Starforge Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Starforge Review



Starforge. I finally forced myself into getting the bugger to work long enough to get some real impressions about the game. My initial plans were to write a preview some time back and cover the final stages of its development with news articles and such, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. First of all, I’ve got two gaming-ready computers and a brand new beefy laptop at my disposal, so whenever a game doesn’t work properly on one machine, I just switch to another and keep the process going. Now, I’m terribly sorry to have to begin this review with the following statement, but up until the game’s 1.0 release, I simply couldn’t play Starforge on either of my then available computers. The most powerful tower with an i7 and a stock 780 runs virtually everything on high to maximum settings, but Starforge simply refused to start up on that computer. Switching to my secondary machine that’s weaker, but still very much viable – I find that Starforge does start up but crashes on every other loading screen. Not to mention that it runs at below 20 FPS. Befuddled, I quit trying. I decided to wait for the devs to patch it out and simply review the game once it’s properly finished. A couple of days back I noticed that Starforge went gold and happily jumped onto the game. Same thing as before, with the slight difference that I experience fewer crashes this time around. Also, strangely enough, the game runs better on my laptop than it does on the gaming-dedicated computer I previously tried to get it to work on. Huh. At least it’s (barely) playable now.


Yeah, sure, a chainsaw will stop that thing.

Basically, this is what happens when you’re not careful with the way you’re developing your game. While I have no intention on going into the matters of the developers themselves, I have to say that they clearly went way over their heads with this project. What started out as an incredibly potent project everybody talked about, turned into an Early Access nightmare, with patches removing interesting features and bugging the game further into oblivion. It’s important for you to understand that there was once a time when Starforge looked absolutely amazing, deal-breaking even. People rushed to see what the fuss was about and were greeted by a bug-ridden, unfinished but essentially fun title with immense potential just waiting to be moulded into another one of those indie wonder-games such as Minecraft and Terraria. No, I’m not joking, that’s what it seemed like back in the day. The devs were optimistic, gamers were optimistic and virtually everybody threw their money at Codehatch. Fast forward to present day, everybody is miserable. Not only were the devs’ promises ditched along the way, but the game now actually feels less complete than it did months ago.

But enough of me rambling about. Let’s take a proper look at the game itself.

Upon starting the game, you wake up on a relatively barren planet, almost completely naked. Sans the hepatitis-spreading implants and a gimp mask. Don’t ask. You can freely switch between the first and third-person perspectives and movement actually feels as if you’re moving, instead of floating across the game map. Everything in Starforge has a nice, physical feel to it. Firing a weapon, drilling down a tree, moving… it’s all powered by a well-built physics engine and works just fine. Most of the time. While the game world is pretty big and has a couple of points of interest scattered about its randomly-generated surface, it’s barren. Empty. Not to mention that there’s a chance you’ll fall straight through the terrain every once in a while. Also, if you walk for about a minute in a single direction, the game has to load a new map chunk, crashing down your already faltering framerate and effectively killing you if there are enemies in the vicinity. Whatever immersion is accomplished by the pretty awesome physics engine, is absolutely ravaged by most other features of Starforge.


Just like Quake 3. But with bigger arenas.

The goal in this game is… undefined, at best. You’re just thrown into this vast, buggy-as-hell world and left to fend for yourself however you can. Now, the progression is all messed up. In one playthrough, I had to fight using the pneumatic drill for quite a while, but on my second world, I found an assault rifle blueprint in the first ten minutes of gameplay, skipping a couple of armory upgrade steps altogether. It’s all over the place, and it all comes down to your own luck in this game. Combat works fine, and somehow reminds me of the old Quake titles. Probably because of the graphics, but the speed of it all also does wonders. The survival gamemode is thus an okay-ish experience, if you can ignore the painful visuals, and offers some solid gameplay since the bugs are kept to a minimum. The basic gameplay could be great had the devs focused on it more. Hell, one of my biggest gripes is that they’ve seemingly removed the actual forests out of the equation, making the whole damned planet even more boring than it already was. Building forts and houses works nicely, and defending those places from a beast incursion can be a fun task altogether. That is, if the framerate didn’t crash when there are more than a dozen critters crawling about. It’s almost as if the devs want to punish their backers by gradually taking out everything cool about the game. Even the procedurally generated guns were removed – for balancing purposes. To hell with balancing if there’s fun to be had, I say. So, essentially, you’re stuck on an ugly and buggy plane of existence with ugly, rust-like colours, lame tools and weak weaponry. Plus, awful framerate and an occassional crash. Have I mentioned the completely-at-random disappearances of player-created buildings and encampments? Well, I have now.

I may sound overly dramatic in my description of the game, but I’m really not. It’s not all *that* bad, but it’s completely different from what people paid for. And now the developers are calling the game release-ready? I’d like this all to be just a lame practical joke, simply because Starforge deserved more than what it got. There was so much potential in this concept, and now it’s bound to be marked as one of those Early Access games that promised the world, only to end up being an awful disappointment. But that’s what happens when you lack experience, I guess, and I can only hope the devs will manage their promises and player expectations better next time around. As it currently stands, I cannot recommend Starforge to just about anybody. It’s unfinished, and will probably stay in this maddening limbo for the remainder of its existence, serving as a warning that even the most promising Early Access projects can and will fail every once in a while. A sad conclusion, really.