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Revisiting Starbound in 2021

Recently I replayed Starbound. For those who haven’t heard, there was some considerable controversy regarding Starbound between 2013 and 2017. And then further accusations for the company in 2019.

In short, Starbound is block-based adventure game set in a futuristic galaxy. You dig for resources, explore hostile planets, repair and upgrade your ship, gather a crew. Or you can just build yourself a little house and spend your time fishing.

I was personally caught in the controversy over Starbound in 2014. I’m not a person who pre-orders games, so I had no intention of buying Starbound before it was released. I think pre-orders are foolish, like most of the internet seems to… but still preorders games in droves. However, I had friends who were exploring the beta and one of them purchased it for me as a wedding present.

I was quickly hooked. It took a formula that had been honed to a keen edge by Terraria in 2011 and added a twist of exploration that might have been the last thing missing from the earlier game. See, in Terraria you have a single world map. Maybe two thirds into the game, you’ve likely explored most of the map, but Starbound offers 12.667 quadrillion planets to explore, and you’ll be hopping between them with frequency.

The initial controversy came over a number of matters:

Of these omissions, the one that grinds the most is the unique introductions. At the point of release, tilesets, NPCs and other required assets to create a unique starting experience for every race existed within the game. They were, however, never used. Every race goes through the human starting, witnessing the destruction of Earth by Eldritch horrors. The trend continues with Chucklefish’s treatment of every race outside of Human (and perhaps Floran) as second class citizens, lacking in lore and most factors of interest. Here’s a short summary of the Races and their lore:

This pattern was repeated across the whole game, where it felt like it ran out of steam. That the developers just lost interest in the project over the four years they worked on Starbound. When 1.0 was finally released, for those who followed the development of the game, it felt like a slap in the face, when not only were promises not delivered, but parts of the game that were functional and fun in the beta had been unceremoniously removed for good.

Starbound became the poster-child for early release promises broken and didn’t explode onto the scene so much as sort of fizzled out shortly after its 2016 release.

So why revisit it?

It is 2021. Starbound has undergone a number of updates since its original release.

And the truth is… it’s a fun game. It’s not the game I was promised when the company were releasing it, but it isn’t bad.

Though the reason I’m writing this blog is that so, one day, I can write a follow up about the total makeover that comes in the form of “Frackin’ Universe”