During my 30+ hour journey with Starbound, my feelings for the game have gone from casual dismissal to absolute adoration. It’s true, the game has me hooked, and I can easily claim that Starbound is one of the greatest indie titles I have ever had the pleasure of playing.
Right off the bat, Starbound plunges you into the far reaches of space with a clear goal in sight and a reason to work towards it. After picking your race and a brief introduction section, your character is stranded in space with a damaged spaceship. From here, you beam down onto the starter planet and get to work collecting resources, growing food and working towards repairing your ship.
At the beginning of the game, you get a hold of your most powerful tool, the Matter Manipulator. This tool is used for mining as well as placing any and all blocks in the game. As you progress forward, you can use Manipulator Modules to upgrade the Matter Manipulator to preform a variety of other tasks such as collecting liquids, painting and even wiring. Not only that, you are also able to upgrade the tool’s area of effect and range as well.
Eventually you’ll reach your first Outpost, at which point the entire universe opens up as your own personal playground, and while there is a main questline you can follow, Starbound doesn’t keep you grounded for long. You can recruit NPCs for you crew, upgrade you ship, build colonies, construct massive structures, attempt side-quests and much, much more.
There are also multiple options present for customization, from furniture, rails to even an option to display fossils in you home. The sheer amount of customization items in Starbound is amazing, with each of the races possessing their own unique variations of the same items.
Many consider Starbound to be a spiritual successor to Terraria, another fantastic 2D sidescroller in its own right, and you can see why, the influences are unmistakable. But Starbound goes above and beyond, it takes the source material and expands on it in a way that is truly remarkable.
In Starbound, you are not bound to one planet. The universe contains thousands of star systems, each with their own procedurally generated planets with unique biomes and weather conditions. Most of the rougher planets require you to craft additional gear, such as a heating system, just to be able to survive on them, and that’s excluding the additional threat of larger and more dangerous mobs.
Starbound is colorful and vibrant, with each biome possessing its own distinguishing enemies and plant life. The game can be absolutely gorgeous, and combine that with a very impressive soundtrack, makes the experience truly unique.
Combat in the game is surprisingly straightforward. You character has access to a wide variety of weapons, both melee and ranged, some of which have a special ability that can be used. Because the game is so well-balanced, unless you decide to jump the gun, enemies hardly ever pose a greater threat than they actually need to. Proper preparation and timely upgrades can go a long way in saving your life, unless you happen to get swarmed though.
While you can use the crafting stations to make new weapons, some of the best ones are those that you find in the wild or as drops from bosses. Because the weapons are also procedurally generated, there are well over a million variations that can be found.
But perhaps the greatest attraction of Starbound, lies in its Personality. Each of the seven playable races have their own traits and cultures that differentiates them from the others, codex entries hidden throughout the planets help shed new light on their history. Things such as an error in the Glitch programming that has left the entire race stuck with Medieval beliefs and values, or the Novakid’s short attention span, which has left them with a strained reputation with the other races. It’s these little things that are bound to leave a lasting impact on players.
Now for the negatives. Starbound is not very accessible from the get-go, the game does not feature a tutorial for new players, and considering the depth of the gameplay, it can prove to be a very rough start. Simple instructions such as how to find food or build your first shelter are missing. The game also has a pretty bad interface, menus can be confusing and can clutter up the entire screen, combine all of this with a non-existent guide to the crafting mechanics, and you can start to see the problem. Compared to the bigger picture though, these are all very minor complaints, but if you’re new to the genre, they can be an absolute deal breaker.
In the end, Starbound delivers an experience unlike anything you have ever seen. The sheer scope of the universe and an abundance of things to do will keep you coming back for more, well after other games have moved on. And while the game does have it’s faults, the pros massively outweigh the cons.
Starbound is developed and published by Chucklefish Games. The game is available for PC with a release on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PS Vita coming soon. This review covers the PC version of the game.
The game has come a long way since it's days in Early Access, and while some may dismiss it as just another Terraria clone, Starbound is something roguelikes should aspire to be.