Void Bastards isn’t half bad, I’ll give it that much. The game serves itself as a first-person shooter, one that comes with a fairly interesting space-based premise. You’ll take on the role of a randomly selected prisoner that’s unwillingly been sent on a mission to aid the Void Ark; a sizable spacecraft that’s become entangled in the deadly Sargasso Nebula. The Sargasso Nebula is a perilous waste, one that’s chock-full of danger and opportunity of equal measure, and it falls to you to raid, kill, and plunder to bolster you chances of survival.
The game’s space-map is relatively big, and it’s here where you’ll decide where to go and what to do. The Sargasso Nebula has several depths, with each depth proving more deadly than the last; harsher enemies, larger vessels, and so forth. This map is served as an interconnected web of wasted vessels and abandoned wares. You’ll need resources to move through it, namely the food and fuel gathered from your journey so far. Every move costs one of each, so it pays off to ensure that you’re stocked up before you make any jumps.
Should you attempt movement without the required resources, you’ll suffer for it. Making a jump without food will slowly chip away at your health, whereas making a jump without any fuel will see your journey taking a lot longer than it should – consuming more food than normal. Thankfully, the amount of food and fuel you can pick up on your journey is usually substantial, so this rarely ever becomes an issue. That being said, there’s more to the Sargasso Nebula than meets the eye, and things tend to get more hectic deeper in.
Space pirates patrol the Sargasso Nebula too, and will pursue you if you cross their path. If that happens, they’ll dock at whatever vessel you dock at next, and will then rush at you to take you down. On top of that, you’ll contend with the likes of wormholes, DNA-altering space beings, minefields, and more besides. You’re always in control of where you go, so you can indeed attempt to avoid these dangers for the most part. Though, pirates and beings roam the Sargasso Nebula too, meaning there’s always a chance your paths will cross.
The map does a good job at telling you what each vessel houses, ensuring that you have some flexibility as far as choice is concerned. This is further compounded by the fact that you typically always have more than one route you can take. Do you dock at a vessel that’s deadlier than the alternative, but offers greater reward? Or, do you take the easy road and settle for a handful of wares? Wares will vary from vessel to vessel; some housing more fuel and food than others, and others housing more ammo and resources on the flip-side.
On top of this, vessel shape and size will also constantly vary, as will their mechanics; some vessels seeing enemies with half health, some with improved oxygen supplies, some with disabled security, and, well, you get the idea. You can always take a break and rest on the spot to replenish your health, but this comes at the expense of spending food, making it very risk-vs-reward. Your role throughout all of this is to escape the Sargasso Nebula, and to do that, you’ll need to locate some specific resources to craft a small range of key items.
The game always tells you where these objective points are, but to reach them, you’ll need to dive deep into the Sargasso Nebula. That, ladies and gents, becomes the crux of play. You’ll find your objective markers, and move towards them as you raid vessels to keep up your stats along the way. You’ll also find your crafting markers via the space-map too, but we’ll touch up on the game’s crafting system shortly. Once you’ve selected a vessel to dive to, you’ll select your loadout and then be thrown straight on board, in first-person view.
Now, I would highly advise moving straight to the options menu if you notice any screen-tearing. I had a heap of it to begin with. That was, until I turned on vsync in the graphics menu. Doing that completely alleviated this problem. You can also adjust a bunch of additional settings here too; on the fly difficulty, some audio options, and the ability to fine-tune your controller’s feedback. Void Bastards is a very accessible game to pick up and play, especially as far as the game’s handling is concerned. Everything is well set and mapped.
The game handles like any bog-standard FPS; movement and aim achieved through the thumbsticks, running and firing via the triggers, weapon toggling via the bumpers, and jumping, crouching, reloading, and action, is utilized through the face buttons. Like I said, nice and simple. Once you’re on board a vessel, you can return to your own vessel at any given time through accessing the entry/exit point that you used in the first place. The kicker, however, is that once you leave a vessel, you cant dive back on in, you can only move on.
Whatever the case, once you’re in a vessel, you’ll be free to explore and loot until your heart’s content. Now, as alluded to above, vessel functionality will vary on a regular basis. This forces some change as to how the game is played. One example being that you may come across a vessel that’s completely shut down and will need to access its generator before you can loot it. This puts you in some considerable danger too, being that most doors are left open, allowing enemies to flood you and then overpower you at the drop of a hat.
It’s important to power a vessel’s generator whenever you find one that’s inactive. Doing so will allow you to interact with its stations; oxygen tanks, radiation protection, the aforementioned loot deposits, and so forth. The most helpful aid in a vessel is found in the helm – offering a map that you can download to chart loot and enemy placement. You’re rarely told what loot you’re getting until you pick it up, and looting itself is painfully straightforward. You’ll simply stand in front of a object to loot, and press the A button.
Sadly, this is where Void Bastards starts to fall apart. You see, whilst its surprisingly interesting to begin with, you soon realize that all you’re doing is killing, looting, killing, and looting. The loop gets far too repetitive, far too quickly. Furthermore, there’s just not enough depth and variation present as far as exploration is concerned. I found that after just a few hours, each vessel came across too samey-samey. I grew quite bored quite quickly of charting the same ship type, over and over again, with very little change present to soak up.
