Author Topic: Void Bastards [2019 -- Blue Manchu]  (Read 38 times)

Offline Doc_Brown

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Void Bastards [2019 -- Blue Manchu]
« on: May 13, 2020, 12:38:31 AM »
One of my favorite experiences in System Shock 2 has to do with researching enemies.  Completing this research grants you bonus damage against those enemy types, and you conduct it with the use of chemicals.  There are too many chemicals to just carry around with you, however, so each storage room has a manifest you can take.  Whenever the need arises, you check the manifests to figure out which level of the ship you need to revisit, weighing the pros and cons of the threats you’ll have to face along the way.

Void Bastards offers hints of this experience, just never to as satisfying a degree as System Shock 2.  Part of that is undoubtedly due to the more lighthearted aesthetic, which deliberately invokes the look of a comic book (complete with XIII-like onomatopoeia to clue you in to what enemies are nearby).  While a game like this doesn’t have to take a more serious and scary tone, it certainly helps.  I doubt Firaxis’ XCOM series, for instance, would be nearly as successful if they played it for laughs.

Perhaps a more fitting comparison, at least to games in my own collection, would be The Swindle.  Both have a cartoon-y look about them, both rely heavily on random generation, both feature permadeath with an infinite supply of replacement characters.  And yet, of the two, I’d still have to give the edge to The Swindle for building to an actual climax.  Void Bastards sends you on one collect-a-thon after another, and then it just… ends.  They don’t even bother to tell you you’ve reached the final MacGuffin.

I don’t mean to come down so harshly on the game.  I find roguelikes to be compellingly addictive, and Void Bastards is no exception--I could not stop playing until I reached the end.  But the game doesn’t feel like it does any one thing particularly well.  The combat is serviceable, and you can sometimes sneak past enemies, but I wouldn’t call it either a great shooter or a great sneaker (in the latter case, System Shock 2 had the advantage of being made with Thief’s Dark Engine, which was literally built for stealth).

In the end, once I’d finished my playthrough I really felt I’d seen everything the game had to offer.  I dabbled in a few of the challenge modes, even tried starting a bog standard new game, but I just didn’t feel the urge to keep playing.  Granted, those challenge modes ended in surprisingly quick deaths (for what it’s worth, I never died during my original run, which was on normal difficulty), but once through really seems to be the ideal.  If you see it on sale, I’d recommend it for a momentary distraction, if nothing else.
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