By Tyler Lubben / December 18th, 2013
After completing the short string of tutorial quests detailing how to craft tools and find food, we were tasked with creating a distress signal. This was no small feat, as it required large amounts of pixels, wood and somewhat rare metal to craft. After a bit of exploration and digging, though, we were able to gather all the necessary materials. Full of the hope that we could finally get some fuel and start jet-setting across the galaxy, we set up the distress signal and turned it on. Imagine my horror, confusion and anger when we were greeted not by a friendly ship, but our first boss battle in the form of a giant flying saucer piloted by an evil penguin. It became clear pretty quickly that we were woefully underequipped for this encounter. The saucer’s two main attacks – repeatedly shooting a large laser directly beneath it, and a slam attack – could kill either of us instantly. On top of this, the boss would constantly warp in penguin soldiers that wielded various implements of war, like machine guns and bazookas and tanks. These enemies, too, could take us out with very little effort. Meanwhile, our primitive weaponry only dealt a negligible amount of damage in return. Fortunately, our base held up pretty well under the onslaught, and, when some damage was sustained, we could repair the damage quickly with the MatMan.
After being obliterated more times than I could count, I got fed up with the whole situation, and decided to use a little ingenuity to even the odds. With a huge amount of dirt on hand, I went about making a big cage for the saucer, thereby immobilizing it. This seemed to break the boss’s attack cycle, leaving it completely defenseless. At this point, it was just a matter of whittling its health down until we finally came out victorious. For our trouble, we were rewarded not with ship fuel, but with a Molten Core, which allowed us to upgrade our Anvil to craft more items. It was a nice take, but not what we were hoping for.
There are some interesting new features found in Starbound that I haven’t seen in other games of the genre. One of the annoying things about looking for materials is that you’re usually limited to the parts of ground that you can see. You end up having to dig randomly hoping to find the odd mineral vein or tunnel in your path. As we discovered with the MatMan, however, you can get a small glimpse of the darkened spots of ground simply by mousing over it. This turned out to be immensely helpful, saving us time by not having to dig in bare areas. Darkness itself has always been a pretty annoying adversary in these games. Torches have usually been the go-to in these situations, but the limited quantities could be traveling long distances underground difficult. Starbound seeks to address this with the use of flashlights. I was pretty impressed with these as light sources, as they lit our path will, while moving the shadows realistically.
In the end, we figured out that we could use just about anything combustible as ship fuel. Putting in wood or coal gave a modest amount of useable fuel for the ship. Honestly, I found the idea of a coal-powered ship amusing, but, finally having a means to leave the planet, I wasn’t going to be picky. I’m sure there are better sources of fuel out there in the galaxy, but for now, this works fine.
After my time with Starbound, I have to say that I have high hopes for the game. There’s still a lot to be utilized, but even in this fairly barebones stage of the beta, there’s a lot to explore to keep yourself occupied. It isn’t just random beasts out in the wilderness, you will come across NPCs, some of whom will sell you items. There are also hostile bases that you can plunder for epic loot. The best part is that, if you ever get bored an any given planet, there are countless others out in space just waiting to be explored. I think the promise of such a huge galaxy out there is going to keep me occupied for quite some time, and, hopefully, will reignite my love for the sandbox genre. If you want to try out Starbound for yourself, you can buy it at Chucklefish’s website or the Steam store page.
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