4 people found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 35.0 hrs on record
Posted: Sep 29, 2014 @ 3:03pm
Updated: Sep 29, 2014 @ 3:08pm

What I spent on it: $18.74 (Founders Edition Early Access on Steam Sale)

Was it worth it? Purely on time for money standards, the answer would be yes. I've logged 34 hours on this game so far, and for having spent less than 20 bucks for the super edition that's no longer available, that's not too bad. However, pure time for money standards are not the only metric for games, because the quality of that time has to be considered as well. Ultimately, I can't say that I would recommend this game beyond that of a $5 novelty title, and even then only barely.

Overview

StarForge is one of many Minecraft clones that hit the market once Minecraft exploded a few years ago. One of Minecraft's greatest flaws was its graphics. In this day and age with games like Watch_Dogs spoiling players with great graphics even when limited by the company (and phenomenal graphics after the fan patch) or simply flat out gorgeous games from basically every angle, the blocky giant pixels of Minecraft weren't delightfully retro for everyone, they were visually offensive. I'm not in that camp, but I do like better graphics when they are available. Enter StarForge. I've often referred to games like this as "Pretty Minecraft" because, well, that's what they are. Minecraft, but with better graphics. The terrain is deformed more naturally when you mine, the world overall looks nicer, and so on. It all sounds great.

The premise of the game is that you're a prisoner on a planet where things have gone wrong. Beyond that, there's really not much story there. In your starting area there are spires that collect resources and blueprints while you play, a crashed starship leaking radiation and surrounded by monsters that you can delve into for precious blueprints, and some giant spire thing with a drill at the end I've not yet figured out.

You start with meager supplies, a speedo, and a slow jackhammer that doubles as your first melee weapon and resource collector, plus a few essentials and a handful of recipes to make better things. From there, you must survive. Find food, kill monsters, and build your structure for survival. There's also multiplayer, which I barely played.

The game released this month, much to my surprise, because when I was playing it still felt like an early Beta with a lot of work to do. This isn't helped by the fact that a lot of features were promised back in the early days, complete with video of them working.

Pros:

-The graphics, while not AAA gorgeous, are light-years ahead of minecraft. The world looks sufficiently pretty to make people happy, and some of the monsters look pretty creative.

-Since the release, framerates have very much improved across the board, but even on my system, there are times it drops down to below the dreaded 30fps barrier.

-Building structures and throwing together defenses can be a good amount of fun, what with the auto turrets and the like.

-The world is pretty big.

Cons:

-Progression is very poorly handled. A lot of these games try to have gear progression, and many of them fail to have it in any meaningful fashion. In Minecraft, it's simple. You need higher quality materials to collect the next sets of resources, which then can be used to make higher quality equipment. Since this stuff all breaks sooner or later, you save the higher-end stuff for when you NEED it, since the materials to make it are shockingly rare most of the time. This game, you leapfrog quite easily from the worst gear in the game to the best inside of an hour. All the materials you need are usually within a 2 kilometer radius of your starting point, above ground or on the surface, easily collected as soon as you have the better drills, which should be pretty quick. In Minecraft, as soon as you have the resources for something and can figure out how to build it, you've got it. Here, you're limited by blueprints. Which drop randomly. From everything. Kill a space-rabbit? Get a blueprint. Open a box? Get a blueprint. Kill a Klendathu Bug? Get a blueprint. Not just that, but they could literally have anything at all on them. Doors, guns, full sets of armor, stairs, actual antimatter, you name it! There's no logic to it and the whole thing feels like a beta test workaround to test the random loot generator. I await the day I find a space helicopter inside of those cat-sized bugs.

-Building is difficult. You can only undo the last 5 block placements you do, so if you mismeasure, you're screwed. Until you get explosives, but those are incredibly costly to make and if you're building a bomb-proof bunker, you need the biggest ones. There are techniques to make it easier, but if you find out you need to do an expansion, you're pretty much just out of luck. The game also has a "weathering" effect that randomly deletes blocks placed in the wild, meaning you need a special tool (you start with one) to keep the game from erasing your structures. Of course, if you decide you want to move and pack it up, the place you put it last still counts as protected, even if you never deploy it again. This is just more lazy code that, one would think, would be an easy fix. Also, some of the blocks, like wood and iron, have random doodads that get added on when you place them, even if you don't want them. None of the other blocks seem to, though most of the blocks are too difficult to create in the large numbers you need for base construction.

