Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Starbase is an incredibly deep and complex MMO that’s still in the very early stages of development. First premiered in mid-2019, Starbase generated quite the buzz in various communities; from traditional MMOs like Eve: Online to voxel-based builders like Space Engineers to exploratory giants like Elite: Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, communities were awash in excitement.
With little more than an announcement trailer to a hair over 2 years later, Starbase released into a technical alpha / early beta state on July 29, 2021 to great fanfare. Rooted deep in its voxel/vertex-based building mechanics and six degrees of freedom, Starbase is an exceptionally complex game that runs the risk of alienating more casual gamers, but incredibly satisfying to those that muscle through the usual trappings found in very Early Access titles.
In my just-shy of 100 hours of play time, I’ve run into a bit of duality here- I definitely feel like I still know precious little about the true depths of customization within Starbase, but on the other hand … feel like I have a solid grasp of what Frozenbyte is working to accomplish with Starbase. What I do know with certainty, though, is that more than many of the other Early Access/technical alphas that I’m a part of, I am most looking forward to the potential of Starbase. The customizability of panels to allow for individual thruster control may sound tedious to some, but to others, can bring about moments of absolute hilarity (too much power or thrust in one direction and whoosh there you go, spinning off into space) to frustration in the lack of maneuverability.
The ground work for something truly special is certainly there, and the open world, sandbox-style approach encourages experimentation amidst the honeymoon phase with Starbase- the down side is that not all features or functions have been fleshed out, or even created in some cases. Patience is required with Starbase, though I do have to hand it to Frozenbyte- they are absolutely gobbling up player feedback and are regularly updating with new features and fixes and are staying relatively true to their published Starbase roadmap.
While the level of control within Starbase is deep, interesting, and an entire gameplay loop in its own right, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Desync is a regular issue, pop-in is pretty drastic at times, and boy, Starbase makes my computer hit thermal temps I’ve not seen sustained on it before- where I normally run between 56-63 degrees on my CPU under load (Ryzen 9 3900x w/ Kraken X63), and maybe an occasional GPU spike up to 72-73 degrees, I run fairly constant in Starbase at 70-72 degrees for the CPU and a worrying 79-81 degrees on my RTX 2080 Super. I imagine that lesser machines (not that my machine is exceptional by today’s standards) or those with poor thermals, will see significant chug. As briefly mentioned, the desync can get bad at times, and is likely a major factor in some of the performance issues I’ve run into while running Starbase at 1440p; I’ve learned to spend more time in game during non-peak hours (though that can be tough these days, given its popularity- always seems to be busy) as the game just runs smoother. I’m confident though, that in time, Frozenbyte will iron out those issues by the time it launches out of Early Access.
I have to admit that while gunplay is still relatively early, the FPS foundations are there, even leading to small platform-like ships floating around with players on mounted light machine guns as a sort of … small-scale, space-based technical. It’s actually fairly ingenious, if a wee-bit dangerous. What shocked me most about combat, though … was just how raw combat can be. Rounds slamming into ships have a surprisingly robust sound (one that I love) but when components are hit (like thrusters or powerplants) there are these absolutely beautiful explosions and chip-damage. It’s actually mesmorizing, and when you’re freaking out and trying to run about a ship that’s taking fire, it’s incredibly suspenseful- I am absolutely looking forward to the continued development in these areas- “atmosphere” in space is incredibly important and Starbase simply oozes it at times.
On the flipside, though, there are definitely things I’m looking forward to that really put a damper on things. Ship-building, for one, is relatively simplistic and often yields ships that are generally quite “same-y.” Frozenbyte’s definitely acknowledged this in their various foums posts and on their roadmap and are working towards simplifying the process, along with adding new features and capabilities to make ship and station-building a more enjoyable experience. Given the number of regular updates that Starbase has received, and the hyper-active development team mixed with a community that is just brimming with excitement, I’m eagerly awaiting the next great build- after all, I can’t be the only one thinking that they could build a to-scale Death Star … right?
Starbase will inevitably be compared to genre giants like Space Engineers, No Man’s Sky, Elite: Dangerous, Dual Universe, and Star Citizen, but I found it often felt like a far more mature, far-reaching, massively-multiplayer version of the criminally-underappreciated and seemingly unknown Avorion (an indie single-player space-based voxel-builder) with a healthy dose of Space Engineers thrown in for good measures. This is not a bad thing- far from it; if anything, I hope we continue to see titles with the reasonable scope and intensity that we’ve seen out of the team behind Starbase.
However, where I think Starbase will differ is in its inherent difficulty- there are an absolute metric ton of things that you’ll want to learn up on, from best resources to mine for, to control schemes, to just understanding the universe of Starbase and there’s no better place to learn than on its Wiki. Trust me when I say this … It’s okay to feel a bit overwhelmed- Starbase is incredible, if massive in scale, and it can be a bit much and if you run into the proverbial wall that leaves you wondering, “okay, what now?” simply ask in game- the community will help you along the way.
Even in its early stages, there are some fantastic bits here and there that constantly bring me back for more- I was out mining an asteroid, minding my own business in my tiny little starter ship, in the zone with a good audiobook running in the background and I was just taking things in when I saw one ship come ripping up, followed by gunfire and a couple of small ships giving chase. Completely ignored me, for which I’m thankful- Starbase’s open pvp model has seen the rise in roving bands of ne’er-do-wells that could lead to destruction of your ship and the loss of your resources- it’s all a part of the excitement and energy surrounding Starbase. In fact, there’s something I see daily in Starbase that has long died out in other massive Early Access/Technical Alphas that I near-religiously follow.
And that’s “Hope.”Score: N/A for previews