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Starbound (Beginner’s Guide)

With a new laptop in hand, I’m finally able to return back to the world of PC gaming. Hooray!!

First up is Starbound, a game that I’ve had in my library for a while. When I noodled with it in beta, it seemed like a more difficult, slower, prettier version of Terraria, a game that I’ve spent hours upon hours on, mining and crafting gear and fighting against bosses. Starbound seemed less oriented on mining, and my experience in beta was one of struggling to survive very long.

By the time I got my hands on it again, probably more than a year later, the game had completely changed. It starts out with a story-based section, where you are going through some sort of graduation ceremony. The scene quickly goes awry as a monster attacks Earth and you must escape onto your ship. You soon land on your starter planet, devoid of fuel, with only a few tools and a broken broadsword to protect you.

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The game’s three difficulties will largely dictate your early experience. My friend plays on standard difficulty, so he’s constantly complaining about his hunger meter. I played on the easiest difficulty, so hunger isn’t an issue. Food is still useful to recover health, but nowhere near as vital to me as it is to him. One of the interesting early game tips I’d have is to collect A LOT of plant material (alongside a healthy supply of wood). This handy material crafts into woven fabric, which is used for armor, flags (I’ll talk about later), and band-aids, which will be your healing staple. I’m always finding myself short on Woven Fabric, as it takes 3 plant fibers to craft and usually most recipes ask for at least 20 pieces of fabric.

Your next task is to collect 20 Core Fragments. One of the best places to do this is a special area on your starting world: an abandoned mineshaft covered in boxes of loot. To find this area, you’ll have to brave the wilderness of your planet, probably by using ropes or crafting wooden platforms to scale major mountains. Each planet in Starbound is completely unique, and exploring a new planet is one of the most interesting aspects of the game. The planet size varies, but each planet can be circled completely – a very different take than the oceans at the edge of Terraria and Minecraft. As you circle your starting world, you’ll eventually come across a single NPC in front of the mineshaft. Once you’re here, you can work your way down into the mineshaft to collect all of the loot. You may need to bring some torches, which can be crafted using wood and mined coal. The trip into the mineshaft can also be a good place to get weapons: as you can see, I found a spear, a better sword, and a pistol on my way over. Otherwise, keep your eye out for treasure chests – new weapons are pretty common in Starbound, and there is a decent variety of them.

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After spending your hard earned core fragments and traveling through the portal, you find yourself on a busy shopping world, with plenty of cool stores and new quests to do. One of the most important early quests is the scientist, who will reward you with a dash, double jump, and ball form (ala Super Metroid) once you bring him 10 of certain types of ore. The double jump is especially useful, and the ball form can help you get through some tight spots in dungeons.

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Before you can tackle any of the dungeons, the most important thing you need is to craft some better armor, or you will find yourself quickly dying to most monsters. Digging underneath the ground a short way rewarded me with a variety of different ore, and eventually I amassed enough to build my three piece armor set. In addition to defensive boosts, each piece of armor also increases your attack by a percentage.

The main quest sends you into one of the dungeons, where you will face a difficult boss at the end. I was working together with a friend who had some very strong gear and needed to heal constantly, as each hit from the boss took out a majority of my health. Once you traverse the dungeon and conquer the boss, you’re rewarded with some Crystals to repair your ship. Once your ship is repaired, you are now able to traverse your solar system. Now is a good time to collect materials and craft a breathing suit, as you’ll need it to land on the moon, which is the only place you can get fuel to be able to leave your solar system.

You can choose to stay on your starter planet, but it’s probably better to venture off onto one of the other planets in search of better ores and more adventure. The planets are rated in difficulty, and you can also see their landscape, description, and which ores are available. Once you’ve selected a world for your base of operations, your game is now extremely open to all of the unique things that make Starbound shine.

When you start the game, you are offered the chance to create a character and pick your race. One of the biggest parts of the game is that you will find these races dotting each of the planets, either in single homes or small-largeish settlements. Some of the races have a few different races – for instance, my fellow birdmen, or Avians, can either be primitive Egyptian like deity worshippers, or much more advanced settlements of warriors and merchants. Most players won’t see much of certain races for a while, as apparently they only show up on more difficult planets and in far-off solar systems. Harder difficulties dictate the level of items the NPC merchants will sell to you, as well as whether native settlements are hostile or friendly.

