Ever since Minecraft gained widespread critical acclaim, it was natural to assume that other developers would try to rake in on Mojang’s already existing and currently successful game mechanics. As cheap as this sounds, plenty of these striving developers aren’t just attempting to cash in on a Minecraft copies.

In a game that virtually lets you create or do almost anything your little heart desires, there is still that “almost” everything that factors into the gameplay. This is why when other studios develop a Minecraft-esque game, they usually provide a hook; usually something that isn’t featured in the original game that inspired them. Terraria, for example, not only differs by being 2D but has less of an open-ended feel than Minecraft. It has more focus on defending against mobs whereas in Minecraft, mobs are often a minor nuisance that sometimes gets in the way of exploring and creating.

Under development by code}{atch, StarForge is an upcoming sci-fi survival/building game that combines some of Minecraft’s base building aspects with RPG and FPS elements. The game is still currently in very early alpha stage but it has already gained quite a following since it started as an Indiegogo project.

It is important to note that the alpha version currently available on Steam does not include many of the features presented in most of Starforge‘s gameplay trailers but don’t let that disappoint you. What minimal gameplay odehatch has provided in the alpha version reveals a lot about what they have planned for the future of StarForge.

As of now, there are only two available game modes: Fort Defense and Creative.

Fort Defense Mode

Fort Defense is the original main game mode featured in the gameplay videos on their Indiegogo page and is available in singleplayer and multiplayer.

Players must protect some kind of alien containment chamber from waves of giant zerg-like creatures by collecting resources dropped across the level and building forts. You can choose from several different types of materials with varying durability. Wood, for example, is the weakest material but is the most readily available resource when the game starts. Metal and concrete, on the other hand, must be collected first and therefore take up more time to erect.

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I found the tile placing mechanic slightly problematic. Unlike Minecraft, the environment in Starforge isn’t created with block tiles so it’s very hard to be precise. This makes it especially difficult to reinforce and build the fort in between enemy waves. Not only does it take up too much time between waves but you also need to collect resources and create turrets to mount on the fort. It does get a lot easier when you’re playing multiplayer, though.

The tiles themselves are really well made and do not necessarily generate the exact same textures. Structures look a hell of a lot more realistic instead of looking too blocky and haphazard.

Different types of ranged and melee turrets can also be created by combining different types of resources. The descriptions of the turrets provided do not yet include the exact DPS so it is unclear which turret is strongest against the aliens. However, it is safe to assume that the most expensive turret is the strongest but, again, it is unclear.

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One problem I had with the turrets is that they are really hard to place. They don’t seem to stick to any surface so while making a fort I had to also create wider platforms on the corners in order to place them without falling due to recoil.

A spotlight can also be created but right now, it doesn’t seem to be useful for anything. I expect that code}{atch will probably incorporate times of day in Fort Defense mode.

As of now, there is only one type of alien whose perceived damage can be measured by how big it is. Again, there is not telling exactly how they all differ in damage dealt but for now, the bigger the alien the more HP and damage it has.

RPG

Not only is StarForge a Fort Defense game and a building game but it also seems to have a deep RPG aspect. The stats page features different skills that you can level up by using them. There’s a skill tree for your character’s personal abilities like athletics, agility, flying, shields and driving. There’s also flying but I’m not sure if they mean time spent in mid-air or if they’ll maybe for jetpacks in the future.

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Under the character portrait there’s a button that says “SWAP HERO.” It doesn’t work yet but it’s a strong implication that you’ll be able to create profiles and possible even have different classes to fit your playstyle.

There is also a page that shows all the passive abilities you can unlock later. However, it doesn’t say whether they are currently in effect in alpha or how you would unlock them once they’re available.

Creative Mode

Creative mode is more of a physics demo than anything else. The only resource available in the whole map are trees which you can cut down using your gun to make wooden blocks but that’s pretty much it. Walls are the only think you can build for now. There’s no way to build windows or doors either.

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You can also test out the different turrets without the pressure of imminent waves of alien creatures. However, there’s not much to test because you can’t spawn enemies for the turrets to shoot at.

StarForge uses the Unity engine, the same one used as Slender: The Arrival and Insterstellar Marines. Despite my low expectations of the engine derived from previous games that use it, StarForge actually enforces it really well.

The worlds are incredibly immense, vertically and horizontally. I tested this by building my very own tower of Babel into space. As silly as reaching space sounded like initially, I actually managed to get up so high past the atmosphere to the point that I could see the stars and a planet being destroyed by a giant asteroid.

Check out this video of me falling from space featuring Justis. Also, whoever did the voice acting for the screaming, props to you. It’s hilarious.

It is also worth mentioning that StarForge comes with multiple camera angles, as seen in the clip above. Aside from the traditional first-person POV, there is also a third-person camera as well as other unconventional ones. I suspect that codehatch incorporated these so that when the game gets more widely known and people start making videos for it, they’ll be able to easily make it more cinematic without having to tweak any internal camera settings.

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StarForge is still in an incredibly early phase of alpha and there isn’t really much to do. However, the minimal features reveal a huge amount of potential for great gameplay. There is still a great deal to learn about the game,. what we know about it know we know from mere implications but it’s good to know that codehatch is constantly improving the game and I’m sure not to soon from now we’ll be able to see more of the promised features like terraforming and vehicles, to name a few. For now though, I would recommend waiting for at least the beta phase.