It probably isn’t fair to do this, but I make a lot of my critique about Starbound based on comparison with Terraria. Actually, it’s probably fair in the context of capitalism and competition.
What’s good about Starbound? Where does it stand out? Especially compared to Terraria, I would say that what’s unique about Starbound is the feeling that each world you go to will be a different one, the spirit of exploration.
Or at least, that was the case back when each planet had a limited amount of exciting loot to be found. With the introduction of an actual progression system through a quest line and resource procurement (and the removal of any randomized loot worth caring about), each planet has essentially been reduced to a rock with resources in it. This is not a design choice that is conducive to the exploration of a large universe. By making progression linear and non-random in this manner, you set out a path for the player that consists of progressively more inhospitable rocks, which are only distinguishable from each other by the power levels of their inhabitants.
Starbound never had what Terraria had, with each world demanding investment from the player and rewarding it by continually evolving with player progress. Without that, you even lose some of the base-building typically associated with sandbox games. This brings us to both my weaker critique and my hopes for the future. You are in possession of mobile base, your ship. This sits perfectly well with the theme of exploration. You can’t customize it at all, but you can build a colony on a planet, populate it with NPCs, and set up permanent teleporters to return to your colony whenever you want, effectively making it an extension of your ship. This is actually well-executed enough in my opinion to overlook the wasted potential of the ship itself. Maybe it serves as reminder of the utilitarianism of space travel, I suggest as I fly through the stars in a ship fashioned after a coal locomotive.
What I would like to see developed from this is some sort of incentive to actually construct outposts on planets of different biomes and levels. This could even salvage the linear resource-based progression system by having biome-specific resources on top of level-specific resources. You’ve got automated defense systems; why not have automated resource-collecting systems as well? (I’ve actually already constructed a few of these in the form of fluid converters which can generate massive amounts of fuel on ocean planets.) You instantly multiply the incentive to explore, introduce more incentive to invest in outposts, and make the universe feel more like the web that the starmap portrays it to be, rather than a line of rocks to be plundered.
And you know, maybe that was the plan all along and they haven’t gotten there yet. It’s certainly not out of the question at this point. There’s still something to be said about a lack of content to actually spend resources on, but that’s not for a lack of good decisions.