Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mechanic Breakdown: Starbound [Spirited Giraffe]


Starbound, an endless explorer game with tons of possibilities. Some missed, some realised, and some not quite there yet. Currently, the game is still in Beta, update 5 right now. It’s calling the current version ‘Spirited Giraffe’. For those who’ve played this during the ‘Koala’ phase, there has been a lot that’s changed. I’ll try and go through what's different between the versions in this review.

Combat is pretty simple. Equip what you find or make, swing, shoot or charge it at an enemy and *poof*. Your enemy is nothing more than pixels (the games form of currency). None of the armor or weapons have any requirements, you can equip them right away. The progression in this game can be analogized like so,  “use your hammer to build a better hammer”. You can circumvent the progression by going onto a higher level friends server and they can give you the better stuff. No muss, no fuss. But not to fear, the progression is pretty fun, so no need to skip it.

Since this is more of a sandbox, the combat isn’t its best feature, nor should it be. It was put in since it is a sandbox. Just another toy to play with.

Bottom of the ocean
What lies at the bottom of the ocean?

Crafting is a bit more complex, but still easy to grasp. When you harvest materials, you learn recipes that use that material. Pretty straightforward. The depth comes in by needing specific crafting tables. Once you have those, you need to upgrade them to be able to craft even more stuff. You also need to go to more difficult planets to find the rarer materials to craft with.

I think they have some missed opportunities here. Being a sandbox, they were trying to add another toy, but I think they could have experimented more with this system. Currently, you harvest the materials, then make sure you have said materials in your personal inventory, click on the crafting table you need, then on the recipe and finally click craft with how much. My biggest suggestion here would be for customization. It would be nice if they opened up crafting like they did the character creation, and let us pick which blade and hilt we want, or which barrel on the gun, and what color for all this. Clothing is fun to find, but the amount you have to craft feels lacking, to me. I wish there were more I could craft from the get go.

Here is Starbound’s bread and butter. I’ve spent hours just wandering the surface looking for towns and dungeons to explore (and raid). It’s also fun when you delve deep into the planet and find a secret pocket of technology left behind, or a closed off abandoned dungeon deep below.

The planets in Starbound are procedurally generated, and there are thousands of them to go to within hundreds of systems. If you get bored of one planet, it’s cheap to just hop over to the next.

You can even find some interesting stories in the form of codexes in some places. My only suggestion here is to possibly have more of the story told through these dungeons and cities by the locals. That would breath more life into them. Maybe even point out special places to go see.

Lava lake of doom
Apparently boats are immune to lava

Here is where much of the game changed. Before, the game depended on the crafting system for you to progress through the story. It was in the form of some special item you’d see in the workbench and wondered what that did. Built it, then used it and then *BAM!*, boss fight. They would drop an item to build the next workbench and start this cycle over again.

What’s changed is that Starbound now has a bit of a themepark going on where they direct you more with story and quests. I like this change because now it adds more to the sandbox, questing. I believe they had some sort of quest system before, but it wasn’t much. They also included an outpost and an ancient gate for the story. The outpost provides quests and ways to upgrade your ship. I haven’t figured out the ancient gate yet, but my guess is it’s for the final boss. What I read is that it isn’t in game yet. I could be wrong though as I’m still going through the story.

Starbound has opened itself to the modding community. There are tons of mods out for it. However many are obsolete since they were for the Koala build and broke in Giraffe. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any left. Some of the most popular ones are race mods that give you a different race to play as. I would have used this, but I decided to play one of the default races, Avian. How many other games let you play as a bird?! I had to try them.

Here is where it gets dicey. Starbound isn’t setup for multiplayer very well. By that, I mean you have to do some things on your end to get it working. I hope they improve on this and make it easier to join other players, but for now, you have to go through some steps first. I followed this Starbound setup multiplayer guide.

Starbound is well worth your time. For a measly $15, you can get in on the action, explore, fight and craft your way to the top, while making the house on your favorite planet, or customize your ship. I want to reiterate, this is a sandbox and it’s still in beta. If you don’t like sandboxes, then you will have problems with this game. If you enjoy exploration and building, you’ll enjoy Starbound.


  1. I have Starbound but it's been a good six months or so since I played it. I guess it might time to dust it off again and have another look!

    1. There's been some good changes since then. It's pretty fun. What did you think of it six month's prior?

  2. I keep meaning to, but I never managed to be taken in by Starbound quite like I was with Terraria. I often regret this, because it is a style of game I love, but after hundreds and hundreds of hours in Terraria, I need a new home.

    1. Starbound resonates better with me due to the race selection. It's what I like about MMOs in general are all the cool races they let you play.
      That's a lot of time in Terraria. What's do you think attracts you most about it?

  3. Wow, the underwater planet looks amazing. I will definitely have to try and get back into Starbound to see all the new stuff they have added!

    1. I loved the new biome. There's also a lava planet too, but that one is pretty dangerous to go to.