After a year of patient waiting, Chucklefish updated Starbound to "Upbeat Giraffe" late January. Many nightly builds later, UpBeat Giraffe went live and it's time to give an impression on stable! Testing was done on a server with friends as I believe Starbound is a much more enjoyable experience playing with others rather than soloing.
Between hosting servers and playing the game, well over 900 hours of this addictive pixelated survival game have been clocked. That's right, this Raptor is a bit of a Starbound fan. Upbeat Giraffe feels like a more polished Starbound with key subtle differences such as your movement. Other aspects of the game are tweaked while some seem omitted entirely. Let's break down what's different, shall we? Keep in mind that Starbound is still open beta and there is speculation via the game assets of a potential new playable race in the future. Hint: waddling flightless birds. For a full list of various changes, head here.
Kicking things off is the create your character screen. While there may be Penguin assets and even armor sets, it's still speculation if Chucklefish will even make them a playable race. What is implemented, however, are the long-awaited Novakid!
Each race has their own ship that is themed specifically with their lore in mind which is appreciated. Many things were on Starbound fan wish lists, but one of the biggest deals of Upbeat Giraffe are ship upgrades. This is a massive improvement over the "tin can" a friend would refer to the standard ship as. Anyone who has played Starbound is familiar with having chests and platforms everywhere to try to make the most of little space.
Before you do anything however, you're greeted with a ship in a state of disrepair. Don't worry, the giant "E" is there to guide you along the way. Perhaps the biggest overhaul is the quests and missions system. Pre-Upbeat Giraffe, your grand questing adventure consisted of making a table and cooking some meat. Nothing too spectacular, really. This go around, your very first objective is to repair your ship to make it space worthy once again! You'll notice upon E-ing that your ship now has its own AI dubbed Ship-based Artificial Intelligence Lattice or S.A.I.L for short. You may also notice your ship AI is a bit wonky. Like most common computer problems, sometimes a simple reboot fixes everything.
Little note, your ship AI will differ depending on which race you play.After the reboot, you are given the Matter Manipulator as well as the ability to warp. Notice something you're not quite able to do? Yep, the door is broken to your cockpit. This is the point where your first major task begins of collecting 20 core fragments. Thankfully, the Matter Manipulator is better in Upbeat Giraffe. Unfortunately, picks and drills have low durability now so the first mining trips might feel tedious until you can upgrade equipment. Don't forget to grab your gear from the ship locker before heading out. Something worth noting before continuing; regardless of how many characters you create, your starter planet will always be the same within your universe as opposed to being randomized. .
Might Want To Hold Onto That Matter Manipulator
Remember slowly mining cobblestone with an anemic mining tool the moment you've landed on your starting planet and ditching the Matter Manipulator all together once you've crafted your first pick? Yeah, you won't be doing that this time around. The Matter Manipulator is not only upgradable, but has far greater versatility than any pick or drill. You can still craft various antiquated mining tools, don't expect them to last too long. Chucklefish developers felt bad that a high-tech device was always stashed away in favor of primitive tools. In other words, the Matter Manipulator doesn't suck now, it's actually amazing once fully upgraded. The general consensus amongst the friends I've played with is that liquid extraction is probably the best Matter Manipulator upgrade. Only real draw back is if you also have immature friends and one of them decides it'd be a cute idea to flood your ship with water. At least you can't die on your ship, lava griefing would be horrible.
To Coal Or Not To Coal, That Is The Question
Gone are the days of harvesting all the coal you can spot within a video game five-mile radius as a fuel source. The black stuff isn't even a fuel source anymore in Upbeat Giraffe. You can try, but you'll end up with coal in your hatch mocking you in defiance. Instead, coal is what you'll be primarily using for crafting torches and "LIquid Erchius" is what you'll be using to get your ship from point A to point B.
How do you obtain Liquid Erchius? It's actually pretty simple. Just like in real life, you can pull up to a station and buy fuel. Well, it's less of a station and more of a 7/11 type convenience store located on an Outpost dubbed the "Infinity Express". Sorry, there are no Slurpees I'm afraid.
