There’s a period in every child’s life where they dream and imagine all sorts of weird and wonderful things about their future ambitions. I’m sure a lot of boys dreamed of flying around the universe, sword and/or gun in hand, decked out in shiny, shiny armour slaying monsters and becoming a hero. Teenaged boys would add finding a beautiful maiden to love (or…more in many cases) to the fantasy. Trekkies would have made all maidens very, very blue.
Sadly, the ability to play through this fantasy came slightly too late for my teenage years with the release of Starbound’s open beta. The game addresses this unconscious need for my inner child to become an inner armoured, swashbuckling child or alien, in 8-bit graphics. Even though we’re currently living in 2013, quite a lot of new games are going back to the origins of gaming with 2D platforming and 8-bit graphics. In the age of Crysis, GTA5 and Titanfall, one of the best games I’ve ever played is a throwback to the era of the old Donkey Kong games on the Super Nintendo. Actually, I think that says a lot about games coming out these days.
Starbound is a beast of a game. You start off selecting your race, gender and initial appearance – which ultimately matters little once you don armour – and set off to explore your first planet after you beam down from your ship. Once there, you start to gather resources to survive or build a new life away from the strife you’re running from. You can farm, you can hunt and you can build anything you like to your fancy.
With everything procedurally generated, everything is randomised, the planet’s atmosphere (or lack thereof), native plants and animals and even hostile or friendly NPCs. Though I haven’t explored all the way down to a planet’s core or anything like that, I can imagine there’d be some pretty interesting things down there too. Each planet then has a difficulty level in terms of how dangerous the animals or environment is, but you’re also rewarded with much better loot and resources with which to build yourself protective gear.
What I really like is the attention to detail that goes into Starbound. For instance, each planet has its own day and night cycle dependent on whether its a moon or planet and what type of orbit its in. It’s so seamless that you don’t notice it. There are even creatures that only spawn during the day or night! One thing that I thought was also brilliantly done is that the native animals of a planet can be deceiving in their appearance in terms of their aggression.
The game is still very much in the early process of beta testing and feature creation. Despite that, there are currently about 1,000 different crafting recipes ingame and useable. The scale and ambition is so immense that what’s been implemented so far are only the very basic of features. I can’t wait to see what else comes along as the game is developed.