Starbound is one of those games that has been in Steam’s Early Access for ages, but also received a lot of attention when it came out, thanks to the lead developer’s work on Terraria. The game is not shy about its similarities, and in fact expresses them freely. The game is now out of Early Access, so I decided to give the game a go, thanks to my interest in Terraria.
In its core gameplay, Starbound is effectively like Terraria, but with some expansions. Firstly Terraria‘s multiple worlds system, with a consistent character carried throughout, is a core part of Starbound, rather than acting as a convenience for future playthroughs. Each world can contain different minerals, so exploring different planets is essential for the crafting component of the game. You also shouldn’t hold these planets with a degree of permanence, since you should be moving around a lot. This idea is further supported with two hub areas, your own ship, and a city of vendors.
Starbound also totes a much better menu system than Terraria does. When it came to inventory management, Terraria‘s inventory screen was a grid, but was pretty unorganized unless you organized your inventory manually. Starbound is a lot better in that the inventory is divided into sections based on item categories like tools, food and plants, crafting materials, and so on. These can be automatically sorted too, making this menu is a lot easier to use. However, this doesn’t apply to the hotbar. While the hotbar in Terraria allows for a lot more selections, this is not the case in Starbound. Each section of the hotbar has two slots. Most items take up both slots to indicate functionality. Left clicking with a block will put it on a front wall, and right clicking will put it on the background wall, like Terraria‘s walls.
You can use as many items in a bar as you can in Terraria, but you need to switch between these hotbars, which is an annoyance. An issue here is that I struggle to think of a way that this can actually be reworked without compromising the dual wield mechanics of the game. Because of this, the hotbars can’t possibly be removed without reworking the combat mechanics, which likely won’t happen since it hadn’t happened outside of early access. If it was kept as a single hotbar, and not two which you toggle between, this may have been a bit more intuitive, but that would make the UI a lot more cluttered. Overall, I have no issue with these hotbars, but it is annoying, and would be hard to adjust regardless.
Another system that was present in Terraria that has been expanded upon is colonization. In Terraria, one could unlock settlers by completing certain objectives, and they would live in a home you have built and provide you with services, such as selling specialty items or providing healing, among other things. This is similar in Starbound, except that there are more intricacies to drawing certain types of settlers and races, in terms of furniture that is present in the room. This kind of experimentation was enjoyable to me, and the fact that you could have multiple colonies on multiple worlds was also fun.
The questing system is something that wasn’t in Terraria at all, but Starbound kind of proves that it isn’t necessary. I found myself playing a lot, disregarding the main quest line. The side quests are also mixed in terms of quality. Some are fetch quests, which aren’t strictly bad, just boring, and the other half can lead to boss fights. Boss fights have taken a step up from what you see in Terraria. Instead of spawning into the world, you face them in pre-made dungeons which you get sent to via a terminal or quest giver. It makes the boss a bit more predictable, and fixes some of the issues that you could face in Terraria where terrain generation could really make a massive disadvantage for you.
Finally, the acquisition of equipment. In Terraria, you would typically acquire your equipment via material gathering and crafting. In Starbound, so far, it’s felt as if your equipment will be acquired through quests, both side and main. It’s a fun way of acquiring equipment, but does take away one of the reasons to mine. Although there is equipment you can craft, so far there hasn’t been any that compares to quest rewards, so this takes some of the incentive out of mining and resource gathering.
Starbound came into early access on Steam December 4, 2013 and already had a player base of over 10,000 and receiving over $2,000,000 in pre-orders prior to it’s launch. After a long road of preparation, Starbound was officially released out of its early access beta on July 22, 2016. It’s developer team, Chucklefish used C++ to write Starbound and the game uses a custom game engine. Soundtrack composed by Curtis Schweitzer.