This darling indie sandbox with a rocky Early Access career has finally seen the light of 1.0 and well… has been met with some ups and downs from both fans and newcomers alike. Starbound is a game that caught my eye more than a year and a half ago with a short video of some gameplay and some music. Though I won’t talk about that, since the game is in 1.0 and in that sense a lot has changed.
Starbound is a 2D sandbox game by the development team of Chucklefish (think Terraria in space). The game allows you to pick from six different races (even more with mods) and travel the procedural generated universe in your ship as you proceed to defend said universe from an alien creature known as The Ruin. The universe is broken up into galaxies which boast their own environments and that allow for progression by mining into their planets to obtain the minerals and ores inside.
If exploring the universe isn’t what appeals to you, then you don’t have to worry, kind reader. Starbound allows a player to start a farm on the planet of their choosing and even start a colony should it please them. If you feel that the pressure of saving the universe is too much, you can always just relax on your front porch and watch the days drift by as your guards protect your citizens and in turn the life you’ve built for yourself. If you want to explore the universe but don’t want to save the world, then you can still live the nomadic lifestyle with the chance to upgrade your ships, recruit crew members and even bring along a few creatures you encounter.
Now for the game itself, Starbound has received some flak upon release for removing a few features that people had come to know and love from the game, such as the racial weapons. There were also complaints that the races were shallow and superficial, although I personally thought each race had a nice set of racial armor and a good amount of lore to give them flair and personality. To start off you can be the basic human exploring the universe. The Hyotl, who are fish-like people who take cues of their race from Japanese culture. The Apex, who are reminiscent of the movie Planet of the Apes, in the sense that they are indeed ape-like humans who live under the constant watch of Big Brother. The Avian, who are a race of bird-like people who all follow and live under the religion of Kleux, an ancient diety who once visited humans to help them. The Florans, who are plant-like beings who are known for their hunting, looting, stealing, and ssstabbing. Finally you have the Glitch, a race of robots created to simulate civilization, but suffered a glitch in their programming that got them stuck in the medieval ages.
Each playthrough can either start you off as your character graduating from the Protectorate (The main good guys of the series) only for it to be ruined by The Ruin, or simply by waking up in your broken ship and exploring the planet below before going through an ancient gate which takes you to The Outpost.
Now to discuss the meat and bones of the game, the exploration, the combat, and the building. To explore the universe in all its glory and gore you need fuel that you can either obtain from a moon or from the Outpost, but be warned if you go on the moon looking for fuel expect a bit of opposition from the creature living below. If you love exploring the caves looking for new mini-dungeons, new biomes, creatures, or even hunting for that last ore/item you need to complete a goal you have set in mind you will have to fight off hostile creatures in order to live your life. To help you with this Starbound offers a bit of weapon selection including guns, bows, swords, daggers, hammers, axes, staves, even weapons that are only good for one use like molotov cocktails and more that can help anyone decide how they want to engage the enemy. To assist you in all this exploration and combat Starbound has a few Techs that fall into one of 3 categories, being the ability to double jump, the ability to dash, and of course the ability to make your body shrink down to a 1/4 of it’s size to get through the smallest opening in a cave or dungeon.
There is also a building mechanic present in game. Starbound offers a tab in your inventory specifically for blocks that you can place down in order to build your home, colony, prison, etc. This way if you wish to make a home out of dirt or if you wish to show off to all your friends you can even make a castle out of gold (including your furniture if you can find the pieces) and show off your wealth and dedication to your home. Building in Starbound is relatively easy with the player using both mouse buttons in order to establish your base. With the only threat to your base being weather or other players, you can design your home with whatever material you want to give it that unique spin, however if you get Mad Tulips’s spaceship mod you can build your ship block by block allowing you to fly in a ship made of wood, stone, iron, or even slime.
With Starbound’s massive universe it’s easy to get lost spending your days exploring the multiple worlds and galaxies, building your home, or even just hollowing out the planet for your future schemes, but trying to do so will meet you with different challenges based on the world. Did you set up in the desert? Well be prepared for sandstorms that can bury your house underneath the ground unless you are prepared to deal with digging it out. There are also a ton of other weather patterns that can be what drives you to vacate the planet or prove that you are more adamant than they take you for. Be prepared to face anything from the aforementioned sandstorms, a heavy rain that contains a high dosage of poison, snowstorms, and of course the beautiful meteor shower that can destroy your base unless you have the appropriate protection above it, but fear not you will only encounter that weather if you live on a moon or on a planet that treats lava like Earth treats water.
If you’re like me and you like playing on PC because you love mod support you will be happy to know that Starbound does indeed have mod support, with Steam workshop integration. Mod support has blown up since its 1.0 release with tons of new races, weapons, textures, vehicles, and even making your enemies smarter or your movement more solid.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Starbound, pouring almost 50 hours into it since its release and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of 2D, sandbox space games or just enjoy a nice relaxing experience with a great soundtrack that you can even experience yourself straight from the Title Sceen of the game. It’s definitely worth a listen to on its own, but it really helps set a calming tone and when you’ve built your colony or are just flying through space it sets the mood for what I would call one of the best indie sandbox games to come out in the last few years.