Channelling the spirit of Doom and the facetious anti-corporate humour of the Borderlands series, wrapped in a bold comic book art style, with FTL style navigation, Void Bastards is the roguelike I didn’t know I wanted.
Having recently had to battle through the bureaucratic hell that is the HMRC, the humour in Void Bastards really appealed to me. The premise is that you are one of millions of dehydrated prisoners aboard a penal ship that has been ransacked by pirates. The ship-board AI then rehydrates you by opening your packet, pouring you into a smaller ship and dousing you with water. It is then your task to go and find the missing pieces by fighting and looting your way through a nebula sized ship graveyard filled with mysterious “citizens”, turrets, radiation leaks, and other hazards.
As you progress through the nebula, you collect various bits of trash that can be used to craft parts which can then be turned into useful items like stapler shotguns, robotic cats, banger grenades, trainers, and subsidies for ammo and travel.
Each ship, similar to Borderlands, has its own corporate feel and determines what sort of items you’re most likely to find. Some ships have therapy rooms which allow you to take on a new trait or remove a negative one, some have large fuel tanks, others have restaurants where you can blag some sandwiches. Planning your route based on what sort of ships are coming up gives Void Bastards a decent strategic element.
As you progress deeper into the nebula, the threats become more threatening not just on the ships but on the map as well. Pirates, Nuc-mines, space whales, and more move around the map, forcing a tactical re-route to avoid them or the use of torpedoes to get past.
Like FTL each jump takes fuel (and food) and running out of either can see your health and resources drop drastically. Forcing you to dock at potentially horrendous spaceships to restock.
Before you dock, you are given a rough idea of what’s on the ship in terms of items/parts, enemies, and any special circumstances like “no power” or “infighting”. After that, the ship randomly generates a ‘dungeon’ style layout of rooms connected by doors. With your O2 supply determines how long you can stay on-board.
While the game presents itself in a similar manner to old-school FPS games like Doom or System Shock, Void Bastards does require a level of stealth as ammo can be difficult to come by. As you make your way around the ship, the ‘sounds’ of enemies moving around will be displayed as floating words by the door closest to where they are.
And this mash-up of resource management, stealth, timed looting, and old-school FPS shooting makes for a really engaging game. Especially when you’re running low on ammo, desperately need fuel from their tanks, and have the smoker trait which causes you to occasionally cough, alerting enemies in nearby rooms.
I only had access to the demo which prevents crafting of certain mission items meaning I never got past the second objective. But in that time, the only downside I can really see is that some of the enemies have repetitive dialogue which can break the immersion and make the experience a bit monotonous.
If you liked Doom or System Shock or Borderlands (with which it shares the same green lit containers), Void Bastards is definitely something you need to pick up. The humour may be a bit Australian/British and could potentially fall flat for those not familiar with that type of slang but I’m positive you’ll recognise “dickhead” for what it is.