I have close to 250 hours into Starbound. That’s a big deal because the only other games I’ve put that much time into, are World of Wacraft back in 2006, and the Borderlands franchise. As I laid out in my first post about the game, it’s a dangerous game for me to play because I love building things. I could play The Sims or Simcity for days just building things. I don’t even care about playing them really. I think the only thing that really turned me away from Minecraft was that I am not quite sold on the first-person aspect of it.

Now, I should also point out that Starbound’s Early-Access Beta status, and developer Chucklefish Games, has not been roses, rainbows, and unicorns for me either. I wrote an especially long and scathing post about character/universe wipes, and Early-Access games in general last year after an especially crippling bug blew away a good 50 hours or more I spent on a base. I stopped playing shortly after as it was apparent that no real updates were going to take place, and as much as I enjoyed building, even that loses it’s allure after awhile.

So imagine to my surprise six months ago or so when they announced they were starting up nightly builds for the next version to allow players to play new content as they code and release it. I did not jump into this early on, however, because much like what happened before, I was not prepared to sink a bunch of time in something I might like and have it be wiped quickly by a new build. But, it meant that a final stable release would happen soon, and that would be worth sinking back into it.

“Upbeat Giraffe” is their mostly-stable release of new content since “Angry Koala”, and it promises some very different and interesting fare for new and veteran Starbound players.

Nova, the Kid.
Nova, the Kid.

Introduced as an additional player race during the pre-order stretch goals, Novakids have a human-like appearance, but are faceless except for symbols and are modelled after the American Wild-West. I chose one for my new game in UG as my trusty female human Lynnby could not continue due to the upgrade. Imagine my surprise with the face-symbols having the “delta” triangle option, perfect for my internet pseudonym. So with that and some super-saiyan-looking hair, Octane Saddlebum was born. I especially like how last names are now being used in the update, which I imagine lends well to those who RP or do ship/character journals for Reddit or other websites. As for the Novakids themselves, the wild-west theme is pretty neat, but I find myself still enjoying the Hylotl more.

Starting Quests and Your Ship
As expected, the entire starting quest chain was completely revamped in accordance with the changes to your ship. Your ship is still busted, stranded above a planet, but you now have an on-board computer named S.A.I.L that has a face characterization matching your race choice. With it, you proceed on several opening quests to reboot S.A.I.L, and repair your ship. You still are walked through how to gather resources and create items and gear, with some of the resource requirements being changed.

To Infinity, and Express!
To Infinity, and Express!

One of the biggest changes is ship fuel. You no longer have to pour coal into your ship to get it to move. Rather, you have to first repair the thruster engines, and then the FTL drive. Repairing the thrusters allows you to move within a solar system for zero fuel cost, where traveling between systems costs Liquid Erchius, obtainable from planets, or Infinity Express shops on Outposts. The higher forms of fuel are still out there, such as uranium, plutonium, and solarium, but considering Liquid Erchius is easily obtainable early on from planets, buying from the vendors is a moot point considering you get 20 units for 500 pixels.

The most important point to note with the above two paragraphs, is your matter manipulator. In the old version, it was useful for the beginning of the game, but quickly became obsolete as you obtained picks and drills. Here, your manipulator is very essential, and very upgradable, to be more powerful, cover more area, and collect liquids. This allows you to drain Liquid Erchius pools for fuel, drain water from areas, and even lava and poison. This made exploring an ocean planet awesome because I could essentially get below the bottom of the ocean by creating a room to enter, close up with dirt, and then drain the water to continue. But more importantly, while picks are still in the game, Copper through Diamond, when they break, they break, and they are not repairable.

Outposts and The Questing
Promises to expand the questing system are answered in this update with quests that are given by people wandering around the outpost you will encounter after you repair your ship and travel within the system. The quests vary, with some having you make some food, and others asking you to retrieve items or resources to allow you to unlock new items or a license to allow you to upgrade your ship. Outposts also have ingredients for food and other items. It’ll also have the missions needed to repair your FTL drive. Each system seems to have an outpost, so this should mean many different types of quests and things at each outpost. I haven’t explored many to tell what is what yet.

Changes to the Gameplay and Universe
A lot of changes were made to the UI and gameplay in this update, namely adding dedicated inventory spots for your matter manipulator and other key items, and on-screen animations when you complete major milestones. Gone are the temperature meter and food meter, meaning you no longer have to worry about freezing to death or starving to death, even though you can still make food. I am not sure if these are retained for Hardcore Mode, I would think they would be for the added challenge. But for Casual it is perfect, because I often have to step away to do something. Eating food marks you unable to eat more food for some time as the health effects happen over-time, all represented by new status icons below your nameplate. The universe is no longer sectioned into the tiers (Alpha/Beta/etc.) but rather one big universe with star systems tiered by planet difficulty. Additional biomes have been added, such as the ocean biome mentioned earlier.

Overall Conclusions
Compared to the earlier iteration, this update makes for a much more polished game, and certainly within expectations for a major update. There are still some bugs and crashes, notably with slower-loading server like my VPS (for some reason) but nothing show-stopping so far. I am very excited to get into the expanded ships, because that was a hotly-requested item long ago that modders took advantage of. I have not done mods yet, besides the rail mods before, so this is a vanilla overview.

If you have not started Starbound, this is a perfect time to try. But as it is still Early-Access, expect bugs, and expect crashes. Put your software QA face on. You’ll still have a good time.

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