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Monday, May 20, 2024

Core Keeper’s desert biome is brutal, but the new go-karts keep things cool

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Core Keeper, the early access survival sandbox, just added a whole bunch of sand. The Desert of Beginnings update is its biggest yet, adding a new desert biome, a magma-themed sub-biome, lots of new craftable gear, two bosses, and best yet, a fun new way to get around in the world.

Oh, and there’s a new bazooka, and this one doesn’t shoot grubs. It shoots, like, actual explosives. That’s a big plus.

Something I’ve always been impressed with is how Core Keeper, which takes place entirely underground, still mostly manages to avoid feeling claustrophobic. I spend plenty of time digging narrow passages through rock and clay walls, sometimes finding horrible wriggly creatures buried deep in the darkness, but there are also lots of wide open areas that feel they could just as easily be outdoors with nothing but blue sky above. Especially when I’m safe at my home base, with a crop of chunky vegetables growing nearby and warm torchlight illuminating the cave, I feel like I might be in Stardew Valley rather than trapped deep beneath the earth’s crust.

I got to play a build of the new update this week, and I’m happy to say The Desert of Beginnings continues that trend. Parts of the desert are so big and wide and well-lit that I don’t feel like I’m underground at all, though there are still plenty of rocky walls and pockets of caverns that need to be tunneled through. I didn’t have much time to admire my surroundings, though—even decked out in some sturdy new Galaxite armor I kinda got my ass kicked. The desert is home to some big flying bugs and whatever the desert version of cavelings are called. They’re fast, they attack from range, and they pack a surprisingly big wallop.

Luckily there are new weapons to fight back with, my favorite being the Galaxite chakram, a metal hoop I can fling like a deadly frisbee almost three times per second. There’s also the bazooka I mentioned, called a Burnzooka, that blows up enemies, rocks, walls, and just about anything it hits. And you can build stationary defenses, like Galaxite turrets, which will fire energy bolts at enemies provided you’ve hooked them up to a source of electricity. Unfortunately they only fire in a single direction, and take a moment to register a target has passed in front of them, so I think they might be best used as part of a defensive structure at a base and not just plopped down at random in the world (which is how I used them).

Best of all, the update has a fun new way to get around. I’ve already got minecart tracks running all throughout my world, capable of quick trips from my base to the outer reaches of the map, and the Sunken Sea update added craftable boats to navigate the underground oceans. When I heard the desert update would have new transportation options, my uninformed guesses were (in this order): Dune buggy? Sand sailboat? Worm-riding?

I was closest with my first guess (I still sorta want to ride a worm, though) because players can build a new workbench to construct go-karts. I had a little test-drive of two of them, and they’re pretty awesome to get around om. One, the Speeder, is hot-rod red and has a higher top speed than the others, with the drawback being it doesn’t accelerate as quickly. The other, called the Renegade, has better handling and acceleration but a lower top speed. They’re both a huge amount of fun to drive, and real hoot for avoiding or teasing your enemies.

You can also just drive over stuff like plants and harvest their resources without having to stop, though I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t seem to ram into monsters and kill them. You also can’t jump out while the car is moving, so keep that in mind while you’re spinning donuts in the desert and a mob starts charging you.

I won’t say much about the update’s two new bosses, other than I met both of them and I died moments later, before I’d even begun chipping away at their massive HP bars. One of the new bosses won’t be much of a surprise to veteran players—let’s just say there’s a particular Core Keeper boss archetype that has appeared a few times now, and this boss belongs to the same family, though with a few new tricks up its sleeve. 

The other boss, the big boss, I barely even got a look at before I perished with a yelp and left a tiny glowing gravestone. You can catch a glimpse of it about midway through the launch trailer above, and I held out maybe two seconds longer than that clip. Luckily, like some of Core Keeper’s tougher bosses, it has to be summoned in a very specific way so you won’t just blunder into it. I’d suggest, if possible, bringing some friends along to help you kill it. As many as you can.

Core Keeper’s Desert of Beginnings update is free, and if I’ve timed this story right, it can be downloaded right now on Steam. Enjoy the heat.

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