The other option is a more practical one assuming you have the right equipment. Making sure you can first breath in space and can harvest liquid, head towards a moon and drill baby drill! Er, manipulate that matter! It's strongly recommended to collect fuel with an upgraded Matter Manipulator on a moon trip over blowing all of your Pixels at a convenience store. It really is the difference between a little bit of fuel and several stacks of the stuff.
Outposts, Penguins and Big Ships, Oh My!
You got your ship in somewhat decent condition, but you'll notice your FTL drive still isn't functional. Without being able to use coal as a fuel source or being able to add any fuel at all, you would think you're in a bad spot. No need to panic, everything is linear. S.A.I.L will inform you of a gate which is rather obvious on your map.
Something Chucklefish changed in Upbeat Giraffe is that fuel consumption is now zero when traversing through planets within the same system. Travel outside your system varies in fuel based on distance which makes sense.
This is where the gate takes you, if you're aware of what Stargates are, it's the same concept basically. Every system has a gate with a teleportation system that leads you to the Outpost. Regardless of what system you're in, there will always be a gate. The Outpost is essentially a central hub where various races come together and where you obtain quests or mission coordinates. Shhh It's okay, the robot is gone. No more spending a good chunk of your time looking for a superior brain. The difficulty on these quests aren't too bad. Pst, there may or may not be a hidden quest under the outpost itself!
Feeling stuck? Simply click on the yellow "!" to the right of your screen to check your log. Tutorial quests aren't imperative to progression, it's the NPC given quests that matter. Make sure to do every one of them because if you don't, you won't get very far. Quests range from simple fetching to making the right set of armor to unlock missions. There are 4 missions in total and can be a challenge if you're not prepared. Don't want to spoil too much, but I will give some advice on the first boss to spare some newbie frustration. You don't need to fire a single shot at the boss nor do you need to frantically try to stab them. Flip the switches on either side of the boss and then E on the device at the bottom to attack. Dodge, block (shields and broadswords) and heal when needed. Ignore the spawned mobs, they can't jump.
"But I want a bigger shiiiiiip!!!" Right on it! Once you've completed your first round of quests, head towards the "Penguin Bay" at the rear of the outpost. Yes, it is exactly what it looks like.
If you played your cards right, the shady guy will have an "!" above his head. Slip him some diamonds and he'll give you a ship license that allows you to upgrade your ship. Every round of completed quests unlocks higher tier ship licenses. Be prepared for many mining trips, pimping your ride isn't cheap.
The Hylotl woman at the Outpost lets you create custom signs capable of 99 frames of animation! A nice add if you're so artistically inclined.
Crafting, Tech and BattlingAnyone familiar with survival games like this already knows the gist of crafting. Go mining, collect ore. This concept remains unchanged for the most part, but the actual crafting mechanic has changed a bit. Smelting is now instant which is more than welcome. It felt tedious having to smelt ores at such a slow rate. Besides the insta smelt, there are now more furnaces that you craft the further you progress. Like the extra furnace additions, there are also more crafting tables. Going back to the furnaces, our old friend coal is decidedly blacklisted from the party. In order to forge better bars, you're going to need oil, uranium rods and solarium stars. Uranium is found on risky planets while oil can be found on deserts. Solarium is more difficult and requires deep mining on higher tier planets. Sectors have also been removed in favor of various system types such as Gentle, Eccentric, Radioactive, Frozen and Fiery. No more having to worry about MK sector cards being lost when you jump between servers.
Forget about the bubble boost, that tech seems dropped for now. We know, it was the best tech in the game. Don't fret, Chucklefish changed the tech system all together and now you're able to use multiple techs at once! How? Talk to S.A.I.L and go to "Show me my tech". As you can see, there are tabs. One tech is permitted per slot so choose wisely which techs you'll need for a given situation. Exploration is very crucial and some techs are necessary to find secrets throughout the game. You gain tech by completing quests and occasionally as loot from chests. Unlike Furious/Enraged Koala, there are no more specific techs you find. Instead, you're given blank tech cards that you redeem to choose the tech of your choice. The more quests you complete, the more techs become avaliable.
