Monday, December 9, 2013

Starbound Beta: First Impressions

It is finally that time!  Ever since I caught wind of Starbound earlier this year, I was extatic to play the game.  Being a huge fan of Terraria, I was totally for the idea of adding an entire new element of exploration that allowed you to travel through space to various different planets.  Well a few days ago, the beta was finally released, and I've got some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly things to say about the game.

However, before I begin, let me get your full understanding that I am well aware that this is, in fact, a beta.  I don't expect it to be perfect, and neither do the developers.  This is simply what I've noticed during playing the game.

The Good:

Exploration and Adventure:

If you liked Terraria, then Starbound is definitely not going to disappoint.  The adventure begins immediately, with your ship having run out of fuel above an unknown planet, you are forced to head on down and find any means of fuel.

Once you beam down to the planet the fun begins.  As in Terraria, your best bet is to make a house for shelter somewhere to hide yourself from the monsters of this world. The creatures of the planet depend on its biome.  Desert, Tundra, and Arid are just of a few of the biomes that I have personally encountered along the way.  Some of the monsters you encounter are neutral, and will only attack once provoked.  Others will attack on sight.  This can happen during either night or day, but it would seem that higher level monsters come out during the night time.

Each planet also varies in size, the bigger the planet, the deeper you can mine, and the longer it takes to traverse across the world.  For example, the first planet that I landed on was rather small, and I was able to walk from one end to the other in less than a single in-game day.  The second planet, however, was much larger, and took me a total of seven days in order to traverse it's entire surface (This was about an entire hour in real life).  I really enjoy how each planet is varying in so many ways, and it really puts the sense of exploration to a whole new level when comparing it to Terraria.

Character Customization and Story:

Terraria had a fun little character customization that I always enjoyed, simple, but fun. Starbound is very similar, but also takes it up to a whole new level.  You now have a race to choose from, and just as in Terraria, you can choose your gender, and there are also a plethora of head, body, and legs to choose from for each character.  Each race comes with it's own "story" behind it.  For example, I chose The Glitch as my race, which is a robot that has gained self-realization and has headed out into the galaxy on his own.  The stories actually get more in-depth than I had expected and as you explore you can find towns that can give you more information about your race and exactly how you came to be.  It is one of the more rewarding portions of exploring these worlds.

Weapons, Armor, and Tools:

Just as in Terraria, you begin with no armor, and have to mine for minerals in order to create new materials.  This portion is definitely the most similar to Terraria, having to dig and mine and craft and build.  Some monsters you come across will drop cool new weapons. A few that I have encountered thus far is an axe that inflicts poison on an enemy when hit, a one-handed sword that shoots out bubbles when used(much more efficient than it sound), and a two-handed sword that shoots out smog, similar to the bubbles, but over a much larger area.

So far I haven't found much difference in the armors.  Bronze armor, silver armor, gold armor, it is all pretty similar.  However, the armors in this game do have three different attributes to it.  Defense, Energy, and Warmth.  Defense is pretty self explanatory, the higher the defense, the less damage you take.  Energy is a concept that I have yet to encounter, as all starting armors have 0 and I'm not entirely sure what it could be used for. And warmth is something that we will get to later, and one that become a key part of the game.

There are a few new tools that Starbound adds right from the get-go.  You begin with the Matter Manipulator, which is basically an all-in-one tool that can break dirt, cut down tree's, and mine ore.  However, it does these things at a much slower pace than the tools that are proficient in a single aspect.  Another new concept that Starbound has added is wear on these tools.  Similar to Minecraft, once you use a tool too much it will break and you will have to craft a new one.  However armor, weapons, and the Matter Manipulator seem to last forever regardless of how many times they are used.  Another interesting tool that you start with is the flashlight.  It's use is pretty self explanatory, and I have to say that it really shows off the amazing lighting effects that the game has.

