Here Come The Bastards
Happy Weekend TAY!
Whew! Another scorcher around here this weekend. I hope everyone is safe and hydrated wherever you are. Anyone complaining about the next winter will be put in the corner.
I started playing Void Bastards over the course of last week and I thought my report on it was not going to be kind. Boring and repetitive were the words that came to the front of my mind as I played numerous hours of this Bioshock-eques roguelike...but I think I was playing it wrong.
Void Bastards doesn’t feel as similar to System Shock or Bioshock to me as the advertisements portrayed it. The core gameplay and the way you interact with the world feels a little Shock-like, but so many games have been set on abandoned spaceships that it hardly feels tied to one lineage anymore.
System Shock 2 was my favourite game of all-time for 15 years until it was supplanted by Alien: Isolation and the Bioshock series is some of the best stuff I’ve ever played. For me, these games are the pinnacle of game design. Sporting some of the best level design, combat, and atmosphere ever to grace video games, these titles showed how to fuse exciting and strategic real-time combat with gripping stories on a level few video games have ever achieved.
Void Bastards does not do this.
Void Bastards feels more like someone put Doom, XIII, FTL: Faster Than Light and Rogue Legacy in a blender. It is fun to control and looks alright (if not a little sparse) with its comic book art style. The journey through space seems inspired by FTL and there is a heavy stealth component to the game, which is the aspect I find most similar to the Shock games in the way the enemy AIs react and search for you.
As with Rogue Legacy, you keep the upgrades to your character in Void Bastards when you die and as you continue to play the game, you become increasingly more powerful. Also similar to Rogue Legacy, the main penalty for death is the loss of your character’s traits. Each incarnation has unique traits that can help or hinder your character and these are randomly assigned with each restart. One of my characters in Void Bastards was a smoker and randomly coughed which would alert enemies. Another character would randomly take different weapons instead of the ones I specified in the loadout or take wrong turns on the overworld map.
My problem with Void Bastards was how I chose to play the game. When given the option, I will grind for power early on and ignore the storyline until I feel sufficiently powerful. Often this ruins the balance of the game as you become god-like quickly, but this seems to be the most efficient course of action. Why bother exploring a game until you can hold your own.
In Void Bastards, you can quickly acquire the parts to build all sorts of upgrades, if you are willing to explore every derelict spaceship you come across. However, this is also how you become bored with the game and the devs do little to encourage you to do otherwise. I became fatigued with the repetitive enemies and the same few ship layouts that you visit over and over (and over). I couldn’t understand how a roguelike could have so much repetition and so little randomization to the locations.
What I was missing in Void Bastards were the missions.
At the beginning of each “level”, you are given a specific mission to complete and, unbeknownst to me, once you complete the mission you are taken to a new section of space with new ships to explore, new baddies to fight, and new hazards to overcome. The problem is that there is zero indication of new content ahead (or a new map) and you can just stay on the first level, grinding resources and pillaging the same ships over and over.
There is seemingly no end to the map on each level and there is nothing pressing you to finish the missions, so it is possible to not see new content for a long time given how you approach the game. This seems like a flaw in the game’s design and I wonder how many people stopped playing Void Bastards because they never ventured beyond the first couple of missions and became bored with the repetition.
I think the problem could be solved by chasing you towards the goal in much the same way the enemy fleet slowly chases you to the next map in FTL. Void Bastards should really make an effort to move you forward. I was ready to just stop playing the game as it was growing tiresome. I then reached the third mission and things started dramatically changing and the game became far more interesting.
I’m actually looking forward to a lot more Void Bastards now. It has become one of those “just one more turn” games for me. Hopefully, I’ll have some more time this weekend for Void Bastards and BotW with the kid as he is finished with his summer camp. The family is watching UFC 240 Saturday night as well while we stay inside to avoid the heat.
So, what are you playing this weekend?