void bast ards
In space, no one can hear you swear…
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.
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”