StarForge, for those who don't know, is an open-world sandbox game in the same family as Minecraft currently in its alpha build. Developer CodeHatch has had the game available to the public for some time even before its release on Steam, and the game has been hailed as full of promise, something that I would agree with.
StarForge is rather ambitious, combining the classic construction elements we've been exposed to in similar games with first-person action reminiscent of a Halo game. Also, CodeHatch is intent on providing a non-blocky, high-resolution experience. It's a tall order, enough to simultaneously make one excited and cautious.
The question is, just how are things shaping up for the game so far? The current build is 0.4.7, meaning that essentially the game is halfway to a beta release. The game is currently going for $19.99, and at such an early stage its easy to wonder if this is going to be something you'll want to snatch up right away or perhaps wait on.
Currently the alpha features several modes including multiplayer, creative, and an infinite terrain demo that showcases the vast spaces that CodeHatch wants to implement. I started off testing out the terrain demo. The first thing you're going to notice is that StarForge is definitely pretty, especially if your GPU is up to date. Day and night cycles are something to behold, particularly at night when the stars come out. I found myself staring at the sky for a good three minutes before continuing on.
Things got a little less pretty from there on in. CodeHatch has recently added several new vehicles. I tried out what appeared to be a small hovercraft like thing that had such a hard time traversing over the ground I thought it was made of lead bricks. After scrounging around for more resources, which drop on the map randomly at the moment, I managed to spawn some sort of tank like thing that promptly embedded itself in the ground. Needless to say it was rather useless.
Don't get me wrong now, I understand an alpha is going to be full of bugs, but it something you might want to consider if you're thinking of investing early in the game. Collecting resources can be a tad tedious on foot, as you're required to run around, grab stacks of resources, and then bring them near your forge, which essentially acts like a crafting table in Minecraft. Putting resources within the set radius of the forge allows you to craft via selecting the tab key.
CodeHatch as of yet hasn't actually labeled anything in their crafting menu, which is a shame. They've recently added an intricate set of power devices, which are now required to use things like searchlights. Unfortunately, without any sort of labeling it's difficult to tell just what you need to craft to do what.
There are still some issues with rendering the terrain itself, such as rather obvious lines where pieces of terrain have been stitched together as well as some crash-to-desktop issues when you're moving through your environment quickly. Hopefully these will be resolved soon because StarForge's environments are really a treat to experience. The weather system seems to be able to pull of numerous types of ambiance, from cheerful to downright creepy at night.
Fort Defense is rather interesting, and a rather exciting type of idea for a creative type of game. The basic deal is that you build a fort around your cloning vat, which is essentially your respawn. Aliens, or perhaps monsters, attempt to wreck your defensive structures and take it out. The mode functions in waves, with progressively more monsters coming at you, some of them being downright massive. The mode has a lot of potential, aside from the usual issues. The mode doesn't particularly feel like an epic challenge yet, especially seeing as one can fire their weapon continuously with near perfect accuracy.
Creative allows you to build structures to your hearts content without the hassle of enemies. While the title may suggest you get infinite resources, for some reason you're still required to round up pallets of wood, metal, and oil to do anything. Frankly this worries me a bit if they keep this feature, as the tediousness of finding resources hampered my creativity immensely.
Once you get down to it though, StarForge's building system is rather fun, allowing you to click and drag in order to fill out large spaces with blocks. The games graphics make everything feel a lot more realistic, and the procedurally generated blocks give a nice feel of being organic instead of carbon copies of each other. Still though, the lack of explanation in the build menu is bothersome, especially if you get stuck at night without any light structures.
StarForge definitely has a ton of potential, but my biggest worry so far is that the developer will focus too much on putting in neat additions like the power structures and vehicles without hammering out a solid gameplay experience first. Though the build is interesting it's still not at the point where you could play it for hours on end and enjoy yourself despite the flaws. My advice would be to wait for a few more updates before spending the money if you're looking for a sandbox game to play with heavily. If you want to invest in the idea, which is a pretty cool one, by all means go ahead and give it a try.
StarForge Alpha is currently available on Steam only.