We listed Void Bastards as one of Polygon’s most anticipated games of 2019. Last week’s showing at GDC has only heightened our anticipation for this stylish shooter, which is coming out on Windows PC and Xbox One.
It’s an authentically funny take on the well-worn genre of spaceship shooter, which manages to take a serious System Shock-like setting, and turn it into a series of running (literally) gags.
I spend my time running the rooms and corridors of variously laid-out, derelict spaceships, taking out enemies with a variety of weapons and devices, while looting and crafting better gear. But this standard set-up is augmented with a silly humor — droids that look like kittens, weird artifacts floating around in space — that’s entirely in keeping with Void Bastard’s lovely comic-book aesthetic.
Sound effects are augmented with 1960s TV Batman-style word splurges, like SPLAM and BOOM. The game’s color palette is a pleasing amalgam of yellows, purples and blues that manage to feel retro-cool and innovative at the same time.
It’s being published by Humble Bundle and developed by Blue Manchu, which was founded by Jon Chey, formerly of System Shock 2-developer Looking Glass, and a co-founder of Irrational Games.
The shooting feels smooth and varied, but with a tactical edge that requires more than run-and-gun twitch skills. Spaceship maps feature mission targets and enemies, offering alternative routes to success. Defense and life-support systems can be manipulated in order to achieve goals. But ammo can easily run low, meaning that I have to consider my options, before I try to take out a nest of enemies.
Void Bastards has a simple inventory and crafting system. Once I’ve cleared a spaceship, I’m taken to a crafting screen where all my loot drops into appropriate hoppers. I can then choose what to craft for my next mission; however, if I’m killed mid-mission, all my loot from that mission disappears. I also come back to life as a different character, with a new set of attributes.
The game follows a narrative path that allows the player to plot a course from one space ship to another, in search of upgrades and artifacts, giving it the feel of a story, which lasts around 15 hours, rather than merely a connected series of levels. Void Bastards is due out this summer.