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Starbound

Exploring The Great Beyond In Starbound

Players have always dreamt of tackling the final frontier in video games, but creating a limitless universe of unique planets to explore isn't exactly easy. Just don't tell Chucklefish Games that; the small indie developer has been feverishly plugging away at Starbound, a procedurally generated sandbox game that expands on Terraria's 2D mining and crafting formula in exciting new ways. While checking out the early-access beta, I chronicled my adventures in an ongoing journal, which you can read below.

Stardate 6546.5: The Birth Of Littleface
Players begin Starbound by creating and customizing their character from one of six playable species. The creativity of the species is impressive, as they all sport their own cultural style. Avians are birdlike beings whose culture is based on the Mayans, Florans are a tribal plant people, the Glitch are robots stuck in the middle ages, and the aquatic Hylotl draw their cultural inspiration from feudal Japan. Then there are the humans, which are just boring old humans. None of these choices matter once I see the final species, however: sentient space monkeys called the Apex.

After choosing my species, it's time to customize my character's appearance. I give him slicked back hair, a short beard, and a personality (i.e. stance) the game describes as "proud" – I am a monkey that can pilot a spaceship, after all; I think I've earned it. Despite the Star Trek implication, I give my character a red shirt under his commander jacket for a splash of color.

All that's left is a name. A few minutes of brainstorming doesn't come up with anything decent, so I click the randomize button. After a couple of tries, the game suggests "Littleface." It seems accurate enough (my character's face is pretty little), and sounds like something a sentient monkey might be named, so I go with it.

Starbound's art style is lighthearted, as is my character's backstory: As a member of a failed rebellion against the Apex's Ministry of Scientific Progression (also known as MiniKnog), Littlefoot narrowly escapes death by hijacking an enemy ship. Now out of fuel and in orbit above an unknown planet, it's my job to stop the Miniknog and topple its despotic ruler, Big Ape. If I'm going to get anywhere, however, I'll first need fuel for my ship. After picking up a few handy items including a Matter Manipulator, it's time to beam down to my first procedurally generated planet.

Stardate 6546.6: First Contact
I use my ship's teleporter to beam down to the planet, a temperate forest world named Alpha Vaastolaan Minoris II. The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it's unique to my game, and presumably not even the developer has seen its particular mix of flora, fauna, and procedurally generated caves.

The surface of AVM II is covered in purple grass, and soaring green roottrees with bubbly magenta-colored leaves tower overhead. The dirt on the planet is blue, though ore-infused stone is a more familiar grey.

Following the tutorial instructions, I use my Matter Manipulator to fell one of the trees, which collapses into a pile of logs. As a veteran of Minecraft and Terraria, I know the drill; I use the logs to craft a work bench, then collect some stones to make my first crude tools and weapons. The Matter Manipulator can dig up to four blocks at a time, though it takes a while depending on the material. After a while I create a pickaxe, which in addition to mining nine blocks at a time is a great deal speedier as well. Sometimes technology can't trump a classic.

After building a few items, I start exploring the hilly landscape and come across a variety of animal species. Small lizard-like creatures attack on sight, as do a species of weird yellow snail monsters that have spiny purple shells on their backs. A species of squat black creatures is also indigenous to the planet, but despite their massive teeth, they don't seem to mind my presence.

After a while my hunger meter drops, and the tutorial prompts me to procure some food. Killing creatures with a weapon (in my case a rusty old sword that was on my ship) causes them to drop pixels, the game's currency. In order to get meat, you need to use a bow. I craft one out of some logs and vines, and set out to hunt. Despite only hunting aggressive creatures (Littleface strikes me as a live-and-let-live kind of monkey), I have a backpack full of meat by sunset.

Nighttime introduces a temperature gauge to the mix as the planet cools. I build a fire underground and grill some meat for eating, and then craft an anvil and furnace for making more advanced tools. A star shower illuminates the sky overhead – another surprise of my particular planet. My little forest paradise does have one drawback, however; pools of poisonous green acid litter the landscape. Luckily, you can craft bandages out of vines which are plentiful in the various underground caves I've come across.

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Comments
  • Nice write up! I have been enjoying this game immensely. It's like Terraria, but so much better and expansive. The game has a lot of great features, but there are more on the way.

  • I read the title and thought "Another Earthbound game!?!?!?!".... now I'm sad. Also, this looks like it could be a cool game.
  • I have Terraria, and this game looks almost exactly like it :/
  • Awesome article. I've been looking at this closely lately. Looks quite interesting.

  • I think my 113 hours of gameplay on Starbound so far is a good indication of how much I love this game.

  • By the way, the 5th paragraph starts with the word "Spacebound." It's not Spacebound, of course. Fix it!
  • This game is the reason why I bought Terraria. It looked similar, but for some reason appealed to me more. I figured I've wanted to try out Terraria for a long time, might as well put some hours into it while Starbound is still early access. Well, mission accomplished. Have about 30 hours in, still haven't defeated the wall of flesh. I plan on beating that bad boy up today though. Just built one very long bridge in the underworld, so I think I'm ready.
  • You may not realize that there is a "small" death penalty. You lose 20% (or is it 30) of the pixels you have. This isn't a big deal early on, but as you increase the crafting tiers, items cost pixels and items to craft. Not to mention that you occasionally find vendors on the NPC villages that will sell items.

  • I have really enjoyed playing Terraria but haven't really gotten into Starbound. Its been a few updates since I've tried it though. I think its time to give it another go.

  • I recreated my character from memory after every character wipe. I am so glad that I do not have to do it again.

  • I like all the interactions with furniture and the environment. Also thought it was a really neat touch you could mine the background as well to shape the world to your liking when making a home.

  • Every time I hear the title, "Starbound", my gut instinct is, "A new Mother series (Earthbound) game announced!?"... immediately followed by disappointment. DARN YOU, NINTENDO!!!!

  • This sounds incredible, though I'm guessing it won't run on my laptop... Hopefully they do a console version as Minecraft and Terraria did, though I'm sure one day I'll get myself in gear and buy a decent PC.

  • Now this is another stellar title coming out for PS4 that will be fantastic!!!!!!!!
  • A played this game every once in awhile during the Xmas/New Years break and I really enjoyed it. I haven't played much since then, and I'm sad to hear that my character Captain Mal might be lost to the update. Sad, but reading your journal makes me want to play again. So, off I go!