-Multiplayer has a lot of toys dedicated to it. There's a lot of stuff in the game that seems dedicated to multiplayer. Smoke grenades, EMPs, hacking devices, Radar Towers, the works. Of course, using various abuses in the system, multiplayer is all about floating gun turrets and bases unconnected to the ground. Because why model gravity to your blocks? At all?

-Similarly, the only source of water in the game seems to be in the form of ice or cacti you can find in the desert. Gone is the oddly flowing water of Minecraft, in fact, gone is water almost entirely. It's pretty, but we can clearly see the divide between pretty games and functional ones.

-Because everything you need is above ground, there's really no reason to go delving into caves, even when they appear. In fact, due to the Random Number Generator determining what blueprints you get, your best bet is setting up camp near the starship and the loot collectors, regularly farming them for the blueprints you need to build the next cool thing, like a vehicle or a turret, or whatever.

-Movement is sometimes wonky as hell. The number of times my guy started sliding down stairs because of the bizarre movement model was just unnerving.

-There are only a handful of creatures in this game, and the apex predator which strongly resembles the Bugs from Starship Troopers are rendered basically harmless within a few hours of play.

-Dying means you respawn either at your base where you last slept, or back at your original spawn. Like with Minecraft, your stuff stays by your previous corpse for a time, so you can potentially retrieve it. Unlocked blueprints, mercifully, remain. However, during the beta I had an instance wherein I died due to a bug, then died about seven times in a row on my respawn and all my things were gone. In the launched game, it's still entirely possible to die thanks to a bug or glitch, and they are plentiful, and that means say goodbye to all your stuff, unless you dropped stuff off at your based.

(Due to text limitations, the rest of the review is in the comments)
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4 Comments
Hotfoot Sep 29, 2014 @ 3:08pm 
What's it Worth to You:

The game is currently $19.99 on Steam, and frankly, it's not worth it. For $5, maybe, but not this. This is unfinished, unpolished, unprofessional work that promised the moon (almost literally) to consumers and failed to deliver it. The early videos showed a lot of promise, and I was really hopeful for a while about it. I would have been willing to let this game sit in beta for another year to get more content and polish out of it. As it stands, the Minecraft alpha had more features, polish, gameplay, and fun behind it than this game does at "Release". They have cut features pretty heavily, and while that's expected to a degree, when you do it to the level it has been done here, it feels like you either lied or did not understand what it was you were promising. Either way, it's about a level of trust with the consumer.
Hotfoot Sep 29, 2014 @ 3:07pm 
-The Survival portion of the game has very limited weapons. Supposedly creative has much more, but I fail to see the point.

-The special bonuses from being a Backer or Founder are now impossible to get otherwise as far as I can tell, which means entire texture sets are locked off to people. They can't even buy it as DLC, and that's a bad practice.

-Exploring the world is basically a waste of time.
Hotfoot Sep 29, 2014 @ 3:07pm 
-Vehicles are good, but bad. The buggy can get caught on the slightest bit of odd terrain, the hovercraft can drift off never to be seen again, and the one flying vehicle they added at the last minute, the space helicopter, takes forever to get into the layer they call "Space". There's no reason to go to space anyway, there's nothing there to do that you can't do on the ground. In fact, there's really nothing to do at all. Ever. Except maybe multiplayer, which is largely competitive. Co-op is possible, sure, but there doesn't seem to be a reason.

-Audio cuts out sometimes, which is bad, but then when it's the terrible grinding of a drill or the annoying blaring of hoverjets, it's a welcome reprieve.

Hotfoot Sep 29, 2014 @ 3:07pm 
-The inventory system is bad. On your person you can carry basically everything in the world with no penalty. Guns, ammo, buggies, hovercraft, space helicopters, turrets, hundreds of units of resources, you name it. Boxes that you build, however? Those are limited to, at best, 16 inventory slots. That's the best box in the game, that you need rare resources for. These boxes take up a lot of space in the real world and until the highest level are utterly useless for actually storing things in. Two wooden boxes in Minecraft, made from wood, hold 16 slots of stuff, and don't take up nearly as much space, and you can't carry entire garages worth of space helicopters without giving up space for other things.