming into a genre that most people either love or hate. I really wonder if there is room in someone’s schedule for yet another crafting game. Starbound is certainly a good one of those, but it doesn’t really stand out among the many challengers. When Starbound does something unique, it feels like a fresh breath of air, but everything else, such as the basic minute by minute action of exploration and resource management, is way too stale.