Geek Culture, Writing and Other Junk from Writer C. A. Wilke
Exploring the Galaxy, 8-bits at a Time

Exploring the Galaxy, 8-bits at a Time


What do you get when you combine a love for science fiction, a nearly endlessly explorable galaxy and a nostalgic love of old video games?

My wife and I playing countless hours of Starbound, that’s what.

“But … but … what is this “Starbound” of which you speak?” you ask. In short, it’s a semi-pointless, 8-bit PC space exploration game. Basically, a sidescrolling mashup of Minecraft and No Man’s Sky, with just a bit more purpose and story. 

We played Starbound a while ago, back when it was still in beta, but now that it’s had it’s Version 1.0 release, we wanted to try it again. In concept, not too much has changed. There’s a very faint story line, but other than that, most of the gameplay is the same.

The game starts with you as a Protector cadet heading over to an auditorium for your graduation ceremony. Of course, stuff happens and you end up on a broken down ship, orbiting some random planet in the middle of nowhere in deep space. Lucky for you, your ship comes pre-equipped with a teleporter that is, thankfully, still working. Also working, is your ship’s AI, SAIL.

Most of the game from here on is you beaming down to the planet, gathering materials, making stuff and dying. As I said, there is a thin plot woven into the game, but for the most part it serves to get you started and give you a purpose in the early game. As you move on, and become more comfortable, that quest line becomes really less important and easily forgettable.



One of the great things about Starbound, is that it is multiplayer. And coop, not competitive. Once you are in the game, another person on your local network can connect to your game and bring their own character in. They get their own ship and their own starting planet, too. And, while you may be on opposite ends of the universe, physics (or any sense of reality) don’t interfere with the teleporters. Simply invite the other person onto your team and you can beam directly to them, wherever they are.


There is a pretty good variety of planets. Some forests and jungles, some are deserts or are covered with oceans. But some are more deadly than that. In order to go to the ones with deadly radiation, scorching fire or freezing cold, you have to have protective equipment. And that takes tech and resources.

Anyway, The Wife and I have been playing for a rather obscene number of hours over the last few weeks. This often results in my staying up later than I want and me getting much less sleep than I should be getting. Work be damned.

Initially, we set up a rough base on her starting planet. We did the initial quests, found one of the six keys (little colored gems kind of like the ones in Sonic, or any other video game). But, from there we’ve just kind of gone on to do our own thing.

Found a new planet and set up a new base. This one is built from materials we pillaged from a Japanese-style fortress we found and conquered. Of course, they’re not really Japanese, they’re Hylotl, an amphibious species with three eyes. We’ve got refrigerators for our perishables (yes, most food will go bad if not in a fridge), lots of crafting machines for making useful stuff like bandages and what not, a stable with our animals and beds. We even have  bathroom with a bathtub that is filled with healing water. It’s quite handy if you come home battered and hanging on by a thin thread of hit points at the end of a long day of mining and killing monsters.

Not sure what we’re going to do next. I think we’re going to focus on building better machines to get better armor and weapons. At some point, we’ll probably pick up the story again, but right now we’re pretty happy just diggin’ in the dirt and doing the tiny little piddly quests.

Anyone else out there play Starbound? Let me know!

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