Scavenging for content
First-person shooters are often very generic in this day and age. So when a new one comes out of the woodwork with a promise of incorporating a unique art style with comedy and an atmosphere of intensity, as well as an interesting premise and setting, it would be fair to say my interest is piqued. Void Bastards made these promises, and it executed them with a series of hits and overarching misses.
…it has a genuinely fantastic and crisp comic book-esque art style…
During my time with the game, I found a fair amount of enjoyment to be had. For an FPS the gameplay is very good, bordering on great, with lots of weapon variation and options for approaching combat. Most levels offer an impressive level of intensity from the constant pressure of depleting oxygen and loud enemy footsteps, and it has a genuinely fantastic and crisp comic book-esque art style filled with clean textures and exclamations in bold text. However, what is by most accounts an enjoyable experience is held back by a woefully repetitive mission structure and gameplay loop.
The whole experience is built around the idea of navigating an overworld style map of stranded spaceships, picking out the ones that contain items you need, then boarding and looting said ships. The missions have you do this several times over until the end of the game, never offering anything more.
Each ship is randomly generated with different challenges and bonuses.
There are different types of ships at which players can land. Some harbour healing machines to top up your health, some have casinos onboard, and some have large open areas in the centre where you can summon supply ships to stock up your fuel and food. Besides the material benefits of the different ship classes, they mostly just offer an aesthetic difference. Each ship is randomly generated with different challenges and bonuses. Some may have more food, some may have more enemies. Anything from all the lights being out to having the whole ship be on fire. It sounds like a lot of variation but the gameplay loop is always the same; loot everything and leave.
It helps that the combat keeps the experience mostly enjoyable. There are different kinds of enemies both organic and robotic. Citizens such as scribes and patients will run around shooting at you while making almost-funny remarks like “surprise buttface!”, while each ship’s security system has automated turrets and security cameras in your way. There are different ways of dealing with each of these; some weapons stun enemies giving you an opening to shoot at them without getting your own face blown off, and there is a fair supply of varying grenade types which are useful for throwing in a room full of enemies and locking the door (a particular strategy I had a lot of fun executing).
If you aren’t careful you’ll end up being chased onto a ship by pirates which does ramp up the intensity…
Weapons are all crafted from different parts you’ve scavenged, and the rate at which you can craft new weapons and upgrades does feel rapid enough to keep the gameplay from going as stale as the mission structure. If you aren’t careful you’ll end up being chased onto a ship by pirates which does ramp up the intensity and can be the end of you if you aren’t well enough equipped. Should you meet an unfortunate end, you’ll respawn as a new character with a new starting ability (an incremental bonus such as better accuracy), you’ll have to find another ship with the part you’re looking for but you’ll retain the weapons and upgrades you had before, which is a nice consolation.
As for why you’re doing all of this? It’s never explained in much depth but the idea is that you’re a band of space criminals on a transport ship that has been destroyed, and you have to find the parts to fix it. That’s it really. The game is a series of fetch quests, one after the other, made bearable by its popping comic book art style, enjoyable gameplay, and slightly humourous commentary from that guy who played the narrator in The Stanley Parable. It rarely feels like what you’re doing has purpose, going round and round the same loop again and again. This is a game that could be enjoyed in short bursts where the repetitive nature isn’t quite as apparent, because there is a solid game here underneath its one gaping issue, but if you’re looking for something to binge in two or three sessions, you might bore quickly.
Yes, if you:
- Enjoy looting
- Like clean-cut, comic book inspired visuals
- Are looking for something a bit different in the FPS genre
No, if you:
- Don’t enjoy tense moments
- Can’t stand repetitive gameplay
- Aren’t a fan of the narrator from The Stanley Parable
Void Bastards released on May 29th, 2019 and is available on PC and Xbox One.
Note: Cannonicity received a copy of Void Bastards in exchange for a fair and honest review.