Reviews

Void Bastards (Review)

When it comes to the things I post here I tend to avoid using much profanity as best I can but with a title such as Void Bastards I think it best to just throw that plan right out of one of the game’s airlocks. I’m having enough of a good time seeing people’s reactions when I tell them what I’m playing that I can’t stop saying it.

How to describe VOID BASTARDS (!) from a game perspective? Well… take FTL and make it a first person shooter then tweak it further with the upgrades and progression of a game like Dead Cells and that might cover half of it. Developer Blue Manchu’s game takes the mechanics of Roguelikes with their use of procedural generation and random elements and applies it to a shooter that can be played in bite sized chunks.

The comic book style cinematics are used to great effect.

Your character is a prisoner who is conscripted into running missions on the ships that you encounter during your travels. Items collected will allow you to construct and upgrade gear to help you get further and be a more formidable fighter. Eventually your character will run out of resources (usually your own health) and die only to be replaced by another prisoner who is assigned the task of carrying on from where you left off.

A nice touch is that these random characters you’re using have their own quirks that add small wrinkles to using them – it might be as simple as ensuring you’ll always find some food in a dining area to having a smoker’s cough that can be heard by enemies. How that impacts your time with them will depend on the missions and enemies you face. Don’t expect to be attached to any single character for long as you will die a lot early on in your time with the game.

Accept this as fact in the beginning and you’ll be fine…

Before you board a ship (undertaking a mission) you have to choose what weapons and tools you take with you. As you play you’re hopefully accumulating enough resources and parts to be crafting new items or upgrading old ones to add to your collection so soon enough you’ll be mowing down the occasionally hapless occupants. You start off with a pistol but can soon get your hands on more effective weapons. Everything has limited ammunition so being familiar with them all may be necessary when your favourite gun runs empty.

So you can see that gathering resources is key even if it may not feel necessary for your ultimate success. For every jump to a new location you’ll consume food and fuel, potentially ammunition too, so when you are running low you find yourself deciding whether to risk exploring the rest of the ship to help restock or save yourself for the next destination. And once again that risk/reward factor will play out as you have to decide whether to board the next ship or skip it and lose it in favour of finding a ship with what you need.

Home is just an airlock door away…

The cel shaded art style that is used here in Void Bastards is excellent. The limited colour palette in use really does invoke an old school comic book feel and this is consistent throughout all aspects of the game. Though the environments are polygonal the enemies are 3D sprites (think DOOM but way more pixels) and don’t feel out of place at all thanks to the high level of detail that’s in them. It’s silly but one area that made me smile was the first time I visited my first shop which consisted of nothing but a small grotty space filled with vending machines and a dirty toilet. That pretty much confirmed the mood the game was aiming for and I was fine with it. 🙂

I’m no expert in the area of comics but the look does make me think of material such as from 2000AD and the British influence continues elsewhere too. The game is not subtle on the audio front with narration during your successes and failures and enemies who like to tell you what they REALLY think of you. Kids playing this might learn a few choice words here. 😉

A medical ship is likely to have something to help you heal up.

The ship layouts in the game (see the map screen image as an example) make logical sense and that’s useful in planning your missions. So you can expect that an engine room usually has a big machine in the middle of it, maybe fuel too whilst a dining area is likely to have food, etc. Some ships may even be in a state of shutdown that requires you to power them up to activate the doors and allow you to leave. At least from what I’ve seen so far no single ship is going to overload you with objectives so the only way you’ll be overwhelmed is perhaps by the enemies you’re trying to shoot. And if it becomes too much you can escape back to your ship via the airlock as long as the ship is powered.

I’m liking my time playing Void Bastards. It provides a fun pick up and play experience which I appreciate and it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. And with the steady progression from the beginning there is always the feeling of you moving forward which helps a lot in making you come back for more.

Void Bastards is out now on PC and Xbox One. Played on an Xbox One X via Game Pass.

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