Review: Void Bastards
I'm a big fan of games that look unique, and Humble Bundle's new sci-fi strategy-shooter called Void Bastards, takes that to a whole new level. I immedietly fell in love with its art style, it was something I had never seen before, and something I knew I'd want to see more of. When mixing a unique art style with strategic and fun gameplay, the results are bound to be spectacular. I've traveled, fought, explored, died, and built as much as possible in-game to get a fair and final opinion of the game. Continue reading to find out more.
Platform: Xbox One S. Introduction The game begins with a short cut-scene where employees of a WCG Orbital Client Processing Center are heard carelessly dismissing the fact that a void ark did not pass its checkpoint, and instead decides to log off and get "rat-arsed", forcing the clients inside the void ark to survive on their own in the Sargasso Nebula, 283 light years away. A quick loading screen after and I'm in-game, trying to find my way out of a ship, equipped with a gun that has no bullets.
I look around and begin to notice that I'm not alone, as the place is occupied with enemies called "Citizens". Avoiding them at all costs, I find some metrics that'll help me unlock a door that's my ticket out of here. Upon entering the door, I'm met with robots that quickly eliminate me. As I'm very confused, I'm informed that the game expected me to die in order for it to introduce me to one of the main concepts: each time I die, I become a new client. Visuals/performance Void Bastards is one of the most creatively gorgeous and unique looking indie games I've ever seen, mixing cel shading graphics with the theme of a comic, resulting in simple yet amazing visuals.
Paired with a native resolution of 1080p, at what feels like a very stable 60fps framerate (though with there existing some small drops at times, mainly due to when there's a lot of explosions on-screen) with loading times that almost do not exists, it can't really look or run any better.
I knew it would be a treat for my eyes to look at, but seeing the game running in real-time really is something else. Cut-scenes are seen as pages like out of a comic, with a neat art design that truly captures the theme of the game, and so does the HUD & menu. The creativity does not stop there, though, as textures and character models all look great, too, despite the heavy cel shading graphics.
The game might look simple, but within simplicity, one can find still find signs of advanced and detailed work. For instance, when shooting with the regulator, detailed 3D shells are ejected, and they even roll around on whatever they land on, for quite some time. Audio design isn't bad either, as weapons, explosions, effects, voice acting, and general audio, are all of high quality sound design. I've yet to see any bugs in the game, as well, so gameplay really is stable. Gameplay At its core, Void Bastards uses a simple concept. The main objective within the game is to venture deeper and deeper into the Sargasso Nebula, made up of mostly ships but also other destinations (and hazards) like spike clusters, zap charges, nuc mines, vending stations, and more, that the client can dock at.
The Nebula has different depths, too, increasing the difficulty the longer I get. To be able to progress, a client needs food & fuel - so every time I picked a destination to move to, one fuel can and sandwich were used. One cool thing about the clients is that they're all different; height, vision, speed, traits, and appearance, all changing the gameplay, both for advantages and disadvantages, in both drastic as well as not so drastic ways. It alters the game in a way where I'm having trouble finding boredom in it.
Once docked at a destination, I'm free to explore the station; fuel, food, material, parts for upgrades, and more, are all things that are vital while searching, but so are either fighting or evading the citizens onboard. Not every station has enemies, though, and all stations differ in terms of what kind of and how many enemies they hold, if the security is turned off, what sort of layout they're of, if rifts are present, what sort of builds/loot they have, and more. During my playthrough, I've had a ton of fun, but there are at least two things I wanted there to be in the game that aren't: more variety in terms of level design & layout, and multiplayer.
The level design/layout isn't bad, it's just that there's too much of the same, as I came across the exact same layout/design multiple times (with some minor changes to them, of course), and while the levels look great, I was expecting there to be a lot more variety (there's about 4-5 different layouts and designs, I think). A game like this would benefit a lot from multiplayer, and yes, I get it, not every game needs it, but Void Bastards indeed would work very well with a co-op mode cause of the nature of it.
A big part of the gameplay consists of building equipment that aids the client in surviving the harsh depths of the Nebula, some can for example increase health, unlock new weapons, increase amount of bullets found within a level, and increase the probability of getting a free authorization. When it comes to enemies, there's a good amount of different types, such as Screws (very tough and big), Spooks (ghost-like enemy that can vanish into thin air, and choke the player from far away),
Tourists (small and slow enemy that explodes when the player gets close), Scribes, Juves (small and fast enemy that enters the level by rifts), Janitors (sort of like a Juve, but taller and bigger), security turrets, and more. I for one really like the way the developers handled the way enemies work, and how many there are. At first, I was having problems progressing, but as I ventured further & further, I began finding it a lot more fun, and the difficulty less challenging due to all the items I built. The game really does become a lot better upon understanding the concept, purpose, and the way certain things work.
A level can be very different to the last level, maybe this one features way more rifts? The next one after that might have disabled security, and one could have less oxygen for you to use. Some levels had no power, so I had to switch it on. There's so much variety - every level will be different, there will be different enemies, exits, loot, layouts, security, hazards, bigger levels, enviroments, as well as more, and I love that, it brings so much more to the table, changing the circumstances all the time.
Strategically planning your route on the Nebula map is very important, since one failure can mean death. Once a client dies, not everything is lost, however, I got to keep my weapons, equipment, builds, and more. Void Bastards is a game I'd pick to play many times, not only cause it's so much fun, but also because it's different than what I, and probably many other gamers tend to choose to play. Story There's not that much of a story, but it's there, and what can be called a story is mostly made up of playing as a client for a long time,
progressing in the task of completing objectives such as the first one where I had to find a citizen card in order to make the Void Ark fully functional again. Once found, though, I had to activate the card, forcing me to venture into the Nebula once more. That's pretty much what the story is of, but throughout it, there is interactions with other people as well, like pirates, serving as the force trying to stop the client from completing its task.
It gives the story and game as a whole, even more variety, and keeps it from getting stale. So, while there isn't much of a story, there is indeed one but it won't come close to some games' story, obviously. All in all I really can appreciate indie games, especially those that make dents in the industry. Void Bastards can be seen as one of those; with its gorgeous, stylish and unique cel shade + comic visuals accompanied by stellar performance, as well as audio design that fits the theme perfectly, there's not a lot of room for improvement except for maybe a multiplayer mode in the form of co-op. While I do like the level design, I was expecting there to be more variety as there's a lot of the same. Gameplay is great, with aspects that stops the game from being boring; crafting, exploration, gunfights, many different enemies, varied circumstances within levels, lengthy campaign, perma-death, different playable clients that change the gameplay, and much more. All of that is the recipe for a very fun and enjoyable game that'll keep gamers occupied & attached for a long time. I've enjoyed every second spent in the game and really do recommend it.
Void Bastards is available digitally and is out right now, for a price tag of $30. If you're a subscriber to Xbox Game Pass, the game is available to download and play for no additional charge. Are you interested in buying the game? That can be done here: Void Bastards - Microsoft Store. A review code was provided by Humble Bundle for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson, and is based on his honest opinion about the game.