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Starbound Early Access Review

The matter manipulator is also used to place specific objects such as furniture, torches and lanterns, and crafting equipment around. More efficient items can be crafted for tasks such as mining and chopping wood, namely axes and pickaxes. While functional, the world-shaping tools and crafting equipment are a tad dull given this is a universe in which FTL travel and teleportation have been invented. Being able to upgrade the matter manipulator for these tasks, or having similarly futuristic but more specific gadgets would be both more interesting and in-line with Starbound's fiction than the pre-industrial tools currently in place. At the moment the mining and crafting aspects are a bit too similar to Terraria for our liking.

Starbound Early Access Review

To be fair to Starbound, it is possible such tools become available later on in the game. This is certainly the case with weapons. Starting off with swords and bows, a more technologically advanced arsenal becomes available as you progress along the crafting tech-trees. The combat itself is a rudimentary affair - whack and shoot whatever's attacking you until falls over. It's also a frequent affair, too frequent in fact. At the moment the ratio between aggressive and passive animals is rather skewed toward the former. Hence exploration of the game's worlds is halted every couple of minutes because some hideous beastie is chewing on your ankles.

Starbound Early Access Review

This is an issue that more generally marbles the game like fat through muscle. Chucklefish have created a wonderful universe for you to explore, but you're all too regularly hindered in doing precisely that. This is the case right from the tutorial, which is honestly one of the most frustrating tutorials we've ever played. It starts well enough, informing you how to construct the more basic crafting equipment, but it goes on too long, and concludes with a boss fight that it utterly fails to prepare you for. Moreover, it doesn't tell you about the most crucial point you need to know in Starbound, how to fuel your ship. This is made even more ridiculous because the tutorial's starting point involves heading down to a nearby planet to ¬¬find fuel for the ship. Frankly it's a mess, and needs sorting out.

Starbound Early Access Review

In the end, fuelling the ship is a straightforward process, you can fill the tank with fuel as basic as coal, scaling up to rare yet much more efficient ores found on higher-level planets. This is fine, except even coal isn't exactly commonplace, intermittently appearing in seams from between two and twenty units (a jump between stars usually requires at least 100 units of coal), meaning far too much time is spent searching for coal in order to fuel the ship. Compounding this issue is the fact that coal is also used to make torches, required to light your way while mining for coal.

Starbound Early Access Review

The good news is these are almost entirely issues of balancing, to be expected in a beta and relatively easily addressed. It's also worth noting that Starbound also has a drop-in cooperative mode, and is perhaps designed more to that end, which would explain why in single-player it felt rather difficult and overwhelming, although it doesn't justify it.

Bearing all this in mind, is Starbound currently worth £12 of your hard earned pocket-metal? We'd say yes. It is at times a frustrating experience, especially that bloody tutorial boss. But beyond that is a vast, charming and unique universe to explore which more than makes up for those early irritations. It already feels remarkably complete, and there's still a considerable amount of content on the way, including a galaxy-spanning story which will lend context to your currently random actions. There may be a ways to go yet, but Starbound is already charging through the universe at Warp speed, shields at 100% and all engines firing.

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