Let’s get this out of the way, because it’s a comparison that so many will use and honestly, it’s pretty fitting; Boundless is Minecraft meets No Man’s Sky.
If the two games got together for an illicit affair and spawned a love child, this is the game that would appear in the delivery room.
However, for all the gorgeous planet hopping and interesting resource collecting, the game suffers from feeling sterile and empty. This is primarily because Boundless is a community game and, so far, there’s not much of a community in sight.
There are lots of seemingly abandoned houses, some with crafting tables set up, some with only a beacon flickering a lonesome flame.
When you first enter into the world of Boundless you’re instructed to craft a beacon which acts as your homestead.
This is where you’ll buy plots and place them to ensure that other players don’t wreck your stuff and, interestingly, it also makes sure that the procedural generation doesn’t mess up your creations.
This all happens after you sign up for an account and create an alien to be your avatar, which is sadly a pretty dull affair. There are too few options and one can only imagine that everyone will look similar except maybe with variations in skin colour or horns.
Right from the off, the game holds your hand, telling you what to craft and how to establish a home.
Using a very different system to Minecraft, it’s helpful, but of course once you get going Boundless falls into the tropes so well established by Mojang.
I was mining seams of iron and copper before I knew there were quests for doing so, I’d found ancient buried technology and killed a set number of lifeforms before the game even urged me towards those goals.
I found myself pinning quests to my HUD half-finished and while it was helpful being guided to certain milestones, it removes any sense of self-discovery.
The only recipe I figured out myself was glue, used to make storage chests.
If you’ve played Minecraft, you’ll know what Boundless wants you to do. Make an axe, chop down trees to make a hammer which allows you to mine for precious metals, which makes a better axe or hammer or shovel.
You’ll build a little house and fill it with machines to craft more interesting items such as warp gates or, most interestingly, gems that teleport you to other planets.
Because so much of Boundless is procedurally generated, all of the worlds are different, while not in quite the extensive fashion of No Man’s Sky.
Look up from your house and you’ll see several planets, each one you can visit to mine more elusive materials or hunt different animals. There may be some players already there, but it’s unlikely you’ll find them.
When launching to a different planet the game displays co-ordinates of where you’ll land and while you might choose to land near an already built house or a landmark, it doesn’t mean you’ll find life outside of local fauna.
What you will find is genuinely pretty landscapes crafted from bold colour palettes, plenty of opportunity to explore and discover new creatures. Of course, the game has often told you to find a “rugged planet” so the natural feeling of exploration is muted.
Yes, you’ll still find excitement in seams of coal which reward you with XP and new opportunities or discovering vistas brimming with lolloping animals and these lend the game a sense of scale. However, there’s always a lingering feeling that the developers are sitting on your shoulder guiding your progress.
A game like this needs to be a free form and sprawling experience of discoveries that link to new discoveries.
Recipes are shown to you by selecting the crafting table, precise burn times of fuel in your furnace are displayed and items you craft will come with a build time much like a free to play iPhone game.
For some this will be a welcome inclusion, but part of the joy that makes Minecraft and No Man’s Sky is the idea of setting out into a universe or world where you know nothing and make small steps forward.
Death is all too easy as well. Dying might come from an alien you didn’t hear creep up on you or from falling a few blocks. And once you’re dead you end up back in the Sanctum where you started the game with a portal back to your initial spawn point.
You can pay credits to bump the portal to a safer spawn, but I never discovered a need to do so. Everything is too sparse, from other players to native dangers.
And those credits are a little troublesome too, earned by completing tasks they’re delivered to you loot box style and used for various reasons; buying more plots of lands, cosmetic items that you’ll never see because the game is played in first person, or you can reset your character skills.
Because there’s also an extensive skill tree that urges you to put points into health, speed, stamina. Also damage, how proficient you’ll be with a hammer, axe or shovel. You can assign points into certain techniques and you suddenly realise that a lot of effort was put into an RPG element of the game that only muddies the waters further. It seems as if Boundless is unsure of exactly the kind of game it wants to be.
For all the flaws, Boundless does get a lot right. The combat is surprisingly enjoyable and building anything from cubed blocks is always going to unleash creative potential.
And while I spent time in the game without meeting another person, stumbling across their dwellings often left me with a feeling of something larger happening around me.
There’s no denying the beauty of the game and the potential that lies within the concept. Travelling to distant planets, establishing bases and common goals with friends or strangers makes for a charming idea, but Boundless needs a driving force. It needs a community.
It needs people making outlandish creations. It needs servers full of people noodling about, visiting each other and exploring together. Every single flaw can be overlooked with the right amount of people by your side.
Boundless needs to find its niche, Minecraft had YouTube and a lower price point which pulled in interested parties, Boundless, at the moment, asks a lot of players with a muddled experience that many of us have played before.
The Verdict – 3/5
Lovely visuals and design
There’s a lot to do within the game
The concept is genuinely exciting and interesting
There’s hardly anyone online
Character creation is bland
Exploration is forced rather than natural
We’ve seen a lot of the game elsewhere