Sunday, December 15, 2013


Busy deforesting another planet :)

Here's the problem with Starbound - it's still in development. And sure, it runs great, and it's lots of fun. But when I went into the game the other day, intending to take some screenshots for this article, I discovered that there'd been an update (automatic on Steam) and my first game was gone.

OK, it's not a big problem, but that's why I don't normally play games which are still in development. I frequently buy them, but I don't start playing while they're still in beta - early beta, at least. Usually.

In this case, I'd just finished exploring a prison complex I'd discovered, and that was pretty neat, so I really wanted to get a screenshot. Plus, I'd found a really good weapon. But with the update, I never got a chance to use it (plus, the update really nerfed the starting weapon, which made the game a lot harder).

Anyway, I suppose it's time to stop whining, huh? Heh, heh. Yeah, it wasn't a big deal. But this is why I like to wait until a game is nearly finished. (Beta-testing is a very good thing, just not for me.)

If you've ever played Terraria, you'll know exactly what Starbound is all about. Starbound is just Terraria in space. And if you haven't played Terraria, think of a two-dimensional Minecraft. It's side-scrolling combat, plus digging and dungeon-delving and lots and lots of crafting. (My screenshots are from the very early part of the game, but you can build quite fancy structures, if you want.)

I was terrible at Terraria, but that was OK. It was still fun. I never got very far in the game, because I couldn't defeat the boss monsters - not one! But I tend not to play games for long, anyway, so the early part of the game was still likely to be the only part I'd actually play.

My starting spaceship

Starbound, as I say, is very, very similar. However, you start in a spaceship - a spaceship which is out of fuel, orbiting a procedurally-generated planet, different on every play of the game. You can teleport down to the planet and back up again at any time. (But only from the surface of the planet. If you're underground, you can't teleport to the ship. However, wherever you are, if you save the game and quit, you'll start it again inside the ship.)

You start with a melee weapon, a few torches, a few seeds, and a matter manipulator which you can use as almost any kind of tool (but is very slow, compared to the tools you can make). One of the first things you'll do is cut down a tree for wood and dig up some stone. With a workbench (which you'll make from wood), you can use those resources to make a stone axe and a stone pick, with will make your resource gathering far easier.

Of course, there are dangerous animals on the planet (and some which aren't dangerous unless you attack them). When I first started the game, I had a pretty good weapon, and the creatures didn't seem to be especially dangerous.

As I say, I'm bad at this stuff, but I didn't die too many times. (If you die, you just reappear back on the spaceship, with all of your stuff, except that you lose some of your accumulated 'pixels' - money. It's not a big deal, at least in the early game, when you don't really need money.)

The update, though, changed things (but maybe not permanently - this is still in beta). When I started a new game, my beginning weapon was very weak, and the creatures seemed much more dangerous (especially the birds). I had a much harder time staying alive and a much harder time accumulating pixels.

Sleeping next to my farm

But it still wasn't a big deal. It was slower starting, but far from impossible. I had to be more careful, is all. And the first weapon I found was an improvement. It wasn't a great weapon, but it felt like an advance. Furthermore, I've found a lot more minerals in this game. Ore can be smelted into metal, which is used in crafting, so that was a real help.

You see, you don't just explore the surface of the world. There are caverns underground, and you can dig, too, with your pickaxe. As you go deeper, minerals become more plentiful, and you have a chance to find better treasure. Of course, the creatures become more dangerous, too (and the environment, as well - I fell into lava in my first game, though the fall itself might have been enough to kill me).

As I say, it's very much like Terraria. But in this game, when you've had enough of one planet, you can refuel your spaceship and head to another one - either in the same solar system or elsewhere in the galaxy. Planets are of different kinds and have different difficulty ratings, so there's a natural progression. As you explore more dangerous planets, you'll find better stuff, too.

And yes, as in Terraria, there are boss monsters in Starbound. Or so I've heard. I have yet to find one, but I suspect that I'll be just as bad at fighting them as I was in Terraria. But we'll see. I doubt if that will make much difference to me, anyway. The game is fun, but I've got lots of other games to play, as well.

And Starbound is only $14.99 on Steam. I'll have no problem getting my money's worth out of that, whether I get to the late game or not. Really, it's lots of fun. But since there isn't a tutorial, I recommend watching the beginning game on YouTube - there are plenty of people playing the game there - to get you started.

Note: See here for posts about other computer games.

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