Voidtrain is a survival sim that feels genuinely new | Early access impressions

by on May 22, 2023

Every now and then a survival game drops in amongst all the plane crashes and boat wrecks and post apocalyptic wastelands with a concept that feels super fresh. See titles like Subnautica and Green Hell for solid examples. But now there’s also Voidtrain, an early access title that’s just hit Steam after a year as an Epic Store exclusive, that takes the basic survival-crafting mechanics we’ve seen a hundred times and marries them with a genuinely interesting and often fascinating world.

You play an engineer working on an experimental trans-dimensional train. Your character is mute, although the narrator will relay their thoughts and feelings to you, while also acting as a guide throughout the adventure. And it truly is an adventure.

It begins with you activating the titular Voidtrain, which as you begin is a single platform with a crank, a brake, and a lever to send you forwards or backwards along the track. The track itself is a marvel; a huge, serpentine, seemingly endless rail that extends through multiple realities, dangers, and impossible worlds.


Your job is to explore, really. Ride the rail wherever it goes, through randomised otherworlds fraught with peril and wonders. The exploration is fantastic. Each stretch of track in the Void feels and looks different, and you’ll be gradually introduced to the bizarre wildlife that exists here, from little schools of what look like flying fish, to huge leeches that slow your train, and massive whale-like beasts that move majestically through the nothingness.

As you travel, you’ll need to collect resources with which to research and build new Modules on your train. You start with a research desk and a smelter to turn ore and metal into bars, but you’ll soon have a kitchen, lab, workbench, armoury, garden, with multiple examples of each to maintain a steady stream of industry.

To gain these resources you have to leap off the train, swimming in the void, to collect lumps of organic matter, chunks of metal, lengths of wood for fuel. Or you can kill the aforementioned wildlife and take their fat, skin, leather, meat. When you’re done, you “swim” back or pull yourself back on your safety line. Research is costly, and can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it to finish each phase of challenges. It’s a little frustrating that you must completely research one phase before moving on, as some of the nodes within them are barely connected, even thematically, and it makes progress feel slow at times.


But once you have a decent set-up things get faster. After a certain distance on each track you’ll reach a gateway into a Station. Alighting in this platform, you can scavenge supplies, solve puzzles, and ultimately upgrade your train by improving its mechanisms or even adding another platform. Eventually you’ll have full cabins, faster engines, and defences against the bizarre worlds you travel through.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Stations aren’t always the safe havens they appear to be. Other people from other dimensions want what you have, and at the point you realise that yours may not be the only Voidtrain – or even the most advanced – in operation, the mystery deepens along with the sense that this isn’t just an ordinary survival game.

So you’ll gather weapons, which you can modify and upgrade; you’ll cast armour and suits, backpacks, a grappling hook to gather distant resources, and various other tools that extend your longevity in the unknown.


At present, the real problem facing Voidtrain is the resource economy. While you can gather a lot of resources on every track, they’re finite, and you’ll need to gather extras at the station, or even wait for the next first into the void. Not only that, but you’ll use them up as quickly as you get them, especially in the early game. For example, in order to research something you’ll need some or all of the same resources that you will later use to craft one. To build a storage shelf, for instance, you need bolts, and to get bolts you need an iron bar, which requires several pieces of metal and wood for smelter fuel. That’s a basic example, but demonstrates the multiple levels of crafting.

Everything you smelt, craft or research takes time, and these times get longer and longer the more complex your projects become. It can be nothing short of frustrating to run out of resources when you’re close to crafting something you need and have to wait until the next station to craft it.

But aside from this gripe, most of what I’ve seen of Voidtrain so far is incredibly intriguing and compelling. The concept of crossing multiple dimensions makes for an ever-surprising adventure that’s only going to get larger and more bizarre as the months roll on.

Voidtrain is available now in PC early access, via Steam.