Stars and pools in the mysteries of the desert

As I shuffled my feet across the sand for shade, sweat ran into my eyes and blurred my vision, tricking me into thinking I saw an oasis on the horizon. I got hotter, my skin burned, and I finished my last drop a while ago. Before I had a chance to fight the scorching sun and crumble to dust, the ground shook and an alien centipede emerged from it, dodging me with its grip. The mysterious desert of Starsand took my life, as it has many times before, so I started over and tried to uncover its mysteries anew.

In this week indie focus column I want to draw your attention to Starsand, a survival simulator from Tunnel Vision Studio. It’s hard to stand out in a genre saturated with early access indie titles, but Starsand shines brightly. Lightly telling yet story-heavy, I was thrust right into the action when, during a marathon, a sandstorm left me dazed and confused, forcing me to seek shelter. When I woke up, I found myself in a vast desert on an alien world. This tutorial taught me the basics of resource gathering and crafting before letting go and letting me explore the world on my own.

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And that’s a world. As someone from a country whose treasures and intrigues hidden beneath its desert sands have been plundered by imperial nations – a country that I can only visit as a tourist – I welcome a game that allows me to explore such an environment for myself.

stars and desert dunes and blue sky

A vast, almost eerie desert stretched before my eyes, with only a single palm tree on the far horizon atop a dune. The trip there in the midday sun raised my temperature, which started to ruin my health if it got too high. Once I reached the tree, I had to make a decision: keep it for precious shade, or cut it down for tools? There were only the faintest clouds in the sky, but there was another palm tree in the distance, on many other dunes. The land contrasts with the beautiful blue sky.

It is very easy to get lost in Starsand. Yes no self-made maps like in Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed, just a blank sheet of paper with a player icon. I have to build markers from sticks and manually record positions as I get to them. This adds to a sense of discovery and vulnerability that you feel is worth overcoming. No one was there to help me, so I had to learn to survive and make it through this world alone. However, a recent update added useful mechanics like Spyglass and tame camels, meaning future journeys could be easier.

When I finally reached the top of the last dune between me and that once-distant palm, I discovered an oasis. I dived straight into the water and drank deeply to rehydrate. Like heatstroke, lack of water or food can kill me. Food wasn’t hard to come by when I got to the oasis – dates and coconut weevils provide abundant fruit, and lizards and antelope-like creatures often come here to drink. There was all the water I could need, but only the faintest clouds in the sky, so the rain never fell.

the stars and oases of the day

This made the oasis an attractive home, somewhere to start a base from which I could explore the desert. When the first night fell, I created a simple shelter that could be used to save the game and move on to the day, but now that the sun has set and the temperature has dropped, it’s the perfect time to earn some more. food and cut down some trees on it. the edges of my little garden of Eden.

As I gathered supplies, I noticed the beautiful sky above, full of stars and planets. It reminds me of driving through the night from Sharm El-Sheik to Cairo and having to stop to fix a flat tire. I’ve never seen a more perfect sky in my life, and Starsand instantly brought me back to that moment. I light a campfire to give me some light and allow me to cook the meat I’ve hunted before going to bed.

stars and planets in the night sky

I rise with the sun and remember to record the location of the oasis on my map. I barely moved from my starting point, showing me how vast Starsand really is. I spotted a slim black object on the horizon and knew I had found my next destination. I decided to spend an extra day hunting, gathering, and crafting, but the rumble in the sand alerted me to an unfortunate familiar threat: sandworms. Not the giants found in Dunebut still deadly.

Combat is where Starsand fell. There is a rudimentary spear that can also be a toothpick against the pincers and feet of sandworms. The only way I can stop them is to run and shoot. There are reusable traps that can be built to protect an area, but these didn’t help when I came across a worm while exploring.

stars and desert and sky

Once I’ve had enough cooked meat, dates, and coconuts – great sources of water if you don’t break them for meat – I proceed to the monument on the horizon. It was a journey longer than the final leg, past undulating sand dunes, and the black memorial was much larger than I could have imagined when I arrived. However, it doesn’t answer any questions about where I am or how I got here, it just leaves me with more. A message carved into the side caused the fire of my curiosity to flare up into a roaring fire.

My supplies were low, but I spotted another monument on the horizon. I record my current location and move on. As I shuffled my feet through the sand to find shade, sweat ran into my eyes and blurred my vision. I got hotter, my skin burned, and I finished my last drop a while ago. Before I had a chance to withstand the scorching sun and crumble to dust, the ground shook, and I realized I forgot to pack any arrows.

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