Void Bastards Nintendo Switch review – space roguelike

From one of the creators of System Shock 2 and Bioshock comes a considerably less serious, but no less enjoyable, first person adventure.

When you’re a big-name video game you can afford to be less than perfect and probably never be penalised for it in terms of sales. Generally speaking, flaws are tolerated the more expensive a game is, which really doesn’t make any sense as the cheaper a game is the more excuses it has for its failings. But unless an indie game is absolutely top notch it’s very difficult for it to get much traction, as it becomes impossible to recommend it unequivocally. We are, of course, thinking of Void Bastards as we say that, but while it does have its issues we still love it anyway.

Although you wouldn’t really guess from playing it, Void Bastards is by one of the key creators of System Shock 2 and Bioshock. It has the same first person perspective as those two high-brow classics but there’s almost no story and nothing that really counts as proper role-playing. Even the shooting is very simplistic, with no aiming down sights or any attempt at realism. The game also has a very crude sense of humour and uses 2D sprites for enemies, instead of 3D models. But honestly… we’ll get to the good bits in just a second.

Void Bastards is a roguelike, and while most similar games are top down dungeon crawlers the genre isn’t really limited to any particular style of combat or presentation. The key elements are permadeath and randomly-generated levels, both of which are core to Void Bastards. Although while the game is certainly difficult it’s not aggressively so. When your character dies you do lose everything they’re carrying, and their unique attributes, but all the equipment and weapons they’ve obtained can be used by the next poor soul that comes along.


What plot there is involves you playing a rehydrated criminal in a sci-fi universe ripped straight from the pages of 2000 AD. Even though most of the developers are Aussies there’s a very British sensibility to the game, from the regional accents of all the characters to the dark humour and nods to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a pity the script isn’t smarter than it is though, as while the irritatingly distorted voiceovers are often difficult to make out, they’re not actually that funny once you realise what they’re saying.

What does impress though are the cel-shaded graphics, which look exactly like a comic book brought to life. It’s a far more consistent and appealing art style than Borderlands and as low-tech as using 2D sprites is it certainly gives the game a distinctive look that we never got bored of, despite the randomly designed ship interiors being based on only a handful of basic templates.

The structure of the game involves moving through a nebula filled with abandoned spaceships, and strangely mutated passengers, looking for various materials needed to escape. Along the way you’ll want to pick up other items to help you craft new weapons and equipment, but technically you’re not forced to do anything and the choice of whether to board a ship and when to leave are entirely up to you.

You need a constant supply of food and fuel to keep going, so that’s a limiting factor, but other than that it’s down to you to judge the risk versus reward, as you slowly run out of health and oxygen and you debate whether or not it’s worth searching just one more room for a vital component. It’s a wonderfully simple but compelling process that creates an infinite supply of tense set pieces, all of which are created on-the-fly by decisions you make – rather than being some heavily orchestrated design of the developer.

Perhaps the game would’ve been better with more involved combat or proper role-playing features, but its innate simplicity is part of the appeal. It’s not the systems or mechanics that make the game but the freedom you’re given to plot your course through it. That said, it is undeniably repetitive by the end, once you become a little too familiar with the relatively small collection of enemies and ships.

There is also a new DLC expansion, that wasn’t available when we reviewed the original game, called Bang Tydy, which adds a new vacuum cleaner weapon and robot maids that suck your oxygen away and make the game a lot harder than before. There are also some new ship designs to increase the variety a little and an item that makes it easier to keep your character alive for longer. At an additional £4.49 it’s not cheap and should only be considered if you want to seriously up the challenge from the base game.

In terms of how Void Bastards works on the Switch, there are some notable frame rate issues when there are a lot of enemies on screen, although the performance is better in handheld mode than when docked. And that’s good because having the game available on a portable is a real benefit and we’ve already started another Ironman challenge to try and finally beat it with just one character.

No video game is perfect, not even the very best ones, but while there’s plenty of faults to find with Void Bastards it’s got heart and a gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more punishment again and again. But then with a name like that you know it can’t be all bad.


Void Bastards Nintendo Switch review summary

In Short: It has its flaws but this inspired mix of first person shooter and traditional roguelike offers a level of freedom and tactical decision making that many bigger budget games can only dream of.

Pros: An original and addictive take on standard roguelike concepts, with an excellent risk versus reward system that creates a constant stream of exciting set pieces. Excellent cel-shaded graphics.

Cons: The combat is a little too simplistic and the ship layouts and enemies do get repetitive eventually. Weak sound design and script. Some performance issues on Switch.

Score: 7/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Price: £24.99
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Developer: Blue Manchu & Farbs
Release Date: 7th May 2020
Age Rating: 16


You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

Follow Metro Gaming on Twitter and email us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.

Source: Read Full Article