First-person shooters are a dime a dozen these days, and more often than not they follow a similar pattern stuffed with tropes that rarely differentiate them from the last. It’s refreshing, then, that Void Bastards manages to give us an FPS with more to it than shooting bullet sponges. In Blue Manchu’s strategic shooter, you must travel across the Sargasso Nebula in search of fuel and food, as well as items to craft new gear, trying to escape through the crazy and unpredictable space cloud. There’re many factors that can stop you reaching your goal if you’re not prepared for the various challenges you come up against, but it’s well worth the ride.
The Sargasso Nebula is filled with a variety of different vessels, and before you dock you get to see what each one is likely to offer. Some are filled with a heavy volume of enemies, others have specific parts needed to craft unique items to help you progress, and others are filled with plenty of loot. There’re are vessels simply there to act as galactic supermarkets, some focused on providing medical support, and more. The strategy comes from your decisions to risk boarding and exploring them or passing on to the next one. Travelling to each new ship costs food and fuel, and to get more you need to gather it from the space crafts. Certain weapons and gadgets are going to help you more in the long run, but it’s up to you if you want to risk finding them on some of the more dangerous ships.
Once you’ve docked, you must check out the ship’s layout to see where specific points of interest are. Some ships have lost power, meaning doors are locked, so heading to the generator to turn it back on is a must, but they could be guarded by an influx of enemies making it much harder to do so. Other have an overbearing amount of enemies, but the rewards are greater. Maps are often located in the cockpit, and they’ll show where certain points of interest are, but getting to them is tricky. You only get limited oxygen as well, but there are O2 dispensers that’ll refill it for you, however, even this resource is limited. Do you rush around to find gear and supplies whilst gunning down the weird space creatures, or do you take your time and conserve bullets whilst running the risk of losing oxygen?
There’re plenty of other factors whilst on board, and it’s completely up to you as to how you play. Some vessels have a fair amount of fuel and food, but depending on the layout, the part you need to craft could be trapped in the helm of the ship, and that could very well be guarded by a few gun turrets or a band of Shockers. Yeah, you could deem it necessary to leave it there and conserve your bullets, but that Bullet Locator would be pretty useful to you. Health doesn’t refill on its own, and once you’re dead all your hard-earned loot remains on the ship. Death is a regular occurrence, especially the more you play, so getting the balance of risk and reward is a tricky path to walk. Many ships have certain environmental aids as well; instead of firing at a Tourist – an exploding luminous blue blob – you could send them out of the airlock. Again, planning every aspect is where Void Bastard really shines.
It’s a liberating experience – one not bogged down by preset objectives and goals. You’re completely free to play exactly how you want, and although at times you’ll know you’ve made the wrong decision, you’ll learn from the mistakes you make. You don’t need to craft everything, but the more you do the easier certain situations become, however, whether you choose stealth over chaos, there’s always something to help you out. The wide selection of bonkers weaponry and gadgets make Void Bastards a humorous and entertaining adventure that always threw new challenges at me, especially when I wasn’t expecting it.
You play the game as a random selection of space prisoners, and each one has a reason for being incarcerated, as well as specific traits that can both aid and hinder your exploring. For instance, I had a guy who smoked and had a bad cough. When travelling around one particular vessel, his cough kept alerting enemies meaning I often had to be careful if I encountered any kind of threat. It’s a nice touch, giving it a rogue=like feel to it. If you do die, anything you’ve crafted remains in your inventory, but when all those items are lost, you feel it. It’s devastating, but with each death comes with a lesson learned, and I guarantee you won’t make the same mistake again.
The comic book aesthetics do a great job of making it stand out before you’ve even pulled a trigger, right from the cutscenes to the shooting itself. The bold colours and onomatopoeic wording that pops up when a bomb explodes or an enemy is close by is brilliant. The map layouts and the menus are all heavily detailed, making it easy to grasp what’s going on, as well as looking vibrant and bold to boot.
Void Bastards offers a different spin on the concept of strategy, allowing you to pave your own journey through the galaxy with a range of characters you weirdly grow to love, even if their deaths are permanent. Combat is a little repetitive after spending a good seven or eight hours travelling through the Sargasso Nebula, but there’s plenty of variety in weapons and enemy types that make each vessel a brand new challenge. Dying is problematic, and when encountering a particularly difficult area the need to replay it all over again can grow tiresome, but that’s where your planning becomes a priority. Either way, Blue Manchu’s shooter is a lot of fun, and if you’re tired of the same old FPS formulas, you should definitely give this one a go.
Plenty of freedom to play how you want
Great variety of weapons
Shooting can grow repetitive
Death is frustrating