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The Lighthouse Customer: Starforge (Survival Mode)

Planet Deplorers

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, pantsless survival and gimp mask crafting in Starforge.

The Earth's sun is being devoured by a black hole, and humankind, desperate to survive, has sent scouts to the planet Atlas to prepare the mysterious new world for colonization. I am one of those scouts, the Earth's last and best hope, which is a bit of a shame because I've been here for several days and I'm still wearing just the underpants I arrived in and I've been living in a hole in the ground. On the plus side... well... I dug the hole myself?

After toying with Starforge's creative mode, which gives players unfettered access to all the weapons, armor, vehicles, and building materials, I'm now giving survival mode a go. I'm plopped onto the planet's randomly generated surface wearing only a pair of shorts and carrying only few items in those shorts. Apart from what appears to be an enormous, infected zit on my back, it feels like the standard survival game opening scenario. I see trees: I need to knock them down. I see minerals: I need to dig them up. I see alien lifeforms: I need to kill them, eat them, and make clothes from them. I know the drill. In fact, I have a drill.

My wish, upon the first star I see tonight, is for pants.

I chase cute glowing bugs around, drilling into their butts and trying to loot their corpses as they gently roll downhill. In addition to meat and fiber, some of these glowbugs are carrying blueprints and metal ingots: it appears these alien insects are intelligent enough to design complicated gadgets and refine metals, hinting at advanced intelligence. On the other hand, I have a big drill.

Out of fiber collected from several bugs I assemble the only bit of armor I can afford at the moment: a helmet, though it looks more like a leather mask. Combined with my tight black leather shorts and the fact that I'm running around killing creatures with a power drill, I look and feel like some sort of serial-killing gimp.

Stop running! There's already no dignity in this!

I lose my fetish mask a moment later, and everything else I've collected, after encountering a large angry leech monster, which apparently hasn't gotten the memo that I'm here to kill aliens and wear pants and I'm all out of pants. I'm brutally and comically slaughtered, my body tumbling through the air like a Stretch Armstrong doll hit by a baseball bat. Respawning, I decide to put aside my mass murder of architect bugs and instead work on building a shelter.

No one mentioned this might happen during scout orientation.

After crafting some storage boxes, I'm driven back to mass murder due to my dwindling food meter. Collecting alien meat, I craft it into energy syringes, because here in the future, we don't need to eat with our mouths anymore. Gotta say, I think this games misses the satisfying thing about hunting and harvesting meat in video games: cooking it over a fire. I can't quite say why sticking a meat-unit into a fire-container and later pulling it out when it's a different color is so darn satisfying in games. All I know is, sticking a meat-unit into a syringe and then jabbing it into my arm is not.

Not sure why my bed needs security settings, but it might as well have all of them.

Since I've got some boxes sitting here anyway, I think it's the right time time and place to construct a massive, impenetrable base of operations. I mean, Earth might ring me up to ask how it's going, and I can't very well say "Well, so far I've made a sex mask and injected some alien beef into my arm. How are you?" I'm hampered a bit because night has fallen, and even with my flashlight, nighttime is incredibly dark. I craft a wooden ramp and stick a wall light on it so I can see what I'm doing, though doing so exhausts my supply of everything, so now I'm not doing anything, but at least I can see that I'm not doing anything.

Planet: dominated.

I add a bedroll (not for sleeping, apparently, but so if and when I die I can respawn right here) and another thingie I have in my inventory that I don't know what it does, but it looks futuristic. Several giant leeches are roaming around nearby, and running around in the pitch black, even with my flashlight, has only resulted in me falling into a cave which took a half-hour of jumping to escape from. With little else to do until morning, I dig a hole near my boxes and stand motionless in it until dawn arrives. STARFORGE!

In the morning, I see the all the work was worth it. My base, consisting of boxes full of dirt, and my hole, where the dirt came from, are an impressive, fearsome sight.

I know it doesn't look like much, but remember, there's a hole, too.

Having thus established an impressive base, sending a clear message to the planet that, yes, I have completely dominated y'all, I think it's time to do some real exploring. I can assure you, it has nothing to do with the fact that a bunch of those leech monsters have suddenly decided my base is the perfect place to slither around hissing. I don my new fetish mask and set out for the nearest mountain. Let's see what else this planet has to offer besides leeches and glowbugs.

The world stretches out before me. It's a real shame.

This planet, I discover, has nothing else to offer besides leeches and glow bugs. I find more crafting materials -- iron, sandstone, clay, water -- but it seems foolish to spend time collecting them, because if I die out here I'll lose them, and I can find them closer to my base anyway. The one thing I really need, sulfur, to craft bullets for my pistol, I can't find anywhere.

Night falls again, and I spend a while trying to chase glowbugs up a mountainside, but when they die they roll all the way back down so it seems kinda pointless. To be honest, a lot of this seems kinda pointless. I need to drill a ton of bugs to death just to make a pair of pants and a shirt, but bug-chasing isn't particularly fun. I need to knock down a ton of trees to collect enough wood to craft even a few medium sized building cubes, but drilling trees is even less engaging than chasing bugs. I typically prefer survival modes in crafting games, but there's not much to do in this one, and what little there is, isn't exactly a hoot.

In creative mode, armor makes me look cool, not creepy.

Naked man to Earth: you might want to hold off on the colonization. At least until my hole is big enough for two.

Clearly, Starforge is in the early alpha beta oven and survival mode, at least, needs a lot more time to bake (this column is based on the patched version of v.0.7.5, dated June 24). If you're desperately hungry for an early access game where you've crashed on a planet and have to kill trees, Planet Explorers is much further along and features more interesting alien beasties.

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