Starbound is not a bad game
, but at it's current state I wouldn't recommend it - at least not to everyone. This game is still in development and currently in early access, Bear in mind that this review is about the current version as it is and that I do not review the potential this game certainly has and hopefully makes use of in the future.
Starbound is a game about building, platforming and exploration very well comparable with games like Minecraft and Terraria. It has a rather strange setting, a mix of sci-fi and medieval. You start on a space ship that you will soon upgrade to be capable of faster than light travel yet most of the time you will fight with axes and shields and mine with pickaxes. A laser rifle can be just as strong as a sword in this world.
The whole world is procedurally generated, it's a whole universe with so many stars and planets filled with randomly generated plants, monsters, dungeons, villages, random gravity and day/night cycles and even randomly generated equipment that you'd never have enough time to visit them all.
So, why wouldn't I recommend it?
You don't need to visit them all because as cool as this sounds in theory, planets of the same biome and difficulty tend to feel and play very similar and the randomly generated monsters feel way to generic, too. There is no need to visit planets of the same biome and difficulty level which effectively reduces the number of planets that will be of interest for you to about circa 15.
For a game that is about exploration Starbound feels surprisingly linear. You need to upgrade your suit to survive (unlock) new biomes and mine ores till you kill a boss and advance to slightly more dangerous planets. This repeats itself until you killed the last boss after about 15 to 25 hours.
Some Planets or rather biomes are really cool and it's fun to explore them for the first time yet usually you will not appreciate what makes them unique for a long time because the most valuable things about a planet - it's ores - are under it's surface. And theres little variation between planets/biomes below the surface. It's stone, sand, dirt and ores. Every so often you encounter a dungeon, and yes they are fun to explore. The dungeons are not entirely random but hand crafted pieces that are randomly distributed in the world and it seems that a planet only has pieces of one specific set because of which they feel way less generic than the rest of the game. But only every 20th dungeon - if not even significantly less - will offer something interesting to loot.
Most of the time chests and tombs will only offer money and non valuable items like bandages (they work like the least effective health potion in other games). You will likely loose the interest in looting them very soon. Getting to the end of a very difficult, long and well designed dungeon to find absolutely nothing in it for the x.th time is only fun until you realize that you're not just ridiculously unlucky but that this is how things currently are.
So neither the dungeons nor the surface are of interest, the only things truly unique to a planet. You spent most of the time mining underground. 90% of this game you will hold your mouse button pointing at stone and dirt. This is as much fun as it's sounds, that is not at all.
Now I know that fans of starbound will be intrigued to say "But you do the same in terraria, that's just part of this genre" but thats not entirely true. Yes Terraria and similar games require you to spend a lot of time mining too, but not 90% of the time. There are armor sets in Terraria that require you to kill bosses 2-3 three times, there were armor sets you could built from plants that you collected on the surface, there were armor sets that you crafted via drops from various monsters and many armor sets required you a mix of those which lead to very varied gameplay.
Mining was also generally more difficult in Terraria, it became harder but more rewarding the further you digged down. In Starbound the whole planet has one fixed difficulty level and you can easily mine for half an hour without getting attacked once. The surface of a planet, which rarely offers something valuable, is often times harder to survive than the core of the planet which offers valuable ores.
And you didn't had to craft every tier of armor in Terraria, you could easily jump two tiers or more if you were a good player. Similar you can do just fine in Minecraft with lower tiers of armor like the leather or iron armor. Starbounds progression system doesn't allow that, The devs force you to do things exactly in order. Equipment is more important than skills and experience. I do not believe that this is due to early access but a design philosophy of chuckle fish that they seem to be very unwilling to get rid of despite how often it is criticized by players.
Combat got significantly improved with the last patch, one aspect I still don't like is frequent use of health restoring items. They have almost no cooldown so you can easily pop 20 health restoring items in a boss fight. In other games they have a cooldown of a few minutes and are meant to be an aid. In Starbound you can just furnish 100 bandages in a main mission/boss fight and almost tank some bosses. Some can't be beaten without the usage of at least 20 of them. It seems that the devs intended the heavy usage of health restoring items.
I guess it's their way to "fix" a questionable design philosophy. Since progression is so linear you can't grind and farm better equipment to be better suited for a boss. You can only face a boss once you have the best currently available equipment (the game will literally not let you otherwise). In Terraria bad players could grind better equipment while good players could save time and face the boss with their current equipment. In Starbound a bad player will pop more bandages, a good player less.
But I still really enjoyed the main mission which require you to go through a dungeon and often times kill a boss in the end. They are fantastically designed and I enjoy them more than building arenas and spawning bosses in Terraria. They have a great, sinister atmosphere and are filled with many interesting traps. They are not properly balanced yet, the first mission was more difficult by far than every following mission afterwards and even harder than some highend bosses in Terraria, but that is something I can overlook in a game that is still in development.
If you like building beautiful castles, futuristic bases etc. that have no purpose other than looking good and enjoy it more than balanced and intriguing gameplay and don't mind grinding for it I highly recommend starbound. It offers much more furniture and block types/colors than any other building game I know of. But if you care more about balanced and variated gameplay than creating non-functional 2D pixel art I highly suggest to keep following the development of Starbound and wait for the next big updates before you buy it.