Starbound, one of my most anticipated games of 2013, was finally released into early beta last December by developer Chucklefish Games. As excited as I am about the game, I decided to wait until the early beta had a couple of patches under it’s belt before I felt I could talk about the game more objectively.
First and foremost, Chucklefish deserves kudos for launching an early indie beta that has more polish than most other early betas these days. Though there were a few major bugs on launch, their team worked long hours on launch day and the days following to get a couple of patches out to resolve them as quickly as possible. On launch day they actually worked on the game and answered questions while broadcasting on Twitch. They answered questions and gave workarounds almost as quickly as players would type them in on Twitch. I was very impressed with this. And apparently others have been too as they passed the million games sold mark back at the beginning of January.
One of the the features of the game that stood out to me right away is that most building objects in the game can be made by scanning them into your ship’s 3D printer and then spending pixels – the “in- game” currency – to fabricate them. If you’ve played any other sandbox builders, you know that often times you can find cool items to add to your building projects, but are limited to how many you can find because there’s no recipe for constructing them. This is not the case in Starbound. Find a piece of background furniture or equipment you like? Just pick it up with your Matter Manipulator, take it back to your ship, and scan it into the 3D printer.
The gathering of materials and building are a builder’s dream. In other games the gathering and buildingcan seem very tedious at times. This is not the case in Starbound. You can mine minerals nine blocks at a time or a single block by holding shift if you need more control. The blocks for background and foreground are the same and are placed depending on whether you use left or right mouse button. If you have all the materials necessary, you can throw up a modest building in just a couple of minutes. And there are so many building object options that you can make very detailed and visually appealing homes or bases. (Can you tell I like to build?)
The music for Starbound deserves a nod. I find that in many games these days that the music can be overpowering and seems like it doesn’t flow with the game. Not so with Starbound’s music. It is beautifully composed and fits perfectly with the feel of exploration and discovery.
While I’m not a fan of the retro look of indie games these days, I have to say that Starbound looks pretty good. The lighting effects especially are very well done. The bases and dungeons for the various races also look very impressive and easily convey the different cultures they represent.
Overall, the game play is very polished. Character movement and controls seem very smooth and intuitive and interaction with the environment works most of the time. The only issue I’ve had is my avatar has been up against a wall in a small alcove, gets hit by an enemy, and gets partially shoved into the wall. At that point I needed to mine my way out and then all was well again.
Starbound already feels like a fairly complete game, but we’re only in one of three stages of beta that Chucklefish has planned. There are many planned features that haven’t been implemented yet. Terraforming, ship upgrades, space combat, and detailed planet scanning are just a few examples of what’s coming.
My verdict is buy this game if you’re a fan of sandbox/building type games. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I’m not.