Monsters and Planetary Effects:

I wasn't quite sure how to title this one, but I promise it'll make sense.  As I stated earlier, the monsters vary from planet to planet.  Arid planets have very dinosaur-like monsters, whereas Tundra planets have snowmen, yeti's and other snow-like creatures.  Fish and birds also found flying and swimming throughout the game.  The fish do not deal any damage to you, however, some birds will begin coughing up poison balls or other types of projectiles at you.  Not just birds, but land creatures also have their own special abilities. Some are as simple as a quick charge in your direction, while others, like birds, can fire projectiles at you.

The planetary effects are a really cool way to engross you into this game.  The first planet that my friends and I landed on was an Arid planet, and when night fell, it would begin to get cold.  However, a single torch would warm us, and we would not succumb to this disaster.  The second planet, however, was that of a Tundra.  Within a minute of landing on this planet, our characters began getting hurt from the cold and it took 4 torches to help us retain our warmth.  We built a house to keep us warm, and between the monsters and the cold, this planet was far more deadly than our first one.  This is when the "warmth" aspect of armor really comes in handy, however, generally putting on warmer clothes also means getting rid of some defense.  You save yourself from the cold, but the monsters are now stronger than ever.  It's a tough situation to be in, honestly, but it makes for a ton of fun, and this was one of my favorite aspects of Starbound so far.

Graphics and Music:

The graphics in this game are pretty spectacular.  They are far more "modern" than Terraria, the characters and monsters are much less sprite-like, and the backgrounds in this game are simply beautiful.  You can see planets in the background , sometimes large, sometimes small, but always magnificent looking.  And as mentioned earlier, the lighting is absolutely amazing.  There's no real way to describe it, so please take a look at the picture to your right.

The music is also astounding, giving off the perfect impression of what emotion you should be feeling.  Some planets give off an amazing sense of adventure, whilst others, such as the Tundra planets, give off an endearing sense of fear, which is completely reasonable when you have the affects of the cold constantly wearing you down.  Every second is terrifying on these planets, and the music only helps convey this point perfectly.

The Multiplayer:

A lot of indie games I find it extremely difficult to get playing with friends.  We usually have to port forward, use Hamachi, jump through all sorts of hoops to get into a game with one another, and then once we do finally get into one, the game is generally not ready to multiplayer and very laggy.

Starbound multiplayer is flawless, honestly.  We did have to use Hamachi to get into eachothers games, but no port forwarding was required, and I was amazed that there seemed to be no even the slightest amount of Lag between me and my friends games. If you have friends to play the game with, I highly suggest doing that, as it makes the experience that much better.

The Bad:

Lack of Equipment and Rewards:

This is one that that I can only imagine will get better as time goes on.  But being in beta, it is very underwhelming, especially when comparing it to Terraria.  When I played Terraria, I always felt like I was getting somewhere.  I would dig into a cave, find a treasure chest filled with some awesome new type of equipment, or find a crystal heart that increased my health.  Hookshots, jet boots, shoes that allowed you to sprint, new weapons, some cool new armor, it felt like I was always finding something new, and that kept the game exciting.  Starbound somewhat lacks this (at least so far).

While I am really enjoying the game, I do get this sense that I'm not getting anywhere.  Now, admittedly, the pace of this game is much slower than Terraria, as you have hundreds of thousands of planets to head to and explore, this only makes sense.  But even after playing for 10+ hours I feel like I haven't gotten really anywhere.  I mine a lot more than I did in Terraria, and it gets me new armor that is very bland and only gives me a defense boost.  The only real defining factor that helps is the weapons.  I have found a good amount of weapons in this game, and many with some cool and unique abilities.  But other than that, not much.  I would love to have something as simple as the hookshot, which you were able to get pretty early on in Terraria.  It's not overpowered, but it is extremely useful, and I am only hoping that there is a hookshot in this game.  This is definitely something that I hope gets better with time, and I'm sure that it will.


Personally, I really enjoyed this difficulty.  You get thrown into the world, there is no tutorial, you just have to figure it out for yourself.  The monsters are tough, you die a lot, and very unexpectedly.  And while I did enjoy this sometimes, as I like a game that really tests my skills, it did get annoying at times.

The monsters randomly spawn in caves, and many times will come falling from above the screen, landing right on top of you.  At the start of the game this pretty much meant you were dead.  One hit from an enemy would to anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of your health, and if an enemy sneaks up on you like this, you're dead, it is as simple as that.