It's hard to describe fighting over playing it, but I'll try to explain. As mentioned earlier, movement is changed as is being able to block. When you move backwards, you're automatically locked at a slow pace. It might annoy some at first, but a friend phrased it to where it makes complete sense; "Who sprints backwards in real life?". Touché. Blocking is limited to either a shield or a broadsword. Anything that doesn't fit under those classifications lacks this ability. In case you're wondering how to block with a broadsword, simply right click. When you time a block just right, you hear a metallic clank. Standing around with your shield out isn't a very good idea when your shield has low health or when the mobs are too strong. What happens is that you will encounter a guard break and you're practically exposed. Depending on what tier planet you got your shield from, it will have a number listed as its health which translates to blocking capability; the higher the better. Guns still run off your energy while the standard weapons with status effects are still around.
There are now audio cues for several events in the game. When a mob is aggressive, they will jump in the air whilst making a bloop sound effects. Ores also have a tink-tink sound effect which lets you know if you've hit something useful when you're digging in a dark tunnel.
Biomes and micro dungeons are expanded upon. Some are neat while others are really bizarre such as the Gnome biome! Rainbow Biomes can now be found on arid planets on top of deserts. Occasionally, you'll even find a random NPC within a micro dungeon deep underground for no particular reason.
Always explore, exploring is the best thing you can do in this game. Instruments to clothes to better weapons, it's nice finding good loot. Not everything is as straight forward, though. For example, there are special vanity items and even pets hidden within missions. Not a bad idea to keep a grappling hook on your hot bar just in case. One thing you don't have to worry about while exploring is hunger. This mechanic has been stripped out for the time being, food now gives some sort of buff. Hunger will most likely make a return once Chucklefish figure out a new system to implement.
As an ongoing open beta, there are going to be inevitable bugs. If you encounter an issue, make sure to report it to Chucklefish so that they can act accordingly.
Bugs I've observed range from minor to something that needs addressing ASAP. Minor ones include finding perfectly generic items in world. (A green block that most players won't encounter normally.) You can find these in Apex villages, most likely an incorrect value or the devs being silly as you actually get crafting recipes from picking it up. Another minor to moderate bug involves the new sign making system. Occasionally, signs will not stack correctly or turn into another sign entirely. Let's hope Chucklefish fixes this as well as let you be able to name your signs so organizing them isn't a mess.
Little things like that aren't game breaking . What will cause frustration is stability. "Server.exe has stopped working" happened way more frequently that I'd like compared to Enraged Koala. It was at least comforting to hear that other contacts were experiencing some issues as well. There was also some lag that would occur sometimes at the Outpost when hosting a server or on single player. OpenGL x64 helps with frame rate for some, but is experimental and can cause crashing. On the server-side of things, launching from the x64 folder seems a bit more stable. Again, this is beta and the dev team are really good at putting patches when they can
For those curious, system consists of an overclocked Intel i5 2500K, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 560 Ti 1GB card that will be replaced in the future. Not a new rig anymore, but it does the job.
PS: You can also capture actual bugs simply by crafting a bug net. This is spawn on starter planet, behold the building full of many things!
In spite of the hiccups here and there, I love this game and the direction Chucklefish is heading. If someone from the development team is reading this, please allow more diversity for higher tier planets. The highest tier loot is on magma rich planets and seeing that volcanic scenery most of time takes away from late game exploration fun a bit. Warping directly to your own ship from a friend's would also be welcome. Same for more graphics options for those with less powerful systems.
Niggles aside, the team did an awesome job revamping stuff from visual to game mechanics. (Even the little things like background was noticed by my friends studying game design and animation.) Come on, the Matter Manipulator is cool now and I'm now an avid shield user because of these changes. Dunno when the next major update will be out, but many Starbound fans will eagerly await it, myself included. Definitely a recommend to all who enjoy pixel art, easy moddability and survival type games. It's not Terraria or Minecraft, Starbound has its own feel all together. Looking forward to new missions being added for even more of a challenge!
How do other fans of Starbound feel about Upbeat Giraffe?