Starbound. Ever heard of it? How about Terraria? No? Well, you’re missing out on two of the most fun 2D survival/exploration/crafting games in recent memory. Terraria was first to arrive, starting on PC, then moving to consoles. It was quickly given the name “2D Minecraft“, which is a fitting description. Like Minecraft, Terraria dropped players in a randomly generated world made up of cubes. Players can chop, dig, and sow the environment to help craft buildings and weapons. Using these items, one could go deeper in the world. What separated Terraria from Minecraft, besides the one less dimension, was the combat. Until one could get powerful enough, night time is actually scary. Zombies and floating eyeballs attack from all sides, and you have to pray your frail wooden door would hold out until sunrise.
What does this have to do with Starbound? A lot, because Starbound, developed by Chucklefish, is the spiritual successor to Terraria. Instead of taking place on one world, it takes place on thousands, if not millions. With the beta release out and available, I will be your tour guide through these strange, scary worlds. Using no wikis or strategy guides, I will be only using my knowledge from Terraria (about 20 hours) and that’s it. So come along to the great, dark beyond.
Firing up the game for the first time, I go straight for the character creation screen. I have several different choices of races which all carry different traits…none of which are displayed on screen. Going with my gut, I choose Glitch, which is a species of sentient androids. Other choices are Human, Avian (birdmen), Apex (apes), Floran (plants), and Hytols (fish?). Choosing from a standard set of customization options, I randomly set my name. Ram Grind will be my android’s alias, and according to my editor, the ‘porniest’ name in the history of videogames. It’s hard to disagree.
After creating Ram Grind, I am immediately taken to a ship. My ship, I suppose…Ram Grind’s ship, actually. Before I can even move, quest text pops on my screen. Quests! This one seems to be a simple tutorial, which is going to be helpful to new comers. Informing me that I have ran out of fuel, I must take to the planet below me and salvage materials. I withdraw some basic items from my storage locker, and step aboard the teleporter.
Purple and blue hues, towering vine-like trees, and surprisingly soothing music greet me as I enter my first world. All of Starbound’s worlds are randomly generated. This gives the game a huge amount of replayability, seeing as how with each new character you will not see the exact same planet twice. 7449 seems to be a forest biome, which is one of the few ‘settings’ a world can take place in. With a new quest in tow, I begin searching for wood to make a crafting table, which will let me make more intricate items crucial to my survival.
Within literally 5 seconds of walking, I encounter some trees. Using my ‘Matter Manipulator’, the tree buckles under its own weight. Upon impact with the ground, the tree explodes into collectible ‘unrefined wood’ (that’s what she said?). I noticed that my cursor lights up about four blocks in the environment, which means I can ‘mine’ four cubes at once, which is a huuuuuuge improvement over Terraria. While it may seem to be a bit overpowered, the ‘Matter Manipulator’ is slow. Too slow to effectively mine or harvest materials. As I approach the wood materials, they are sucked up into my character in a satisfying way. Time to build. Browsing through the crafting menu, I am able to build a few items…climbing robe, torches, bandages, the essentials for an explorer. Crafting is as simple as clicking a single ‘craft’ button, and is instantaneous. With my crafting table complete, I decide to take my extra wood and make a shelter for my robot.
Building things in the world of Starbound is extremely fluid and precise. Left clicking on the screen will place four of the selected objects into the worlds foreground. Right clicking allows objects to be placed into the background, and holding the “shift” key allows you to place a single object for more delicate creations. In a matter of minutes, I am able to construct a small, cozy little shelter for Ram Grind. Shelters are especially important, not only do they provide you with a place to hide from the more dangerous creatures, they also keep you warm. Hunger and warmth are effects you have to keep your eyes on. At night the temperature plummets on 7449, which hinders my exploration. After a handful of cold deaths, I realize that placing a few torches together at night helps keep me warm. But at this stage in the game, I am very limited on resources, and I keep my spelunking to a minimum at night.
As the sun rises on my humble house, I move Ram to the left. I need to search for some minerals to make some picks and axes to help me explore this planet at a more effective rate. As I reach the peak of a hill, I see a creature. Unsure of the creatures aggression, I approach with caution. As I get within a few yards of the four-legged beast, it immediately throws up blood in an arc in the sky. Trying to dodge, I fail miserably. The blood slams into me and I am killed. Perhaps I should use those minerals on weapons first.
Like the various worlds in Starbound, creatures are also randomly generated. Pulled together from a pool of different limbs, heads, and abilities, creatures can take the shape of many forms. Flying whale? Check. Duck billed rhino that charges? I’m sure those exist too. These randomly generated beasts lead to the game having an even greater replay value. I am unsure of how big the creature ‘pool’ is, but I have faith this game will get be throwing new enemies at me for many hours to come. Half the fun of exploration games are discovering new environments and creatures which you have never seem, and Starbound has that in spades.
Next week: The Search for Iron!