Void Bastards (5)

Space, the final frontier. Impossibly vast, home to physics-defying phenomena…and filled with bastards. In Void bastards, there’s no shortage of danger in the cosmos as you find yourself tasked with exploring derelict vessels that litter a graveyard of poor choices, roving bands of pirates and globs of the most polite explosive tourists that you could hope to encounter in a hostile universe.

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How do you survive a heist in space when every corridor threatens to end you? How do you cope with pirates, automated sentries and surly teenagers who are happy to hurl laser-tinted insults at your face? With strategy, preparedness and a little bit of luck in Void Bastards. Well, a lot of luck. On the surface, Void Bastards is easy enough to understand.

It’s a blend of genres, mixing roguelike elements with traditional first-person mechanics and a touch of dry British wit, creating a product that can best be described as what would happen if 2000AD mashed its molecules together with System Shock. It’s you alone on a seemingly abandoned freighter, fending off cruel British life-forms and dealing with an even harsher corporate entity that instructs you to retrieve parts from a dangerous nebula whose menace only grows the further you descend into it.

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Every ship you enter is randomly generated, hiding some of the most lucrative treasure that space can offer a prisoner tasked with assembling spare parts into working mechanisms so that he can shave days off of his life sentence for committing the pettiest of crimes: Fuel, sandwiches and assorted bric-a-brac. While each ship is randomly generated, so too are the conditions of the interior of each vessel.

Some abandoned spacecraft may have the dodgiest power supply this side of the Horsehead Nebula, others may interfere with your navigation systems and some ships may be crawling with vermin. This is where Void Bastards tasks you with finding your groove: Scavenging for supplies so that you can survive another jump towards your objective, uncovering parts to upgrade your arsenal and generally surviving an assault of disgruntled Chavs who are gunning for you.

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Finding those precious resources, downloading maps and surviving the obstacles in front of you are just some of the hazards you have to contend with, but at least your prisoner has a few tricks up his or her sleeve. A gun is always handy for those encounters where fight or flight instincts kick in, doors can be locked so that you can cordon off sections of a spaceship and the more you explore, the more weapons you can build to help you survive a skirmish.

How you approach each ship, is up to you. In the beginning, your handgun is nothing more than a peashooter but one that can be upgraded to dish out more damage. Or better yet, you can scavenge for parts to build a shotgun that fires office supplies, leave hallways booby-trapped with mines or even develop your own personal matter-displacement gun. Why waste dozens of bullets on a tough-as-nails Screw roaming a ship, when you can zap that sucker into a pocket universe and then deposit them into an airlock later.

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Even with a knack for gathering parts, building nifty gadgets and outsmarting the alien opposition, you’re going to die. Your demise might come from a lapse in judgement, wandering into a room filled with Janitors who violently demand to know if you’re Gary or pure bravado when you think you can take on the impossible. Maybe you’ll run out of oxygen, maybe a cosmic horror will end your existence or you’ll slowly starve to death as you drift through the warp lanes between ships.

Much like how life itself is terminal, it’s going to be okay.

Void Bastards has no shortage of unwilling prisoners for you to inhabit, with each inmate having their own particular set of quirks that can help or hinder you. Maybe you’re stuck playing as a serial advertising executive who has literal tunnel vision, maybe you’re piloting a convict who can hack doors at twice the speed of a regular character. When you find that one character who suits your style of play though, and you really start digging into Void Bastard’s merciless venture into the unknown? That’s when the game doesn’t just click, it shines.

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It becomes an addictive groove of cosmic scavenging, survival by the skin of your teeth and using your environment to your advantage. It’s also one of the prettiest games on the market, and that’s without even a hint of ray tracing on display. Instead, Void Bastards keeps its visuals simple, crisp and fresh. Cel-shading technology and a heavy artistic influence make for a game that looks like a comic book along the lines of Rogue Trooper or a Jack Kirby explosion of solid shapes and bold lines, giving Void Bastards a character that few games possess these days.

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It’s hard to find any fault with Void Bastards though because it embraces the kind of game that it wants to be. It’s a niche title that merges several genres together, but it excels within its narrow sphere of inspiration that genre fans will truly appreciate. It simply is what it is, and it makes no bones about wanting to be anything more than a tense and quirky roguelike game where every death is a lesson that you learn from, your untimely demise feeding into a cycle of gathered resources that paves the way for your next stab at successfully escaping the Sargasso Nebula.

Last Updated: May 28, 2019

Void Bastards
Void Bastards is many things when you get your hands on it, but the most important influences that it draws from all combine to form a game that feels uniquely witty, addictively compelling and satisfyingly deep to explore thanks to tight gameplay, a colourful comic book visuals and a style all of its own.
8.0
Void Bastards was reviewed on Xbox One
75 / 100

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