A few days in and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of people who were expecting Terraria 2.0 are going to be rather upset. Sure the graphics are neat and digging a planet until it’s filled with craters, a network of tunnels and devoid of resources is still there. You can still build a personal home and there is a defined progression system that will keep you gaining power and using new areas of the game. If you look at the feature list it certainly comes off as the new and improved Terraria, with everything you wanted before and more but it isn’t that… not entirely anyway.
This is not to say that Starbound is a bad game, it taps into the same sort of sandbox feel with an emphasis on exploration and building so it will entertain me for many many hours but it is a different experience. I don’t think I will have as much fun with it but it will be something at least a little new. The way it’s designed people are either going to love it or hate it… not sure which side I fall on yet.
Beta is Beta and all that though. They recently stated they are still only 70% through development of the game although looking at the roadmap it seems most of the main features are complete. They’ve stated numerous times that they will be supporting the game well after release as well and they’ve made it easy for modders to add their own work to extend the life.
Don’t know just yet.
The most noticeable part you will feel early on is how slow progression is. You will be chasing after a lot of resources that aren’t really that plentiful on the first world and that require you to really go out of your way to get. Even after that it still seems quite slow to progress from one stage to the next. Gathering the right resources is painful at first and rather dangerous as you will be in areas beyond your level to attain them in any decent quantity. The bosses you craft and kill in order to unlock the next step in progression are also overtuned for the equipment you’ll have when you first get them, requiring a bit of preparation to complete. The progression curve is getting tweaked soon so this should be better.
The thing is, the power difference in progression is rather huge, especially when it comes to weapons. Just one level change in penetration means you are just one hit killing anything below you. You want to feel powerful when you gain new weapons but that ithen immediately obsoletes previous content. Also, at least in that first zone and through the second there is an extreme lack in the variety of weapons. For that entire time you will me using melee weapons with the occasional one having a frontwards or added effect. The models for the weapons are boring as well; it’s a game about customisation and this part is really lacking.
An interesting part now is the focus on survival skills, an added layer of engagement or a needless frustration will change by the person. So far there is a hunger mechanic that requires you to hunt and farm for ingredients to cook otherwise you die. There is a warmth mechanic that ties into the quality of the clothing as well as certain heat sources and if you go to long, you die. You also don’t regenerate health at all which requires you to rest in a bed to recoup for an amount of time. Quite a few planned down times in order to get the player to focus more on the character and creating some more depth to play.
It really tries to place the emphasis on base building, setting up a home in the wild frontiers of space. A place that’s safe from the outside and where you can build yourself up from. Unfortunately this is at odds with a core mechanic of the game, and arguable one of the games main focus and greatest feature…Exploration.
The worlds range from small to huge, with a wide range of biomes with randomly generated trees, materials, animals and npc structures, and then there is an entire generated universe to explore that is just…massive, truly massive. The visuals on these planets are just wonderful as well, it isn’t a matter of graphics but an artistic vision for the game that makes these planets a joy to visit and explore.
Each planet even has interesting combinations of generated npc’s, merchants, dungeon complex’s and large villages to explore. Finding these is a huge part of the interest I get when exploring, I want to find more of these places and just marvel at these wonderful constructions that make the world feel alive and the universe rather vibrant, filled with life. Except, after a few dozen planets you’ve really seen most of what there is to see and everything else is just repeating the same thing; sure there might be certain differences like a change in the trees or monsters and the orientation of structures but there is still that strong sense of familiarity.
Some of these have merchants with weapons, cosmetics and blueprints to buy and craft that you will want to come back for, I’ve even got a handful of planet coordinates written down in a notepad already just in case. There is a lot of interesting stuff out there to find and I’ve only found a fraction of it but I don’t see this being the large guiding factor. I don’t know, I spent many many hours in Terraria extra just to collect all the wings so maybe.
Mostly what you will be doing is ransacking, pillaging and destroying everything and anything you find that looks interesting. Furniture, Building blocks, chests and weapons; everything is for you. At this stage instead of exploring for new life and civilizations, boldly going and such I’m more of an inter-planetary locust, consuming everything in my path for some sort of creation and customisation based fix. I feel sorry for some of these places seeing a geared up traveller come down and then proceed to tear apart their place of residence.
Yet after all this plundering and gathering of interesting knick knacks I still don’t feel the need to use them and create a large functioning base of operation. You are constantly on the move, between planets like the locust you are so there really isn’t any point in creating a large structure to go back to. The space ship you get full fills those storage needs and any crafting done is rather minimal. You do kind of need a base of operations in whatever solar system your currently ravishing but at most that’s temporary, you move on to the next system and before you know it you’re unto the next phase of progression in another sector entirely.
Another part that creates an unfulfilled experience on these planets is that, apart from what’s on the surface the worlds are a boring barren place. There is the rare module underground, containing chests and components but mostly it’s just vast amounts of rock, dirt, and whatever type of biome you come across. There is little incentive to explore under the planet’s surface when the caverns are so small and interspersed and you have to dig for way too long to find anything.. anything at all. The resources underneath are the main attraction but that’s it, this leaves you exploring the planet’s surface a couple of times and then jumping off to the next one.
This will probably change once you get further towards the end of progression. After you no longer need to constantly move on to the next progression point but that will be a long time before you finally get to delve into the building system without worry of it being obsoleted or forgotten amongst the stars. Actually, it would seem the better idea to just focus on resource gathering while progressing as the storage constraints won’t be as bad and then start pillaging the solar system for stuff after. To me though that would be a rather boring experience, completing neglecting an important part of playing a sandbox.
At the end you finally get to start crafting and gathering effective, of building a long-lasting base that you can consistently come back to and build in peace. Majestic structures that reach to the stars or weird things that came to you in a dream. I can already see the grind though; gathering the huge number of building blocks needed and grind out the required pixels in order to scan and clone the objects you want but that will at least maintain my interest for a while.
It’s a confused system with systems that conflict against each other. Is it a game about building and creating, progression based, or more about exploration yet it doesn’t have a clear image or focus of what it’s trying to be. To me, Terraria had a good balance between progression, exploration and player orientated goals like building and fluff that were constantly with you through the entire game…this tries it all but places to much focus on individual components.
I want to like it, I really do and it’s still going to be fun playing multi-player again in a large sandbox type world but I don’t believe it to be enough to sustain that single player interest.