void bast ards

In space, no one can hear you swear…

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Robin Valen­tine pub­lisher blue manchu De­vel­oper blue manchu ETA Early 2019

It’s cer­tainly an at­ten­tion-grab­bing ti­tle, eh? But what should re­ally pique your in­ter­est is the tal­ent be­hind it. De­vel­oper Blue Manchu is headed up by Jonathan Chey, co-founder of Ir­ra­tional Games and one of the key minds be­hind clas­sics like BioShock and Sys­tem Shock 2.

This sci-fi ‘strat­egy-shooter’ am­bi­tiously aims to “take the

Shock lin­eage into new ter­ri­tory”. The­mat­i­cally, it seems more on the Sys­tem end of things, with the ac­tion tak­ing place aboard derelict space­ships full of volatile mu­tants, hos­tile se­cu­rity ro­bots and malev­o­lent ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gences.

Tasked with mak­ing your way across a dan­ger­ous neb­ula, you must plan your jour­ney on the starmap by mov­ing from wreck to wreck. At each, you can scope out the ship’s lay­out and plan your ap­proach, not­ing what nas­ties and haz­ards lurk within, and how you might turn the var­i­ous au­to­mated sys­tems aboard to your ad­van­tage.

From here, you em­bark for some first-per­son ex­plo­ration and, in­evitably, com­bat, as you make your way through the cor­ri­dors steal­ing any­thing that isn’t nailed down. Putting your plans into ac­tion, you might sneak to the ship’s gen­er­a­tor and switch off the power, de­ac­ti­vat­ing the au­to­mated de­fences but plung­ing you into dark­ness. Or per­haps it’s bet­ter to leave the lights on, and fight your way to the se­cu­rity mod­ule to shut those de­fences down man­u­ally, al­low­ing you to still use other sys­tems – such as the air­locks and elec­tronic doors – to mess with your en­e­mies.

In bat­tle, you play one of an end­less suc­ces­sion of con­demned con­victs, each with their own in­di­vid­ual perks and hin­drances that al­ter how they play, from faster reload­ing, to colour­blind­ness, to un­usual short­ness. When one dies, they’re gone for­ever, though there’s al­ways an­other to re­place them. But keep them alive, and you can al­ter their traits over time, adding new ones you like and eras­ing old ones you don’t.

Even if your ca­su­alty rate is high, you won’t find your­self fall­ing be­hind – all the tools, weapons, and up­grades you’ve crafted from re­sources found aboard the dere­licts carry over be­tween char­ac­ters, en­sur­ing you’re al­ways mak­ing progress through the pro­ce­du­rally-gen­er­ated cam­paign. Among the gad­gets ready to be jury-rigged to­gether are dis­tract­ing cat-bots, poi­son darts, guns that shoot rifts in space and time, and all man­ner of un­pre­dictable ex­plo­sives – an arse­nal rife with both strate­gic pos­si­bil­i­ties, as well as chances to cause chaos.

De­vel­oper Blue Manchu is keen to em­pha­sise that player choice is king in Void Bas­tards. Ex­pect no hand­hold­ing – it’s com­pletely up to you how you tackle each ship, and to set your own goals on the starmap.

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The comic book-in­spired art style is im­me­di­ately strik­ing, too, paint­ing space in bold, neon colours. En­e­mies are ren­dered as flat 2D sprites, cre­at­ing an ef­fect pleas­ingly rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal Doom, while the 3D en­vi­ron­ments are brought to life with stark cel-shad­ing. Adding to the at­mos­phere is your chatty AI com­pan­ion BACS, voiced with per­fect fussi­ness by Ke­van Bright­ing, known for his role as the Nar­ra­tor in PC game The Stan­ley Para­ble. Like what you see? The good news is, you don’t have long to wait – Void Bas­tards is com­ing in early 2019, and it’ll be on Xbox Games Pass as soon as it launches, too. ■

“De­vel­oper Blue Manchu is keen to em­pha­sise that player choice is king”

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