I blame myself sometimes. I find a game that I can see the good in. Yet try as I might, I cannot get into it. This was the case with Void Bastards for quite some time.
In all honesty, it didn’t help I had so many other games to play, so had an excuse to push it back, but never found a way back in. But I took a code in good faith and have to push through so it can be reviewed. Whether that review is good or bad.
With Void Bastards, I am glad I got over that mental barrier, because I found a very enjoyable game that offered a different enough experience to the usual roguelikes. For sure it had many of the same trappings, but it managed to also feel fresh in its approach.
The concept is simple enough. Make your way across space by going from vessel to vessel, boarding and scavenging. Use what you scavenge to improve your build to go further and stay alive longer. Once on board you’ll encounter a variety of goodies and encounters and you’ll need to be prepared to work through each new place you dock to get the most from it.
There is a point to all this or course. You wake up aboard the VOID Ark having been woken by your guide for the game B.A.C.S. Who needs you to do his bidding. The story in fairness isn’t great and was largely forgettable. Which is a shame, because the humour throughout is pretty good.
B.A.C.S has a personality, because y’know, all A.I in the future has a personality. But that personality does bring a charm, which helps as you’ll be hearing it a lot. Through tutorials early on, right through the entire game.
The meat of the Void Bastards comes in two main areas. First up is the overworld navigation, which sees you plot a route through space, as mentioned previously. You’ll use fuel and food with each move and when the food it used up, you’ll start losing health. Health which carries through to the other main part of the game (which I’ll get to shortly).
So as you scavenge each ship you decide to dock on, you’ll need a mix of supplies to provide food and fuel. You’ll also need to find parts and materials that you can use to craft more useful items. Both for your missions on ships and for the benefit of B.A.C.S overall goal.
There is nothing ground-breaking here and if you’ve played anything like FTL, Convoy, Stallaris, One Step From Eden, etc. You’ll get the idea. It works and works well and that is the most important thing. The menus are clear and is readable in docked mode.
The bit that I really liked though was the First-Person action as you move through each ship. You’ll be equipped with a main and secondary weapon and find yourself uncovering the secrets hidden on each ship as you loot as much as you can.
What I found interesting was the amount of enemies you’ll encounter on any single trip. You’re not bombarded from all angles at all times, instead you’ll work through but always be on tenterhooks waiting for one to pop out and try and take you down.
There is no overall pattern of what you’ll find, which adds to the stress levels and constantly keeps you on edge. Yet there is more than just enemies to worry about. You’ll need to try get as much as you can from the ship, all whilst only having a set amount of oxygen. When that starts to deplete, the panic can start to set in.
Ammo is finite too and I found it difficult to manage this properly for large parts of the game, often then trying to move about avoiding contact as best as possible. Yes different weapons offer different benefits, but there is always the understanding you could end up screwed if not careful.
However, you don’t have to just rely on your weapons, as it is possible to get through without engaging an enemy at all, if you plan carefully enough. You can also use the ships themselves against enemies, by manipulating the various control panels you happen across.
Plan as you might though, there can be moments where you need to detour from you original goal and go for something else. Moving from scavenging bio materials, to instead going for power, or fuel and getting the hell out of dodge.
One fear I had, was the gameplay loop would get too repetitive. Instead though, there was enough variation in each new location I always looked forward to seeing what would come next.
I mentioned early that this is a roguelike and that comes from the fact you’ll die a lot. You aboard the Void Ark that is carrying numerous prisoners on the journey and it is clear early (from the opening scene in fact) that you’ll die a lot.
You die in the opening moments and the game makes you aware that there is a near endless supply of other ‘volunteers’ to step up and be the next you. With this, anything you have already crafted is kept, but any other supplies are lost and need to be scavenged from scratch.
The risk reward balance works pretty well and kept me interested for most the 15-20 hours it took me to play through the game. Once finished though, I felt no real desire to play through again. It really is a one and done game. That shouldn’t be something to put you off, as there is definitely room for a game like that.
Don’t get me wrong, to be able to go back in and just do mini runs would be welcome, but the story just does nothing for me. It isn’t interesting enough to warrant a second play through and I could have actually enjoyed the game as much without it. It isn’t poor, it is just bang average.
Anyway, I don’t want to finish this review on a downer, as on the whole Void Bastards is a fine experience, which I enjoyed my time with and can happily recommend. It did take me a while to warm to it, but I am glad I did.
Code provided by Humble Bundle for review