by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Hoarders in Space
My spaceship is an absolute mess. It has two giant stone banana statues, another statue of a scientist, two massive speakers, a piano, a huge throne and a skull on a spike. I tried to make room for my fish tank but it’s just too big. Maybe I will throw out one of the bananas, I haven’t decided yet. This is all stuff I have collected from various planets on my journey across the galaxy in Starbound. Comparisons with Terraria are easy to make, but that’s not a bad thing. “Terraria in space” sounds like the perfect game pitch to me.
The game is in Early Access now, but it seems as though there are new content patches with plenty of tweaks coming out every few days, which is a good thing. Some of the promised gameplay elements aren’t in yet, but as it is, it is still good fun to play, especially with friends. At the start, you choose from one of several different races and decide what you want to look like (I chose the bird race and went with massive mohawk plumage). You are then plonked onto your ship which has run out of fuel above an unknown planet.
Build toward a better tomorrow
From there, you beam down and it very much becomes a standard exploration and survival game. You will start building tools like pickaxes and weapons using the resources you find, allowing you to mine better resources for better tools, and so on. There are more interesting places to find than you might see in a similar game though. All of the worlds are inhabited by monsters and animals of some sort which you will have to fight off. But many are inhabited by peaceful races, which remain that way until you start attacking them. You might even be able to trade with some of them, using Pixels, the game’s currency, which you acquire from defeating enemies and finding small capsules.
Joining a multiplayer server isn’t the most streamlined activity at the moment, but it doesn’t take much to get into a game. Playing with a couple of friends, the first place we found was an underground laboratory filled with electrified walls and odd experimentation equipment. Deep in the lab I found a piece of tech which allowed me to perform a double jump with a small boost. Elsewhere on the planet we had mined plenty of coal and chopped down enough trees to fuel my ship. Having explored this planet to my satisfaction, we jumped to a new one, with a great warping animation which hides the planet building load time. On this new planet, we explored across the surface for a while, happening across a big anchor with a chain going up into the sky. We built a makeshift ladder, and eventually reached a huge floating pirate ship. I bought a sniper rifle from them, while one of my friends bought a shotgun, and we went on our way.
The universe is like a box of chocolates...
In Terraria, it’s great fun to simply explore the world that has been created for you. In Starbound, it is possible to get this feeling many, many times, as the number of planets you can fly to seems endless. There are loads of different types of planet, too. One I visited had big mushrooms instead of trees. Another was completely barren, with sand and rock stretching for miles. Each new place has a difficulty rating associated with it, so you will know roughly how much resistance you will be running into. Combat isn’t very nuanced right now, you simply swing or shoot your weapon as the enemy runs at you or uses a ranged attack. Some have elemental attacks which might poison or burn you, but the enemies seem like they’re just to get in your way rather than be an interesting gameplay mechanic.
There’s lots to do at the moment, but with the promise of fully fledged quests coming in a future version of the game, it might be worth waiting a while. When it is all fleshed out, Starbound could see itself become top of its genre, especially visually with its good looking animations and physics. Even if you decide to pick up early access to it now though, you will be blasting off into space and have a blast doing it.