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Indie game review explores the vastness of Starbound

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Indie games can be game-changing, excuse the pun, groundbreaking, think Minecraft, and engagingly complex. They dare to tread where many mainstream developers won't or can't, and that's what makes them special. For the most part, not concerned with intense graphics, they can provide a level of game-play and innovation not heard from in years. Indie games are the true "diamonds in the rough" and can give the gamer a sense of discovery when one happens upon them. Sadly, many never see their full potential due, in part, to lack of funding. Here's Starbound, this weeks indie game review.

STARBOUND

Starbound is Terraria and Minecraft in space. With a universe of countless procedurally generated worlds, each containing dungeons, pirate ships, good guys and bad and the requisite crafting materials of all types, this indie hit-in-the-making provides a balanced yet varied experience that is extremely addictive.

The gamer can choose from several races including human, Apex (an ape), Avian (birds), Florian (an aquatic) and a few others. There are some character customization options at the start, but the game is still in beta so there's a good chance more will be added in the future.

Upon entering the game world the player finds themselves on a ship. The design of which is determined by the race choice. There are future plans to add the ability to upgrade each ship with different compartments. This can be done when the player finds blueprints hidden in bases and dungeons on the planets surface.

A tutorial begins immediately and the player is instructed to beam to the planet using a star trek-esque transporter. Once on the ground the gamer enters a 2-D side-scrolling world full of treasure waiting to be discovered. One can circumnavigate each planet, typically discovering old ruins, medieval villages and high tech prisons and labs. And there's even more to find underground.

One of the cooler features of the game is advanced tech that, once found and applied to the character via a machine on the ship, provides different skills and abilities.. There's tech that allows the gamer to zoom forward or back, jump extra high or create a protective bubble and fly.

There's also a plethora of guns and knives that can be bought, looted or crafted. One can roll with a rifle, shield and pistol, shield and sword, two pistols, two swords, sword and pistol or a big ole two-handed slapper capable of knocking baddies off the screen. There are even blueprints that allow for the creation of epic weapons. Also, almost every planet has at least one elite creature that when killed drops powerful swords, mostly of the two-handed variety.

Each world has associated coordinates that can be shared with friends. This allows for the easy discovery of dungeons and loot throughout the vast, procedurally generated universe. There are multiple sectors to explore and they get progressively harder. The sectors are unlocked by defeating a boss summoned by a craft-able item

Starbound has been in public beta since December of 2013.With 3 planned stages of beta testing it looks like the end of the year before the full version will be released. Up until recently, upon each version change, a complete player wipe was required. This mean't saved games wouldn't work with the upgraded client. However, this frustration has ended with recent updates. The developers have promised no player wipes will be required throughout the remainder of beta testing.

Although obviously still under construction, with some unsolved glitches and missing content, Starbound looks to be a classic in the making. With over a hundred crafting materials and a thousand build-able objects, generated creatures and landscapes in an infinite universe, and literally millions of weapon combinations, Chucklefish Ltd. seems to be off to a good start with their first project.

Pre-ordering Starbound is available for as low as $15, with other packages ranging to $2000 that include special features such as designing weapons or a personalized, in-game statue. All proceeds go towards the development of the game and it's final release date. When pre-ordering, the buyer will receive a link to a beta download and a steam key when available.

Until next week, this is the indie game review. The new retro with a twist.

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