As a gamer, I love the ability to create a unique personal narrative. Some games thrive on their writing and provide a compelling story for their audience, but I don’t always want to be an audience member: I want to be in the driver’s seat (It’s why I play games to begin with). Starbound is the most recent game to let me feel like my own author.
Any game brave enough to allow players to make their own choices will always mark high in my book. I have played many open-world and sandbox adventure games over the years; The Sims, Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, Grand Theft Auto, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and (especially) Minecraft. Each of these games has allowed me to create a unique story all my own. Still, Starbound’s breadth of worlds, monsters and dangerous situations give even the most passive player the substance for a great adventure, with just the right amount of campy sci-fi fun.
When I began my Starbound chronicle I wanted to step into the role of character who would allow his own story evolve as I played. Naturally I chose a barrel-chested rebel-military ape leader with a name that would demand respect: Bill Bananas.
My story began with my ship stranded in orbit around an unknown planet in the middle of black space, light years from any ape civilization. While searching to repair my paralyzed vessel, I beamed down, hoping to discover anything to aid me. What I found was trouble, trouble, and more trouble.
In my first few minutes, I was attacked by a pack of strange burly, purple, bear-like beasts with large spikes protruding from their heads, all of whom seemed entirely unimpressed by my shiny collection of military decorations. Outnumbered and under armed, I was forced to utilize my keen ape reflexes in order to escape, but once again I found myself out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I ran far to escape from the mass of brutes, but found something unexpected: a concrete behemoth structure of Minikong origin. This deep-space outpost represented everything I had come to fear and despise about the fascist overlords who had driven me away. Inside, I encountered a truth so shocking it stopped me in my tracks: a laboratory filled with simian test subject; apes put through horrid experiments. I could say nothing, and do nothing; my anger swelled. I was determined to return to my ship and fight.
After constructing a distress beacon in hopes of rescue, I was once again punished for my ingenuity by an outright attack from the skies, a flying saucer of penguins bent on wiping me from existence. After a few fancy manoeuvres and some jabs from an improvised spear, I rescued myself from the embarrassment of death and use the wreckage from the downed ship to repair my own.
Once refuelled and ready to take on the Minikong, I strapped myself into the pilots’ seat and pounded my fist onto a big round red button the read “random.” I would trust my luck and my instincts that this ship would get me where I needed to go, and that I would soon see the smoking rubble of the fascist apes who drove me away.
My head shuddered as my mind returned to reality. I sat at my desk, mouse in hand, staring at the screen in front of me. Moments ago, I had been millions of light years away, in both time and space, as a ruggedly handsome ape commander, but now only my good looks remained.
These games are more like a garden than sandbox: they do not just create landscapes or elaborate façades, but worlds in which to grow, experiment, and explore.
I hope those who’ve followed this miniseries have found something you enjoy about it, because that’s exactly what these games will do for you on a much more regular basis. Don’t limit yourself to linear, structured games for non-stop level-clearing, gear-grinding action. The only thing you need are a few cues to sparks your imagination and create a story all your own with far more meaning than any other.
For the full chronicle, go to martlet.ca/culture/starbound.