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Starbound Hands-On Impressions: A Successful Successor

Starbound stands on three keywords: success, scale, and fun. Throughout the game you will encounter each one of the these words or a combination thereof, as they are the game’s core. Former/Current players of Terraria will instantly make a several connections between these two games, but we can not forget those three words. The first allows myself to make the following statement: Starbound succeeds Terraria in each and every aspect that is Terraria, thereby cementing in the fact that Starbound is not only a spiritual successor to Terraria, but also its replacement.

Immediately Starbound takes a commanding step above and beyond its predecessor with improvements to character design and teaching the player via tutorials. You are no longer restricted to playing as a human with colorful hair, albeit you won’t stray from being a bipedal humanoid, since you are now allowed to create a character from alien species familiar to the sci-fi realm. Robots, fish people, ape men/women, and more are accessible right out of the gate. Currently the different races only differences are their aesthetic value to the player. As the game is in beta, this is subject to change and one particular item hinted at possible racial bonuses/perks. The item, a type of fruit which is basically a giant eyeball which, obviously, grows from eyeball trees and plants, states that it can be poisonous if eaten except for Florans (plant people).

The game continues it’s success through enhanced scale. Character models, planets, weapons, abundancy of crafting materials, bosses, and apparently everything else is noticeably larger in this game when juxtaposed to Terraria. This enlargement allows for greater details in everything, especially in regards to exploration. Starbound, as the name states, does not limit the player to a single planet, or solar system. Galaxies filled with countless stars are waiting to be explored. Populating each star system are asteroid fields, moons, planets of differing terrain, populace, and size begging to be pillaged. With such an incredibly large sandbox to traverse you rarely face boredom but are always posed with the question, “Where shall I go today?”

There exists one truly prevalent problem within Starbound, it’s formulaic. You start out with next to nothing, build a base or home and get to work crafting some basic tools to quicken your acquisition of materials and then the formula starts. You scour the galaxy for new planets to harvest materials to make new armor, weapons, and tools, then you fight a boss which drops a singularly important item so that you can travel to a new galaxy. Lather, rinse, pillage the locals, repeat. While the game does attempt to deceive you that this not the process of the game, even though killing dozens of colorful Cthulian creatures using a brain extractor hoping for a specific drop can be fun for some, you will easily pick up on this. There is no other means of advancing through the game without following this chain of events. Want to make better armor, weapons, or just explore other planets in a new galaxy? Better go kill the next boss, or else stay in the galaxies you have unlocked and continue your plundering ways.

I will fully admit I never made it quite far in Terraria due to how boring the game is when going solo. While it is fun to wander through different biomes, craft new items from recently discovered materials, and create a unique home, it began to become stagnant after a few hours. However, the same can not be said with Starbound. If boredom begins to rear its ugly head, I simply teleport to my spaceship, find some random planet, and off I go.  Upon my arrival I have no clue what to expect in terms of discoveries. Perhaps I will find catacombs belonging to highly territorial Avians? Could this planet have been used a scientific outpost for an advanced alien race? Will I discover simply ore beneath the planet’s surface or will there be some sort of buried and abandoned city? No matter the answer, I will have my fill of excitement, danger, and loot while never straying remotely close to being bored.

The truly awe inspiring attribute of Starbound is that the game is still in beta. True, I have suffered the obligatory crash, freeze up, and character wipe, overall the game has been utter joy. There is one truly universal negative stigma that will haunt this game for a few months upon initial release. This is a Terraria 2, nothing more. I would agree with this save for the fact that the difficulty, albeit controlled purely by numbers, or “threat level” translates to:  stuff hits harder and takes more damage. The game doesn’t offer much, if any, in ways of groundbreaking mechanics and features to stray away from the stigma of being Terraria’s successor/replacement. Starbound is best compared to Mechagodzilla 3, aka Kiryu to all the kaiju fanatics, in that the game uses the skeleton that is/was Terraria, slaps on as many improvements possible, then sends it out into the world watching it smash monsters in the face with guns and laser swords.

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