This has been a discussion topic around the web, so I thought I’d write about it, since I know a lot about one of these games.
Sandbox games seem to be gathering more and more popularity over the past ten years, games such as Minecraft and Terraria selling millions of units. On July 22nd, 2016, Starbound came out of early access after months of Soon™. But development hell isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since great things take great time, right?
I’m going to try to compare these games on many topics, so prepare for a lot to read.
Terraria is a game about progression. You chop down a tree, make a lot of crafting tables, mine some ores, craft better gear, fight bosses, craft gear from their drops, rinse and repeat.
Starbound is about exploring the universe and progression. Starbound has a main quest line as well as many sidequests. You can expand your ship, recruit new crew members, or build a huge base.
Terraria generates worlds of three different sizes that the player chooses from. Every world has a procedurally generated Dungeon and Lihzahrd Temple. Every world also has a jungle, a desert, two oceans, a frost biome, and grasslands. In addition to these, every world is generated with a biome of evil, the Corruption, a land of darkness and curses, or the Crimson, a land of flesh and ichor. Worlds are generated with a random set of metals, the tiers being Copper/Tin, Iron/Lead, Silver/Tungsten, and Gold/Platinum.
After the Wall of Flesh, the first boss that is necessary in progression (There are many bosses before it but they’re all theoretically unnecessary), is defeated, hardmode starts. This causes two large streaks to appear through the world, one of Corruption or Crimson (depending on the world), and one of Hallow, a land of light and painful enemies. The Corruption, Crimson, and Hallow are all biomes that spread. Corruption and Crimson can permanently affect the Jungle, which can block progression. The three biomes do not affect each other, and come to a halt when in contact with the other.
Starbound has a virtually infinite world to explore. After all, the game is about exploring the universe. There are five different types of stars you can go to: Gentle, Temperate, Radioactive, Frozen, and Fiery. Each planet has a primary biome, a description, and a difficulty rating going from Low to Inconceivable.
Every planet also has structures that house people of different races. I’ll get to that next:
Characters and Dialogue
In Terraria, your character has options of hair, outfit, gender, and colors. Most of your character’s looks will come from armor and vanity.
As for other characters, there’s still not much writing. Terraria has no story, so characters only have a few jokes as their lines.
Starbound has seven playable races: the Apex, ape-like citizens ruled by the tyranny of a questionable leader, the Avians, wingless believers of Kluex, the Floran, unisex carnivorous humanoid plants, the Glitch, the only surviving results of a thought experiment of an ancient race, the Humans, warmongers with curiosity, the Hylotl, dumb fish, and the Novakids, strange beings forged in a star. Even after this there are still many customization options. Armor and vanity is still a bonus.
Every race has some backstory and some have unique dialogue quirks. For example, Florans lack articles in their speech, speak in third person while calling themselves “Floran”, and extend their letter s: “Floran consider ssstabbing but behave ssself.”
Glitch say the tone of their sentence before they speak the sentence: “Concerned. Try and watch yourself here, outcast.”
As stated in the previous section, Terraria has no story. The way things play out does make you think about cause/effect relationships between certain events, however.
Starbound has a story with many plotlines. Interactions between races, a God’s sacrifice, a former student fighting a current pupil, it never ends.
Terraria allows you to equip 3 pieces of armor, 3 vanity pieces that are for show and have no stat function, and a dye for each. You also have room for five (six) accessories, each with its own vanity and dye slot. Accessories can do anything from giving extra jumps to flipping gravity. There are 110 dyes in the PC version. [Hover]
Starbound, in a similar way to Terraria, allows 3 pieces of armor and 3 vanity armors. There is also a back equipment slot for a necessary item that is critical to progression called the EPP. This can be covered with a vanity back item. All armors and vanities can be dyed, and this involves applying the dye to the item itself, which uses up the dye in the process. Also, Starbound only has eleven dyes.
Combat and Weapons
Terraria has a set amount of weapons. But what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality and just how cool they are.
To talk about Starbound, I need this quote from Starbounder.org (the official wiki) to help me here:
The amount of possible weapons in the game has not been calculated, but when ignoring the stats such as base DPS, damage per swing, and swing speed there are over 1,000,000 possibilities using the data available.
Starbound has a unique combat system where every hotbar slot has two parts, one for left and right click. Large guns and broadswords take up both slots, but have a special attack executed with right click. Smaller weapons take up one, meaning that you can combine weapons for different situations, like a shortsword and shield for low health situations, or a pistol and knife for close-quarters combat.
Terraria doesn’t have mod support. It can be modded. tModLoader is a mod that adds mod support. But Terraria by itself does not have mod support.
Starbound has Steam Workshop integration. This is really nice because the statement “It’s better with mods” applies to this game. The workshop mods add some things to the game, and also fix some problems.
I’m putting a few miscellaneous things here. Terraria has a good UI that stays clear of your character, while Starbound’s UI obscures your view. Your crew in Starbound also gets in the way of anything you try and interact with because their definition of following you is standing within a block of your position. Interacting with your crew causes them to stop following you and stand guard where you leave them. Starbound lets you choose how zoomed in you want to be, something Terraria lacks, but this can be done by changing your resolution setting.
Overall, both games are great in their own ways. I really like Terraria, and I’m really liking Starbound.
Terraria is the game for you if you like: building, mining, crafting, having a limited world, varying playstyles.
Starbound is the game for you if you like: building, mining, crafting, mods, always having a new place to explore, creating systems.
Both games get a REALLY good out of ten in my book.