Starbound, by startup studio Chucklefish — home to, among others, Ashton Raze, whom regulars might remember as one half of the creative duo behind Richard and Alice, because Disney songs are right sometimes and it is a small world after all — was released into Steam’s Early Access care about a week and a half ago. Friends ‘convinced’ me to get it, and… I don’t want to say I’ve been playing it a lot, but I will say that there have been several nights in the past week where the realization of it being 2 AM has coincided with the realization that I just spent three hours digging tunnels to the center of the earth in search of diamonds. Precious, precious diamonds.
As much as Early Access implies a certain level of publicity-readiness, however, writing about Starbound at this early a stage represents some interesting new difficulties. Development is rapid, content wipes are often, and certain significant player-draw features simply don’t seem to exist yet. On the other hand, the game is already eminently playable… and what kind of shitty writer would I be if I let little things like ‘game in constant, ever-changing flux state’ prevent me from talking about it? I’ll tell you what kind of shitty writer: a particularly shitty one.
Obviously, my direct Indie Wonderland approach is useless here. Even leaving aside the game’s ‘unfinished’ state, Starbound’s inspirational relationship to certain other games strongly influences the kind of review I’d want to write. To assume foreknowledge, or not to assume foreknowledge? My regular goal of presenting (halfway entertaining) purchasing advice also doesn’t fly very well, because the nature of Early Access presents a whole spectrum of options besides ‘buy now’ and ‘buy never’.
So instead of ham-handedly trying to work around all of these issues for the sake of consistency, this week I figured I’d try something new. That’s why this week, Indie Wonderland is now a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure review! Or Choose-Your-Own-Review adventure, whatever. Point is, this review’ll be a little more involved than usual. You know how these things work, right? Instead of reading every page in a linear order, I’ll present you with questions and choices along the way: the links you follow and the review parts you read will be dependent entirely on your own input! Man, it fits the game and the genre so well, I think I’ll start pretending this was my plan all along.
Oh, and you might want to keep a pen and some scratch paper handy. I’m going to ask you, at certain moments, to keep track of either Game Points or Pioneer Points. You start with zero points in either category.
Your Own Adventure Begins: Here!
Woo! Man, I’m hyped. Can you feel it?
Okay then! Let’s start by addressing the proverbial elephant as quickly as possible.
Starbound is very similar, in almost every aspect of its being, to a game called Terraria. Almost every (former) Terraria player who first chances upon Starbound remarks on this, and it’d be silly to not acknowledge this similarity. Hence, this adventure’s first Big Question:
Have you ever played* Terraria?
Yes, I have played Terraria: Go to page 9.
No, I have not played Terraria: Go to page 4.
(*Either ‘actually played’ or ‘exposed to in such quantities that you feel like you understand the game in full’ apply.)