With inspirations such as BioShock and System Shock 2, Void Bastards has a lot to live up to. Jonathan Chey is an industry veteran who worked on both of those games and, with his studio Blue Manchu, he's looking to expand his pedigree further with this unique comic book-styled roguelike shooter. I had high hopes that Void Bastards would end up to be a blast, and I'm glad to say that it has surpassed my expectations.
In Void Bastards, you take the role as a prisoner stuck in the Sargasso Nebula. Your objective is to ultimately escape and gain your freedom. At least, this is what I could gather from the few story cutscenes. It wasn't entirely clear what your purpose was, but I admit each scene was beautifully rendered as if it was on the pages of a comic book. The prisoner you control collects various parts and junk found within derelict ships scattered throughout the Sargasso. The plot only develops once you collect the pieces required to create a story-centered item. The items serve no purpose afterward. Still, these two issues would have been a larger problem if the gameplay of Void Bastards wasn't so damn good.
Randomization Runs Rampant in Void Bastards
Void Bastards' gameplay is an assemblage of genres. There are first-person shooter, roguelike, and strategy elements, all blending together seamlessly into one wild experience. To start with, you don't play a singular prisoner the entire time. When you die, a new prisoner takes your place. These characters have randomized traits like Rogue Legacy. Some of these traits can be good, others can be bad. For example, one time I had a character that suffered from severe dwarfism, which actually helped out. Enemies couldn't hit me as well and I could sneak around like a professional burglar. Other traits aren't so helpful. Another time, I played a smoker who would cough loudly every once in a while. This alerts nearby enemies.
Randomized traits assured that I had an interesting playthrough, no matter how many times I died. Equally interesting are ships that you travel to. Like prisoners, ships are randomized as well. The ships you travel to in order to collect parts for the story and gather supplies all have randomized layouts and different enemy positions. Ships also have traits too. One ship I encountered was completely dark, so my vision was severely impacted. Another ship had fires everywhere, making my job much more difficult.
You'll be flying to a lot of ships. Your own little vessel, the S.T.E.V, needs gas, and your prisoner requires food. Your prisoner also needs supplies to upgrade your ever-expanding arsenal of guns and gadgets. This portion of the game plays out like FTL. You jump from point to point. You can land on a ship if you want, or you can go on your way looking for something different. Each ship I encounter is different. I experienced new things every hour of play up until I finally beat the game. Because of this, Void Bastards never feels repetitive.
Progression and Upgrades in Void Bastards
There is a strong system of progression in Void Bastards as well. You can find materials on a ship to craft new parts or find an entire part without the need to craft it with raw materials. Parts make new weapons and gadgets. The variety of items here is fantastic. Guns are typical once you figure out that one is a pistol, another a shotgun, a rocket launcher, and so forth. Where Void Bastards' genius really shines are the gadgets. My favorite item was a taser which stuns enemies and severely impairs robotic foes. Another useful item was a cat robot that wheeled around, distracting enemies. Eventually, it would explode, dealing damage in a radius.
If you prefer sneakier approaches, one gun shoots out silent spikes that gradually diminish an enemy's health. There is a lot of variety, which means that there are many different ways to approach each situation. It's impressive that different enemies were susceptible to different items, which is something Void Bastards doesn't tell you. The encouragement is there to experiment and discover these quirks on your own.
Void Bastards' Comic Book Action
Speaking of foes, there is an adequate variety of alien-like beings to encounter. Eventually, you'll have an answer in your arsenal for every occasion and enemy. Some enemies are these blob-like aliens that explode when you kill them. It's best to stay far away from these unless you want to lose a huge chunk of health. Using the spike gun didn't alert them and I could wait for them to die in a few seconds after shooting it. Another enemy holds up a very annoying shield which deflects any bullet or projectile. With a grenade, I was able to lob it behind these enemies and damage them from behind. Combat is simply a blast. With randomized ship layouts and traits along with these mutated adversaries, there never seems to be a dull moment in Void Bastards.
The gameplay is excellent, but the art direction of Void Bastards blows everything else out of the water. If you thought Borderlands' art style looked like a comic book, think again. The world of Void Bastards is a literal comic book come to life. Throughout my entire experience, I was constantly taken away by how good it looked. Each ship has so much character and is fun to explore. Weapon models are exceptionally creative and quirky, too.
Going Panel by Panel in Void Bastards
I have only one issue with the visuals, and that is the menu design. It's a little confusing at first because the menus outside of combat are in comic book panels. A lot of the text is too small and it looks a little cluttered. But with how well the game plays, this feels like nitpicking. It's a shame that my experience ended so soon, too. I see a lot of replayability with Void Bastards, but there is no post-game progression. You can either start a new save file or begin your old one before the event where you complete your game. At least this allows you to continue upgrading and exploring. After around 7 hours on the normal difficulty, I was able to reach the end. Still, I look forward to unlocking every upgrade and achievement on higher difficulties.
Void Bastards is a marvelous accomplishment. It's such a treat to the eyes and it has me coming back for more and more. Void Bastards is possibly the most fun experience I've had this year, and there are a lot of heavy hitters in 2019. Although the year always feels jam-packed with heavy-hitting titles, this is not a game you want to miss out on.
TechRaptor reviewed Void Bastards on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One.
- Incredible Comic Book Visuals
- Strong Progression System
- Great Combat and Enemies
- Interesting and Well-Designed Ships
- Lackluster Story and No True Post-Game
- Relatively Short