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As you explore your solar system, and especially if you’re playing with others and zipping back from their world to yours, you need a better way to get around. Those Woven Fabrics you collected can be turned into flags, which act as waypoints which you can zap to directly from your ship without having to fly around to new planets. These include two waypoints to the Ark, which you should already have gotten. Each flag is themed for your chosen character, costs 20 Woven Fabrics, and can be crafted directly without a crafting table.

Something to be cautious of in these settlements is trying to steal any items by destroying their homes and decorations. While they don’t mind you looting their chests and boxes, trying to remove their environment will get them hostile. Once they go hostile, all of the guards will attack you and you likely won’t be able to shop there anymore. There is currently no way of getting them to forgive you that I’ve been able to find.

One of the other major aspects of the game is starting your own village. On the Ark, you are able to purchase an item that allows you to zap in people to room you make, provided they are walled in on all sides and contain a door, a back wall, and a light. The specific type of character who is zapped in depends on the decorations of the room. This is an extremely complicated system that allows you to hand pick the exact tenants you want in your village. Want an Avian tenant? Fill your room with Avian items. Want a merchant? You’ll need to fill the room with storage boxes. I found the hardest was to spawn guards to your village, as the required decorations for warriors are a bit hard to come by. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to buy them from villages. Otherwise, you might have to try and steal something. I found that I could occasionally get away with removing a rack of spears from a village if all the doors were closed and no one was in the house I was stealing it from. Your mileage may vary. Guards are essential to the survival of your village, as monsters will inevitably walk in, and none of the NPCs are very smart about their own safety. If any of them die, however, you can just respawn a new one.

As you go about visiting villages and making your own, the other thing you’ll notice is that many of the villagers have quests for you. These generally fall into the realm of collecting materials, fighting against groups of enemies, talking to other villagers or escorting villagers somewhere. I had bad luck with quests that involve fighting enemies, but collecting materials and talking to other villagers proved to be an easy way to get reward bags, which typically contain either new weapons or valuable crafting materials. Escort missions can vary in difficulty, but sometimes can to reward you with an offer to get someone on your crew. This is another thing I highly recommend to aim for early on, as once you reach two crew members, you can start to expand your space ship by purchasing something from the Ark. I’m not sure which quests involve getting new crew members, but both of mine were from escort missions.

From here, the next thing to do is work on getting stronger and stronger, so you’re able to tackle more difficult content and explore new worlds. I haven’t gotten too far myself, as between building, exploring, crafting, and doing quests, there’s quite a lot to keep track of!

I’ve included a short to-do list for the early game:

  1. Collect LOTS of plant materials, and chop plenty of wood
  2. Explore Mineshaft
  3. Collect 20 Core fragments to travel to Ark
  4. Craft better armor
  5. Do collection quests for Ark scientist to obtain double jump & ball form
  6. Activate Ark waypoints
  7. Defeat Erhius Mining Facility boss
  8. Craft breathing apparatus

From there, you’re a lot more free. Here’s some other tips and recommendations to push you along:

  • Select a planet to mine/build on based on difficulty + ores available
  • Purchase settlement deeds to invite NPCs to your home (read instruction manual in store for more information about Tenants)
  • Explore all the planets in your solar system, make friends with the natives and do quests to earn rewards
  • Don’t piss off the friendly natives, they won’t forgive you for it later
  • More difficult planets can sometimes indicate hostile natives
  • Upgrade your mining tool ASAP, prioritize speed and the ability to collect water
  • Don’t waste time crafting weapons unless you feel you absolutely must – you’ll likely find something better in a treasure chest
  • Armor can either be crafted or purchased from merchants. The available armor is dependent on the difficulty of the world.
  • Upgrade your ship so you can start amassing a crew, each member has certain bonuses. Most of them don’t need to be brought down to the surface with you!