Shooter games, and especially FPS games, tend to put us in a place where killing zombies, cyborgs, enemy soldiers or in this case, aliens, is our daily bread. However, Void Bastards is an intelligent mix of stealth and strategy, a game that's not about killing everything on sight but more about avoiding enemies and saving your bullets and gadgets for a better time. Looting and crafting are as important as finding the best exploration —and escape— route, but since every map is procedurally generated, you never know what you may find in your path and quick-thinking is highly encouraged. If to all that we add some attractive, colorful comic-book graphics, then you know this will undoubtedly be an unforgettable gaming experience.
What to Expect
Even when you go for the easiest difficulty, Void Bastards is a very challenging game. In fact, if we're talking about expectations, then there's one word that surely comes to our minds: death. It doesn't matter if you go the trigger-happy way or you are more of a strategist, Void Bastard's premise will hook you with its risk-return factor, and since dying means trying new things while keeping some of your progress, then we should definitely consider death as part of our plan... and maybe not only as our last resort.
If you like exploring maze-like spaceships, analyzing everything around you, and feeling the thrill of looking for valuable resources while your oxygen is running out and your health is low because aliens are swarming you, then go add Void Bastards to your gaming backlog right now!
When you're in prison, all you want to do is go home. When you're in a suicide mission across the universe and your only way out is fighting dangerous aliens, scavenging, and avoiding space whales, all you want to do is go home! In Void Bastards, you play as an inmate that must survive at all costs with B.A.C.S. as an unreliable ally. We won't say much about the details so we avoid spoiling some interesting stuff, but that's pretty much all you need to know when playing Void Bastards for the first time. This group of inmates is an expendable resource, thus making them the perfect candidates for such an adventure... but getting out of the Sargasso Nebula is not easy, and you're been chased to death too!
The first thing we loved about Void Bastards was definitely its graphics, and that's because it also fits the narrative of the game. Everything here looks like you're part of a comic book, with panel-based scenes, dialogue bubbles, and a colorful (unless you're visiting a creepy powered-off spaceship, that is) cel shading based on a matte palette. Making the game look like a comic book is a pretty smart move considering how dark yet comical Void Bastard feels, to the point that we'd definitely be buying a spin-off graphic novel if they happen to make one. Maybe if Void Bastards were made in the 90s it would be more on the Doom/Quake side of things, but thanks to the chosen art style, the enemy aliens are menacing without being monster-like creatures, and the prisoners we play as all have some charm to them.
As if it were a sci-fi 80s movie, Void Bastards boasts a pumping soundtrack to keep you in the mood of killing aliens. There's pleasant background music when you're planning your travel route or contemplating your crafting options, and another pleasant ambient track when you board a ship and start exploring... until you find an enemy, which is when the music changes and becomes more action-inducing. Another high note is the good use of sound effects, and the somewhat R-rated voice lines some of the aliens deliver.
While Void Bastards' music and SFX are well crafted and fit the needs of the game, there's still one thing that outshines it... or should we say, one person? As you play, your only companion and guide is an AI system called B.A.C.S., voiced by none other than British actor Kevan Brighting, who you surely remember for his outstanding participation as the narrator in The Stanley Parable. Although his role is not as prominent here, his half-cynical-half-comical approach is still intact, and Void Bastards makes very good use of it.
There are two gameplay scenarios we can easily differentiate in Void Bastards: when you are in the Void Ark, the prison ship where you now live, you can take your time to explore the map and thus your options, but you can also check your status, your inventory, and improve your chances of living by crafting useful weapons and gadgets. However, once you board one of the nearby ships, you must find food, fuel, and other items before going back to the Void Ark... well, that's if you're good enough to make it out alive.
Every time you start a new run, the map gets randomized to ensure a new experience, but also to take away any advantage if you already had a plan. In fact, you are supposed to die in the tutorial mission, something that explains how convenient dying can be in some circumstances. All prisoners have different traits both good or bad, and while your first character is always coughing to alert enemies you can also find prisoners with an increased health bar, the ability to grab all items around you, or maybe even a taller/shorter one to make you look at things from a new perspective.
Just like the characters, the spaceships in your path are also randomized, not only in their position but also in their size, number and type of enemies, items you can find inside, etc. After a successful mission, you can use the fuel you just got to travel further and avoid some dangerous ships, but not all ships are bad! For example, you can find a market, a medical ship, and there's also a chance to find credits, food, and or other useful resources. Every ship has a chance for special utility rooms that can heal you (the only way to heal yourself while exploring), remove or change your traits, or just refill your oxygen reserve. The oxygen bar acts as a timer because as soon as your oxygen runs out you obviously die, so managing your oxygen and having an exit route is a must.
By now you should know your objective is to look for items and resources, but finding them is not always easy. In the upper left corner there's a minimap that highlights lootable objects, but only in your surroundings since the main map won't show them; a star icon means there's something like food or scavenge materials, a bigger star icon marks a special crafting item, and a red can tells you where to find fuel cans. In this sense, our recommendation is to always start your adventures by visiting the Helm Room to update your main map and make it show all item locations, but sometimes it's better to trust your instincts and avoid any chance at an unwanted encounter. That's why random mazes are awesome!
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Void Bastards is an extremely unforgiving game that will gift you dozens of hours of exploration, and you can set your own rules for even more challenging gameplay. Try to finish the game with your first prisoner, or do it in the least number of days! There are a lot of secrets to uncover in the Sargasso Nebula, and since there aren't two equal runs, you'll never get bored of shooting aliens and looting resources. It's like the Suicide Squad, but taking turns!
The comic book aesthetic looks incredibly cool and perfectly fits the game’s tone.
The gameplay is simple enough, but the strategic approach adds a lot of depth.
Kevan Brighting is one of the best video game narrators!
Maybe you’ll die a lot, and some people may find it frustrating and off-putting.
RNG is a bitch, but that goes beyond this game...
Honey's Final Verdict:
Void Bastards is a game that you definitely want to play, a perfect combination of soft horror, action, strategy, and cruel jokes. Probably those that enjoy planning every step will have better results, but what's a good plan without a gun full of bullets to support it? If you ever feel like exploring endless rooms filled with aliens and traps, give Void Bastards a go.
We loved this game and we strongly recommend it, but we are open to reading your opinions too. If you want to share your thoughts don’t hesitate to drop us some lines in the comment section!
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...