Saturday, July 23, 2016

Starbound - 3/20 hours

Starbound and I got off on the wrong foot. It's my fault, really. I misunderstood the directions for a quest and wound up falling down a hole. Then, when I tried to dig my way out, I accidentally dug into a sand bank and because, like every other survival game since Minecraft, sand is the only block in Starbound affected by gravity, I got buried by a massive mine collapse and suffocated to death.

It wouldn't have been so bad, but I was playing survival mode and whenever you die in survival mode you lose most of your held items. Theoretically, you can pick them up on subsequent lives, but this was at the bottom of some random and unidentifiable cave and buried under a huge number of sand blocks besides. It was so frustrating that I wound up just deleting the save file and starting over.

The tricky part is that I could have avoided this by playing in casual mode, but then I wouldn't have had to deal with the hunger meter and that's just an absurd suggestion. It's obvious what I have to do - toughen up emotionally and learn to deal with the fact that sometimes I'm going to lose some items. It's a pain in the ass, but there it is. Since the option to disable this part of the game exists, I'm not going to complain about it (though I do wish you could have hunger in casual mode - maybe in a future update).

As to the game, it's fine. It's almost exactly as I remember it, except there is a story behind your early game quests (the Earth was destroyed by a tentacle monster and you only barely escaped on a damaged ship), there was a nice graphical update to the teleportation gate,  and combat is a little tighter than the last time I played. I'm still at the very bottom of the tech tree (restarting the game in a fit of pique will do that), so my character is still a helpless schlub, but that's always the price you pay for starting one of these sorts of games.

I've been having a slight amount of trouble with Terraria muscle memory. I must have opened the system menu instead of the inventory about a dozen times already and I've made some seriously questionable tactical decisions based on the assumption of a double-jump that I no longer possess. However, the presentation of the two games is noticeably different. Terraria puts you in the middle of an open map with just a single NPC who can give you the briefest of hints. Starbound gives you a structured mission, complete with cutscenes and tutorial pop-ups. In Terraria, if you meet certain benchmarks and have the available housing then various useful NPCs will move in and sell you stuff. In Starbound, there's an entire space colony full of people who really exist for no reason except background flavor. For two games that are so broadly similar, they actually feel surprisingly different. I'm curious to see if this holds up once I get my spaceship fixed and the game starts to open up.

In the immediate future, I have to gather up enough minerals to buff up my personal equipment in order to raid a space-mine and get the special materials to finally repair my ship. In the meantime, I can do quests for the various NPCs and possibly get started with the creation of a farm. If I can learn to cope with the on-death item-drop, it should be a pretty fun time.

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