GAME REVIEW | Scrounging For Galactic Parts In Intense "Void Bastards"
Space: the final frontier. Okay, maybe not “final” final, but it’s up there with some of the greatest mysteries of our lives. If we’ve learned anything from science fiction and its ilk, it’s that space is one dangerous place to be. So what happens when you’re stuck in a rut in the blackest areas of the universe? Blue Manchu’s Void Bastards shows us one interesting scenario that jumps the dangers straight into hyperspace.
Crafted from the same development director as System Shock 2 and the first BioShock, Void Bastards has you jumping from ship-to-ship to grab food, fuel, ammo, and other necessities. Your mission is to escape from the Sargasso Nebula, and it won’t be easy. In each ship, a plethora of enemies and hazards await to end your life. Fortunately, there are a few things that will aid you in your quest to find safety.
For starters, this game gives you as many lives as possible. Mind you, it’s not in the same aspect as a Super Mario game; each time you die results in another prisoner taking control of your situation. As you progress through each ship and gather parts, you’ll be given various weapon and armor upgrades that will help make your journey back a little bit easier. And when I say “a little bit easier,” I mean it in the most microscopic of ways!
At first, Void Bastards seems like a cakewalk as you gather parts and take down a minuscule enemy or two. That’s when the game takes the enemy controls and cranks its knobs to the highest levels! One little space pirate will give you no trouble, but a dozen at once?! This game doesn’t fool around with its AI, as these nuisances will do everything they can to end your character’s life! But that’s not the only challenge this game offers.
On top of watching your health meter, you are given a limited amount of oxygen to use when boarding another ship. While there are areas where you can refill your oxygen and health, it’s the hows and whens where you need to be careful. A few times I noticed that refill stations have a limit to how many times you can use it, so it’s often best to take advantage of them when you’ve only a couple of minutes away from losing all of your air. The same goes for your weaponry, which is limited to whatever you bring aboard or find on the ship you’re on.
The key to Void Bastards is strategy, in a very similar mannerism as something like Sniper Elite. Hearing enemy footsteps, reading the maps, and attempting to unlock areas or restore power requires you to think hard about when you should roam an area. Simply running in may seem like the usual thing to do in shooter games, but lacking any sort of plan will result in your character’s death. (Thankfully, S.T.E.V. will pick all those items you gathered off that corpse, and deliver them to the next prisoner on the list.)
What makes Blue Manchu’s latest game memorable is its atmosphere. With a look straight out of 1950s space age comics, Void Bastards delivers a somewhat campy experience that feels like Buck Rogers got rebooted by Frank Miller. Its British attitude gives way to some Red Dwarf-ian personality, with a smegheaded robot being ever-so cocky about your (lack of) survival skills. Even if you’ve died for the umpteenth time, it never fails to make you smile.
Void Bastards will take up about fourteen hours to complete, but it’s got loads of replay value. As a shooter, it does a damn good job with making each battle more intense than last. On the strategy front, it makes you work your brain in ways that’s more akin to something like Portal or even The Spectrum Retreat. It’s when you have to get multiple tasks done to get the main objective completed when the game tests one’s patience. While I’m perfectly fine with having to jump from one spot to the next to reach my goal, some players may find it frustrating. (At least it’s not a grind like many of the AAA titles that have come out as of late.)
- Loads of various gameplay mechanics
- Killer Silver Age visuals
- Humorous presentation
- Enemies can be overwhelming at times
- Requires a lot of patience to play
Void Bastards will have you sitting at the edge of your seat, as you go from ship-to-ship to survive. Although Blue Manchu’s latest requires players to not be diving head-on into its madness, it nevertheless manages to deliver an exciting first-person shooter. You may find yourself sacrificing the lives of many prisoners to complete the game, but Void Bastards’ fun & strategic adventure makes sure that every death isn’t in vain.
Promotional consideration provided by Connor Bridgeman of Humble Bundle. Reviewed on the Xbox One.