About six months ago, I saw an announcement trailer of a very bizarre looking game that has the visuals of graphic novels like Saga and games like XIII. It also combined 2D-esque character sprites as you would see in something like the old-school Doom games. My interest was really piqued when the trailer showed the magical words “From the development director of Bioshock, and System Shock 2”, two of my favorite games ever. Void Bastards is a new kind of strategy game that combines rogue-like elements, first-person combat, very angry exploding kitties, biscuits, bureaucratic paperwork and all sorts of unique, hilarious and addictive qualities that makes this game a unique gem this year. This game is also finally giving me the fix that I have been craving for so long, after playing Prey and Deus Ex. Here’s why Void Bastards is a must play game you have to experience.

Bastards of the Void

Void Bastards places players in a punk/future-dystopian world where you are one of a million convicts who are stranded onboard a floating Void Ark after being attacked by pirates. Your mission, not that you have a choice or not to accept it, is to venture forth into the void of space to look for items like I.D. cards and water based lubes to fix your ship and escape the pirate threat. It is a very straightforward story told in a hilarious, stylistic and stunning comic book aesthetic with each panel moving the story forward.

Get used to this screen, you’ll be seeing it a lot.

While the story itself is a bit bland, the world of Void Bastards is an interesting, weird and well-detailed world that you feel invested in it whether or not the game is a sprawling space opera or not. This is further fortified by the various “citizens” (bad guys/aliens?) in the game with their own hilarious voice lines, as well as the two main characters of sorts who drive the story: B.A.C.S and P.A.L.  First is B.A.C.S., an overly positive A.I. who is essentially your mission handler and sassy partner guiding you through the void: then there’s P.A.L., who is a little (sort of adorable?) backpack that detaches from you every time you die, I mean, “expire”. All of this world building and narrative is weaved together with a stunning presentation.

Comic Con’s 

If you love graphic novels as much as I do, you will absolutely fall in love with the aesthetics of Void Bastards. Even if you don’t, you can’t help but appreciate the world that the developer Blue Manchu has crafted. The game’s cut scenes are comic panels that reveal to you at the click of a button, the menu and UI all feel like an evolution of games like Comix Zone and XIII. Beyond just the presentation, the entire game is also lovingly rendered in a gorgeous comic aesthetic.

Absolutely in love with the comic-book design of this game.

From long corridors to the enemies, weapons, gadgets are all created to reflect that of a comic book, and it’s quite impressive in motion with rare moments of frame drops and bugs. Even small details like enemies moving around are visually shown allowing the player to determine the location of their enemies. The comic visuals are also brought together with a masterful understanding of color and shadow that gives the environment depth and complexity with a dash of stylistic flair. The color pallets compliment the world incredibly well and make the strange and warped enemies of the game pop out.

Colour pallet fits the tone and world of Void Bastards very well.

Void Bastards sounds as good as it looks thanks to the amazing audio design of the world, enemies, weapons, and gadgets. Everything in the world simply sounds great and has a meaningful and sometimes hilarious purpose. Enemies have great one-liners, gene traits have their own unique sounds, weapons and gadgets sound fantastic, etc. Even just standing on the bridge of a spaceship, you can hear the whirring of gauges, blinking of buttons and the flickering of screens all giving the sense of being in space more believable. I also can’t talk about sound design, without mentioning the phenomenal soundtrack by Ryan Roth who has created a blend of eerie space ambiance, synth-wave, and punk rock. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of these fantastic songs.

Tools of the Trade

Void Bastards is not a first-person shooter in the traditional sense; yes, the game does involve shooting in a first-person perspective but it’s so much more than that. At its heart, it is a strategy-shooter that involves weighing risks and the rewards of carrying out an away mission to a hostile environment. It involves careful planning your load-out by comparing it to the potential threats at the location. The game pushes you to scavenge for parts needed to upgrade your suite of weapons, gadgets, and upgrades available. But all of this comes at a cost; if you die during a run you will lose your character and items like bullets, food, etc. But death is not the end.

You start with a pistol and work your way up to a very mad, exploding cat.

Coming back, you can have a new character with a randomized trait, a care package given to you by B.A.C.S. and all your upgrades and weapons still available. This allows Void Bastards to be an approachable strategy shooter, while still having space to be challenging in harder difficulties. Having your upgrades still intact makes progression meaningful, customization exciting, fuels your hunger for loot and the game in general not feel like too much of a grind. While the progression feels rewarding, the combat itself is a mixed bag.

Shooting can be a lot better, same with the A.I.

As I said before, Void Bastards is not a first-person shooter and unfortunately, that fact is glaring when taking on the enemies of the void. Shooting feels floaty without too much weight, enemy A.I. is mostly dumb with enemies either running away of pulling a 180 and taking a beeline right at you.

For a potential sequel to the game or any planned updates, I would love for the combat to feel a lot more rewarding and weighty. While the shooting isn’t great, its combination with the host of weapons and gadgets available is exciting with tons of opportunities to experiment. For example, my go-to combination is inspired by one of the earliest lines in Bioshock, the “one-two punch”: this involves the stun gun that electrocutes enemies, followed by a barrage from my regulator pistol. This is one of many viable combinations in the game, and I’m still discovering new ones.

Carefully choose your load-out before each mission.

These weapons and gadgets come in handy when boarding the numerous, randomly-generated ships that you will come across. Each ship in Void Bastards is randomized each-time using four distinct types of ships as a base pattern. Having these randomized elements makes each run feel unique and different enough that you don’t get bored of looking for loot, severed fingers, biscuits, etc. After some time however you do start to see the sameness of each map, but this is negated by the thrill of the modifiers within each encounter. One ship could be completely normal, minimal threats and a straight forward layout; one encounter I had was a long, narrow ship with no lights, radars jammed, with the power-off and high-level threats roaming around. These modifiers make each run feel exciting, pushing you to strategize whether it’s even worth landing on some ships. Risk and reward.

The map of the void nebula, choose your path.

Speaking of randomized elements, gene traits are hilarious and a gift to this world. They range from useful, to detrimental, hilarious and sometimes a little bit of all three. During one particular run, I had the trait diminutive which made my character very short and unable to reach items on top of cabinets but allowed me to sneak past enemies more effectively.

Another hilarious one included a negative trait whereupon picking up loot, my character would audibly yell “WOO-HOO” each and every time, giving my position away. Traits add an extra layer of strategy begging the question whether or not you even want to keep your current character: I had to purposely kill off two of my characters (I regret nothing). 

 

One of the two characters I had to “let go”.

 

Into the Void

Void Bastards is an exciting, intriguing and thrilling experience making it one of the surprise hits of the year. While the game does suffer from a lack of story and some questionable gun-play and A.I., it is easy to overlook it when the rest of the game is just so damn good. From a fun, bizarre world, visually stunning presentation and the opportunity to experiment (and be experimented on) with various weapons and gadgets, Blue Manchu has created a fantastic game and an exciting template for future games in the series. I genuinely hope that they meet their goals sales wise so they can continue pumping out content for their current game, and for future installments in Void Bastards.

Also, Blue Manchu, I would love to see this port over to the Nintendo Switch so I can play Void Bastards on the go.

Void Bastards Review
The Good
  • Brilliant comic-book visual design
  • Deep, meaningful progression
  • Tons of room for experimentation
The Bad
  • Story is a bit flat
  • Combat/A.I. needs to be improved
9Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
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About The Author

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Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.