The fall damage is ridiculous in this game.  From what I can tell, there is a one block difference from 0 damage to 90% of your health, which I think is insanity.  There;s truly no in between, every time I fell just a little bit too far I found myself either amazed that I didn't get hurt at all, or annoyed because I just went from 100 health, to 10 health.  If I had been wounded slightly, the fall would have killed me instantly.  This kind of enforces my thoughts on getting a hookshot.  If I could simply get this tool early in the game, then at least I would have a fighting chance when plumetting to my death.  There are also no crystal hearts like in Terraria, so your health is always at 100 points, and armor doesn't seem to help fall damage whatsoever.  Whether it is day 1 or day 100, fall damage always seems to be your worst enemy, and I would love to see something, anything, that would at least subtract from the amount of health it does.

Enemy AI:

I gotta be honest, it's pretty bad.  A lot of the times the enemy will stand directly above you and just stand there, when there is a perfectly good hole that they could walk through just two inches to your left.  I'm assuming that this is something that will also get better with time, but as it stands its not difficult to defeat an enemy.

You Can Hit Through Walls:

Yeaaaah.  This is something that I used to my advantage a lot, and I felt really bad doing it.  You can kill any and all enemies, no matter how difficult, but simply building a one-block wall between you and them.  They can't hit you through this wall, but you can easily hit them.  And since their AI is so bad, they simply brush against the wall, and when you hit them back, the run back into the wall so you can hit them again.  This also goes back to the difficulty aspect of the game though.

The very first boss battle my friends and I faced was against a flying saucer.  The saucer would drop down enemies from it, and you would be forced to face them, while the saucer flew overhead.  Everytime you would jump up to hit the saucer, it would also go up, making it nearly impossible to hit the stupid thing, and it had an ungodly amount of HP.  It easily took 10 hits before we did 1/10th of its HP, and it was so impossible to hit the thing that we easily died five or six times before that happened.  Then, to add to the chaos, if the boss battle took too long, he would just fly away and never come back.  This was the first boss you ever fight in the game, and the first time we fought him we assumed we simply weren't strong enough, so we got new weapons and armor that could easily kill anything around us, and went back to fight him again.

We found that it was just as difficult and annoying as the first time, and the only way we were able to finally beat him was by building a wall between him and us, and hitting him through that.  It felt cheap, but as I said, there didn't seem to be any other way to beat the guy.

The Ugly:

As with any beta, there are always going to be some glitches that need to be patched up.  This is just me describing the glitches I have seen thus far, and truthfully there aren't many.

Getting Stuck in a Wall After an Enemy Hits You:

This happened on more than one occassion for me.  Sometimes I would be fighting an enemy, and his knockback would throw me right into a wall.  The only way to escape would be to break the wall, but since I was in a battle I did not have time to do this.  A lot of times it would end up being the death of me, I would get stuck in the worst spot, and my sword would go right above the enemy.  The times that I did survive, I had to pray that while I was breaking the wall, another enemy didn't see me.

Hit Through Walls:

I put this on the bad already, but I also think it deserves to go here too.  It seems unfair and cheap, and I feel like it is definitely a glitch that needs to be evened out.

Falling From Far Distances Causes a Ton of Lag:

One time I decided to built a skyscraper high up into the sky, and of course, I eventually decided to jump off of it.  On my way down, my game would randomly stop for about 5 seconds and then start again.  Stop, then start again.  A drop that should have taken no more than 30 seconds was now taking upwards of 5 minutes.  I can only assume that this is because I am falling faster than the game can load, which makes perfect sense, but I also feel like it's something that needs to be addressed.

Would I Suggest This Game:


If you are a fan of Terraria then this game will not disappoint, and I would suggest buying it even now, during beta, and giving your feedback to the developers of what they can improve on.  The game isn't perfect, but it is still a ton of fun, and it will only get better with our suggestions.

If you aren't a fan of Terraria, then I would still suggest this game to you, as it is overall an amazing experience, however, you may want to wait until the game is out of beta to give it a try.

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