Starbound is a sandbox adventure game that has been hailed as a long-awaited successor to Terraria. Unfortunately, I am applying the "sandbox" bit very loosely.
At first glance, Starbound looks exactly as you would've expected it to look like. A game about building stuff, exploring countless alien worlds and generally killing ♥♥♥♥ for the hell of it. While in a literal sense, all of this is true, Starbound makes it apparent that all of these aren't going to be of any use to you throughout the game, and you're not going to have any fun trying.
Starbound's linear progression system is a blatant contradiction to the term "sandbox", and mind-numbing amounts of item/material grinding don't help either.
You see, while Starbound also bases its core elements off what has made games like Minecraft and Terraria so successful, there is also a very apparent lack of actual freedom-- the very same freedom that made the aforementioned games so enjoyable.
Starbound's not-so-subtle linear progression is basically landmarked for you in small steps, telling you what you have to do in order to get ahead in terms of equipment. And by landmarks, I mean boss fights when you've done everything that the game tells you to do in a particular sector --basically just an area of space where creatures and items are all locked on a particular "level", so to speak. The sectors themselves are essentially levels, backtracking earlier "sectors" being completely useless; as most materials/items you'd find there would be of no benefit for use or crafting equipment of your current tier. And let's not forget that because these landmark bosses drop items that are absolutely necessary for crafting items of a higher tier, in the flavor of some advanced crafting station.
Starbound also features needlessly complicated requirements for some basic items. For example, a device that allows you to breathe in space - in a game about space! - requires you to kill a mid-game boss, hunt down midgame minerals and have a crafting station that in itself requires some irrelevant materials. And mind you, this sort of pointless grind is necessary for a great deal of practical items such as armor, weapons and other equipment. While some weapons and armor are simple to create, those particular items are usually sub-par, if not utterly useless for the sector you'd be using them on.
Exploration and the gathering of resources are pointless and incredibly unenjoyable, respectively.
For a game about gathering resources and exploration, Starbound is still incredibly bland in both of those aspects. Of course hunting down minerals is a must, but Starbound seems to make even that a frustratingly boring experience. (I'm not saying it's amazing in any comparable games either, but Starbound somehow makes it even worse.) And don't even bother digging deeper into a world, it's easier to just find a different world and dig for whatever resource you need there. Also keep in mind that there are certainly no unique resources on particular worlds that would be of any
use to you. And the only variation of equipment comes from the fact that most of it is randomly generated, with the exception of legendary or otherwise named items.
Speaking of other worlds, and exploring in general, I can't say Starbound doesn't make it somewhat memorable to find some secret lab or mining complex hidden beneath the ground. But overall, these really don't help you at all in the long run. Functionally, almost all worlds are the same, they have trees, they have minerals, you should look to see if there's a structure that you could loot. If so, loot it and move onto the next world, if not, just move on. The only exceptions are asteroid fields and moons, which have no air, low gravity and more minerals. NPC villages basically exist solely for you to raid them, buy things from them and/or rest in them
Combat is a slow-paced mess with unnecessary amounts of difficulty in places.
On combat, Starbound is just plain bad. There's just no other way of putting it. It's arguably the most incredibly boring part of the game, either being an awkward cover-based ranged engagement or painfully monotonous melee combat, which consists of little more than "click to swing thing" until either your enemy dies or they knock you off a cliff and you die.
Movement is teetering on 2 extremes, it's either a slow gait around your enemies with a bit of small hopping, or being knocked around at high velocity by the said enemies while completely helpless. In both cases it's extremely unenjoyable and very stiff, while some "implants" have since been added to remedy this terribly static combat (Such as higher jumping or quick bursts of speed), the fundamentals remain almost completely unaltered.
The rewards of combat are almost completely null; regular enemies will not drop anything
aside from a few bits of currency. Bosses will give you some necessary material to progress in the game, while mini-bosses occasionally drop some form of decent weaponry. That being said, boss fights as I've had them are crouching in a spot where the boss can't hit you and attacking them until they die, because it's simply too hard to attempt to attack them head-on. When I say hard, I mean they'll just kill you in 2 hits; combine that with the fact that combat is unredeemably boring and you're set for the most unenjoyable fighting you've had in a while.
The fact that healing pots (known as StimPaks) are inexcusably rare and expensive do not help this at all. While highly effective, you'll burn through whatever miniscule amount of them you have left incredibly quickly. And with the pathetically small health pool you're given, (which does not scale to the enemies you'll be up against, even with appropriate armors equipped) you have little choice but to rely on them.
Now, I'm going to be forthright here so pardon my unprofessional choice of wording, but Starbound's dev team is ♥♥♥♥ing incompetent
Chucklefish has done a lot to show us how hard they work to make Starbound what they promised it to be. Which to say is taking four million dollars
of kickstarter funds, taking a long vacation after releasing their barely passable early access game, playing bloody Mario Kart instead of working on their game, and let's not forget acquiring a puppy for the office. They had promised game updates to come incredibly quickly, yet the last big update was six whole months ago. When they attempted to work with ETAs and failed, instead of taking the inevitable backlash they got and trying to improve on it, they just used it as a further excuse to not do anything.
All official Chucklefish sites are heavily censored, any sort of criticism is flagged down as "trolling", regardless of how valid it actually is. And better yet, the devs take time out of their non-existant schedule to whine on Twitter, blaming "trolls" as the reason they're not getting their own work done.
Chucklefish should be receiving no further support through Starbound or any other game, they're irresponsible, incompetent and show what little they care for everyone who had supported them.
Feel free to disagree with me, but Starbound is a train wreck of a game. I give it a 3/10, there is enjoyment in the game, but it burns out way too fast. Linear progression in a sandbox game is downright unacceptable, grinding for items is an unnecessary meatfest, exploring nets you little reward, and combat is unreasonably hard with little health, disproportionately powerful enemies; also being painfully monotonic and boring. And it has also become quite clear that every dollar spent on Starbound is just another dollar Chucklefish is going to run away with.
Starbound is a journey into the skies and beyond, and according to Starbound, the skies and beyond aren't very enjoyable.
Thanks to Flashtirade for being my editor once more.