I picked up Starbound years ago so I could jump into early access, but like many others, I had no idea that it would be years until I’d be playing the full game. I’ve come back to Starbound on numerous occasions over the years to check out the latest major updates, but the game just never felt like a cohesive experience and it wasn’t long before I’d give up on it again.
Things have changed, though. Chucklefish recently announced that Starbound will fully release on July 22, 2016 and in digging around for information I discovered that I could play an unstable version of the launch update right now ahead of the official launch. Eager to find out if this was finally the time the game would dig its hooks into me, I booted it up over the weekend and was immediately pleased by such a simple thing: the game loaded almost instantly. Starbound’s performance over the years just never impressed me and for whatever reason it took me ages just to load into the main menu. Off to a good start!
One of the most significant features the launch update adds to the game is story. There’s now a full introductory mission and while simple, it did quite a bit to get me invested in the game. While Starbound is a sandbox, the overarching story helps to give some context to what you’re doing and how you got out where you end up. Chucklefish have also decoupled the story from gating progression. In fact, all progression tracks (story, armor, ship, and colony) are independent now.
The story plays out over eight instanced missions and so far I was only able to tackle the first one. The first mission takes place in a mining facility where I was sent to retrieve crystals to repair my ship. This was far more interesting than the previous ship related quests the game put you through. The mining facility was well laid out, featured a number of little secrets that make it worth going back to, and an introductory boss fight that included some basic puzzle elements to ease you in. I recommend going back to kill the boss a few times if he doesn’t drop his giant eyeball; the thing can be used as a weapon to fire gigantic laser beams at your enemies. It’s not super powerful, but it’s hilarious carrying around a giant eyeball and vaporizing creatures with it. That was reason enough for me to use it.
You’ll find tons of quests you can do at various planetary colonies, too. These quests can help you build up reputation with the colony and open up the ability to recruit members for your crew, another new feature of the launch update. Crew can do things to help support your ship, but can also serve as combat support on the ground. If you like, you can also hire little gun toting penguin mercenaries from the Outpost (the game’s space station hub) if you complete a certain side quest.
One of my favorite changes is in the way planets are now generated. No longer are planets a single major biome. You can find multiple major biomes on any given planet, which really spices things up when you’re playing. There’s tons more content on planets too. Dungeons are far more plentiful (even awesome Hylotl underwater dungeons).
Survival mode is great, too. Most of my friends are playing in casual, but if you’re looking for some consequence but not permadeath, Survival is a happy middle ground. You’ll have to manage your hunger now and food items tend to be perishable, so it can get a little annoying at times, but it does keep you on your toes. Spelunking deep within a planet is dangerous enough, but having to worry about dropping a ton of items if you die and having enough food adds a nice extra bit of risk to the risk vs. reward formula.
By far the most convenient new Starbound feature is the drop in and out multiplayer through Steam friends. No longer will you need to connect to your friends server via IP (you can still do this if you like). Now, players can join on friends’ singleplayer games with a simple click from your Steam Friends window. My friends and I used this ton of times over the weekend and it worked pretty well. There were a few hiccups here and there, but the version of the patch we’re playing is still being tested for bugs after all.
Have you played the Starbound launch patch? What’s your take so far?