Granted, the shape and size of a vessel will change regularly, but that’s about as far as the change goes. Once you’ve seen a generator room, you’ve seen them all. Once you’ve seen a helm, you’ve seen them all. Once you’ve seen a dining hall, you’ve seen them all. It doesn’t help matters that you’ll see pretty much every room type early on, making for a game that tends to show you all of its tricks from the get-go, and then expects you to be content with that for hours on end. On top of that, the game’s gunplay is inconsistent and unsatisfying.
There doesn’t appear to be an accurate hit detection system present. Sure, you’ll cause more damage shooting at an enemy’s head, but, why the hell are you causing damage when you’re clearly shooting over their shoulders? It’s not at all as refined as it could have been. Then there’s the enemies themselves. There’s not a great deal of variation present here, again, paving the way for repetition. Most enemies are dull, predictable, and far too easy to circumvent. Hell, even the tougher of enemies don’t pose much of a threat later on in.
You can deploy cheap tactics for the most part; popping off shots from a distance, trapping them in rooms, and breaking their line of sight to outrun them, to name a few. Void Bastards does try to be creative by offering up the occasional mechanic to make use of, such as sucking enemies out of space via a vacuum, or frying them in a heater, but much like the above, it all runs dry once you’ve done it once or twice. The absence of decent gunplay and smart AI removes the strategic sense of play that the game promises, which is a big shame.
Nevertheless, that’s all you’ll be doing here. Hopping from vessel to vessel, scavenging goods, slowly making progression towards your objectives; rinse and repeat. The game does come with a crafting system, and it’s here in which you’ll find access to more weapons and improved capabilities. You’ll craft items based on the materials that you scavenge along your journey; weaponry, gear, item locators, and much more besides. To the game’s credit, there’s a hell of a lot to build, and a lot of tools that will give you an edge throughout play.
Due to the crafting system, it becomes necessary to plunder each ship as best you can. Whilst you can indeed simply scavenge some food and fuel and haul ass back to your vessel, you’ll be missing out on some useful abilities and items. The warp drive, for example, allows you to jump a large amount of space across the Sargasso Nebula, giving you the ability to bypass any immediate encounters. There’s more aid on top of this, of course, but much of it can only be accessed if you put in the time. Question being, do you have the patience?
Speaking of patience, the game is clearly designed for repeat runs. The game’s achievements task you with completing the game in a set amount of ways, but for me, I highly doubt that I’ll be returning for another trip. Had the developer spent more time focusing on variation, and had the developer made the gunplay a lot more satisfying than it is, I might have been swayed to the contrary. Though, as it stands, for me at least, this is a once and done affair. Nothing more, and nothing less. Make of that what you will folks.
Whenever you bite the proverbial dust, all is not lost. Instead, your prisoner’s wares and weaponry are left in place, and a new prisoner is selected at random to pick up where their predecessor failed. Essentially, this means that your lives are infinite, but there’s a neat twist. Each prisoner houses their own pros and cons, throwing a thin layer of added depth into the mix as a result. Granted, these character-specific traits that you’re constantly dealt with are actually quite minimal, but they make for a notable experience all the same.
Upon each respawn, traits are explained to you, you’re given a small band of wares, and then set off on your way. It’s important to pay attention to your traits. These can aid you every bit as much as they can impede you. For instance, one prisoner of mine had the handy capability of avoiding the likelihood of space pirates pursuing my vessel, but, on the flip side, he was unable to identify what enemy types resided in the vessels that I needed to plunder. There are more traits besides, all of which (that I’ve come across) are quite interesting.
When all is said and done, Void Bastards is a serviceable FPS, not a great one. I commend the developer’s vision here, but I’m not convinced that it has panned out as well as expected. The game’s description boasts a 12-15 hour campaign, one that’s tactical and tense. I managed to run this through in half that time (albeit on easy) and never felt the need to play smart or carefully. I don’t regret the time I’ve put in, and I wont deny that I’ve had some fun, but the end result is far from the lofty, somewhat ambitious claims made.
Whilst its not the best looking game out there, I did quite enjoy the comic book-esque presentation and its defined characteristics – ultimately allowing for the constant humor to pull through. The game packs quite a bit of detail when it wants to, it’s just a shame that there’s not much diversity. Touching up on the audio front, Void Bastards sounds okay across the board. The bottom line in all of this? Don’t set your expectation too high and you’ll be fine. Come into this expecting anything deep, and you’re bound to be disappointed.
Void Bastards is a serviceable first-person shooter, at best. Whilst intriguing, initially exciting, and quite deep as far as its crafting goes, the game’s lack of play depth and environmental variation makes for a very repetitive trek overall. On top of that, its unrefined combat and its lackluster AI proves to be a further hindrance throughout. Still, there’s certainly some fun to had in this loot-fueled space romp, it’s just very fleeting.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.