REVIEW | Starsand

REVIEW | Starsand

Starsand Review | Set in the desert, you are a long-distance runner trying to complete a desert marathon when suddenly you get hit with a sandstorm and need to find temporary shelter. However, the fatigue gets to you and you collapse in this old building. You wake up in a completely deserted wasteland of a desert with 2 moons?! Jointly developed by Tunnel Vision Studios and Fantastico Studios and Published by Toplitz Productions is Starsand; a desert-based survival game. Did we survive the desert?

DeveloperTunnel Vision Studios & Fantastico Studios
PublisherToplitz Productions

ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox One | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!

What we Liked!

  • Challenging Gameplay | Starsand is a challenge, even on normal difficulty. The day brings extreme heat in which you need to combat with shelter from the sun or blocking sunburn and cooling off in the water where as the night brings extreme cold and getting a campfire ready and/or shelter and bed for the nights which you have to build by chopping down wood from the trees you can find. Also in any survival game of its type, you need to ward off thirst and hunger and procure your own supplies from the animals that you hunt and foliage that Starsand provides such as coconut water, dates etc.
  • Shelter Building Mechanics | There’s something very satisfying about building your own shelter/house by sourcing your own materials, building it from scratch, and making it flourish from the ground up – especially in the desert by an oasis. The mechanics on this are easy to navigate as well; source your materials, get a hammer and build foundations, walls, doors, windows, and steps.
  • Aliens! | Serving as the enemy of Starsand, a combat element to a survival game is always an added benefit and an extra wrinkle and adds to the experience, and also the first sight of an alien got me excited until I realized I had no weaponry then it turned instantly to panic waving my pickaxe around then running frantically to safety. Aliens range from smaller alien bugs to massive monstrosities that you have to fight and overcome.
  • Customized Play | At the start of Starsand, it has a very varied options list of how you would like to play. Ranging from very easy and relaxed with no aliens to combat to extremely difficult with tough aliens to beat and a challenging version of the survival mechanics. For this review, I played Starsand on Medium so I had a mix of everything without Starsand being too hard and being unable to survive for very long. It also has a custom difficulty so if you want the survival elements to be tough but didn’t want any combat. This reviewer certainly appreciated this.

Mixed Feelings

  • Music and Sounds | The music is very basic, with only two ‘tunes’ to the whole game that repeats in between a lengthy silence. They do fit the atmosphere of survival and the desert but it would have been better had there have been a bigger variety of tracks in Starsand. The sounds are clear and slick although this is basic as well with the usual clangs and thumps. It’s simplistic and nothing special.

What we Disliked

  • Tutorial | Sadly the ‘tutorial’ doesn’t help you get into Starsand very well and learn much about its mechanics. The tutorial section is just a set of quest goals and doesn’t teach you how to play Starsand. You have to figure out how to do a lot of stuff within Starsand yourself as there are no waypoint hints to help you at the start and there are not many tips on how to navigate menus. Also, when the menus aren’t the most user-friendly sometimes you need that guide early doors to assist you to get into it. I have died once spending so long trying to figure out how to navigate the menus because Starsand doesn’t assist in this; my character died of cold at night time.
  • Story is lacking | There’s not a lot of story here; the focus is very much on the survival aspect of Starsand and I would have liked it if there were a lot of story-driven quests and a purpose to move on as you survive the terrain. The only bit of narrative you get is after every night’s sleep you get a block of text which is confusing and doesn’t build the story well. Essentially the crux of Starsand is the sandstorm, wake up in an alien land, survive, explore the desert, try and find your way back home and that’s about it. The developers could have done so much more here.
  • Technical Issues | As I played the first few hours of Starsand I experienced framerate drops and, at certain points, Starsand froze entirely to which I had to restart it. One instance of this was before I managed to make a shelter (which is how this game is saved) so I had to restart Starsand entirely.
  • Visuals are basic| The visuals in Starsand are very basic, the menu and crafting screens are difficult to navigate and in my opinion, are quite ugly to look at, the heads-up display is whilst not as ugly they are also very basic. The in-game environment is bland and the visuals aren’t very crisp, there’s no water ripple when you jump into an oasis and the lack of any weather changes (although possibly intended, as it’s a desert environment) other than night or daytime makes the visuals boring and forgettable. 

How long to beat the story | 10 Hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 30 Hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | The Long Dark, Raft


An ok survival game which has clearly been inspired by Dune with the desert theme. Overall, there are other survival survival-type on the market currently that play better overall and are more enjoyable throughout. Personally, I had fun for a few hours (barring the technical issues which were frustrating) but the appeal wore off rather quickly even with the combat element as the alien’s appearances are few and far between.

Gameplay 🎮

A survival game with a sci-fi/action element added. It holds some appeal for a while but the appeal does wear off. It has varying degrees of difficulty when you start the game which allows Starsand to be tailor-made for your game preferences, more action or more exploration-based, or as I chose a nice mixture of the two.

Visuals 🖼️

The look of the aliens is cool in a game such as this but the visuals are not inspiring for the most part and don’t look like it was one of the parts of the game the developers had focused on too much. I would have at least would have liked some realism for example adding water ripples when I jumped in the water or footprints in the sand where I walked.

Sound 🎧

The sounds succeed where the visuals fail in which the sound effects are very clean and add to the immersion of the game, you get water sound effects when you enter the water and the crunching of the sand under your feet is striking. The in-game music could have more variety however and it does leave you bored after a while.

Story 📖

The story in Starsand is also very basic/lacking and whilst the ending part of the game gives an exposition dump, you want the story feeding through as you play the game. A minute-long ‘find yourself in a new place in the desert’ scene at the start and that’s about it for hours as you go exploring.

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