This post is a part of Blaugust 2016!
So maybe you’re not sure if No Man’s Sky is right for you, but you still have the itch to explore space in a sandbox environment. Funny enough, while I was playing No Man’s Sky, I kept thinking about Starbound, another space exploration sandbox game… which is a fraction of the cost with a lot more features. I’d liken this game more to Terraria or space Minecraft in style and play.
I’ve been following Starbound since December of 2013 and have played through various development stages since then. It just came out of early access development last month, and I hadn’t yet checked out all the newest changes. So, Syn and I decided to try it out this past weekend.
That age old Lunix (Unix) vs. Portals (Windows) debate…
Now Starbound may not have the amazing graphics that NMS touts, and it’s a lot more restrictive in the way of piloting your ship (all of the exploration takes place on the planets). But it is also a procedurally generated universe with more planets than you could ever honestly explore. It goes for a pixel art aesthetic, which is quite beautiful in its own way.
It also has an amazing soundtrack.
Unlike NMS, planets have one overall biome, such as Desert or Forest, with many little biomes mixed through them. You’ll find sub-biomes layered within the planet as you dig down, interesting mini-dungeons scattered throughout. Pretty much every planet has something neat about it to explore if you’re willing to look for it.
There are different difficulty levels in Starbound now. If you want the true survival experience, choose Survival where you must eat to survive and you drop items on death. Hardcore means your character is dead-dead when you die. And Casual is for those who just want a laid back exploration experience. The neat thing is that you can still play with your friends even if you don’t all choose the same difficulty level.
Oh yeah, there is multiplayer in Starbound. You can now join a friend’s game through Steam with a pre-exisiting character. Or, you can host your own server or join an existing server for a larger multi-player experience. We’ve seen a little bit of lag in trying to play through the Steam connection, but it seems to vary. Overall, it’s been pretty stable.
Other than exploring cool planets (which is really a lot to do), you can also choose a world and build your own base. Similar to Minecraft, the world is destructible, and you can use materials you find to craft gear, upgrades, objects and structures. There’s no restrictions on what you build, so if you want an airship or castle in the sky, do it. Rather a underground fortress? You can do that, too. Or why not do both?
You can also bring settlers to your base and start your own colony! This is a feature I haven’t dabbled with too much, but I love the idea of it.
In your base, you can farm crops, which you can cook into food for consumption or for selling. You can also raise livestock!
Speaking of creatures, there’s even a Pokemon type mini-game with capture pods.
Oh, and a fully functional music system that uses ABC notation files. Here’s a video of me playing a song from one of my custom ABC files in Starbound, from back over 2 years ago.
The biggest change for the full release is the full, overarching storyline for the game. I’ve played bits and pieces of it during early access, but the team made sure to hold back the real story until now. While it’s just a basic RPG-ish save the world story, it’s enough to frame the universe in a way so that you can still freely explore with some basic direction. I like this approach and appreciate the neat little story woven through.
You start out as a cadet about to graduate to become a Guardian.
And then… Earth is destroyed!
All you have to your name is a beat up ship and a matter manipulator. And some of those bosses are pretty tough!
Speaking of bosses, I love how the game has added the old beta bosses, like Dreadwing, back as side quests. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the direction Starbound went from early access to release. If this sounds like the kind of game you enjoy, or if you have a copy of Starbound sitting around from the beta days, I highly recommend trying the release version out.