Space Without a Space: VoidExpanse

By Ben Barrett on April 3rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

Space isn’t so much gaming’s final frontier as it is a packed waiting room, filled to the brim with shady businessmen in coats and besuited all-stars vying for your attention. Since Star Citizen and Elite blew the top off the money cannon, only zombies and sports hold a candle to the potential seen beyond the stars. VoidExpanse‘s top down solution to the tradin’, fightin’, explorin’ mix isn’t exactly new, but this (or, really, post-1990) generation of graphics is a step up. Plus, as an early access – but not Early Access – game, we’ve got the uniquely nu-teens opportunity to shape development. There’s a trailer and some very initial thoughts from a play of the current build through the warp gate.

I had to take a couple of shots at VoidExpanse before it opened up. There are some bugs for starters, which is to be expected, and no control tutorial makes a quick visit to the menu a necessity. Progression needs a rework too – your first mission will usually involve running away from everything except the target ship, blowing it up, and then sprinting back to the starting starbase. You can take on a couple of other ships, but unless you’re incredibly skilled or very lucky, they’ll deplete your non-regenerating health quickly. Once you’re out into the wider universe, the opportunity to buy new guns makes fights a little more two-sided. Some may find the vulnerability of the opening stages exciting and it was a nice contrast with the game norm of an all-powerful start, but it could use either a little signposting to explain that it’s supposed to be that way, or some rebalancing. Even Dark Souls tells you to get a shield and how to use it.

Those are quite minor niggles for a game that has so much so early, however. Flying around is smooth and fast, an arcadey feel mixed with believable momentum laws. Guns can only turn so far and are fixed to certain parts of the ship, so each will play differently based not only on itself, but what it is attacking. There’s a variety in styles, with beam weapons that must be held on target mixed with pulse and projectile fares. One benefit of the current balance is combat is quick, whether you’re gloriously the victor or embarassingly the defeated, and no real punishment for death is probably for the best in an alpha. This keeps you moving, enjoying the beautiful background scenary and constantly generating new challenges for you.

Eve parallels would not be unfair, particularly in regards to the faction warfare and persistent universe multiplayer. Even the repeatable, rather grindy combat/mining/delivery missions have a whiff of it, for better or worse. VoidExpanse is definitely one to keep an eye on and, given the cheap price tag, is probably worth supporting.

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15 Comments »

  1. catmorbid says:

    Well, this happens to be one of my favourite game genres! Star Sector is also very promising, and of course there’s Spazz 2. Most contenders don’t get the physics aspect right though and by ending up being too arcadey, they become boring. The devil’s in the details, they say, and that’s what i say as well.

    • frightlever says:

      Neither SPAZ nor Starsector are exactly graphical slouches. Not sure I understand the comment about graphics in the article.

  2. Inverselaw says:

    Do you think this game will achieve the escape velocity necessary to orbit our hearts?

    • Stargazer86 says:

      Escape Velocity was a great game and I highly enjoyed it back in the day. In fact, I still have EV: Nova installed, heh.

    • sufficientreason says:

      I can only hope it overrides our expectations.

      • dontnormally says:

        It looks like a solid emalghamation of some of my favorite space games.

  3. BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

    Actually this game should be named Flatspace 3 … because it looks just like Flatspace 2.

    Here is gameplay of Flatspace 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNPQxaxPymA

  4. stoner says:

    You discuss space sims in the first paragraph, yet no love for Limit Theory? LT may set a new standard for procedural space creation, as well as a host of innovations, such as the UI, that should be included in sims to come.

    • dE says:

      What? No love for Limit Theory? Where were you when every other blogpost for Limit Theory warranted an article on RPS?

      • drinniol says:

        Uh, it never was like that? Once a month if we’re lucky. Only 3 articles on LT this year.

        • Premium User Badge SuddenSight says:

          This is a news site for all games, not just one? I am amazed at how many articles there have been on limit theory already (though it looks like a nice game). Someone on the writing staff definitely likes it.

          However, there are a large number of PC games in the world (it is a good world), many of which RPS doesn’t get around to mentioning -ever- and you’re complaining that they haven’t sufficiently over-hyped a game they’ve already hyped quite bit?

          I agree that Limit Theory is relevant in the context of this article, but a failure to mention the game does not mean it is forgotten. And I am certain, when Limit Theory is closer to completion, RPS will revisit the game.

  5. Abaleth says:

    This looks remarkably similar to George Moromisato’s superb, but seldom mentioned Transcendece.

    http://transcendence.kronosaur.com/
    (Although there are paid expansions, the main game is very much complete).

    • dE says:

      I’ve spent a lot of time with Transcendence over the years. I still remember the outcry when the personal character backstory was introduced. That was fun. Eitherway, it now does expansions? Sounds interesting, thanks for the note.

    • Tacroy says:

      I found Transcendence to be vaguely disappointing when I played it, because it was basically NetHack in space – they just replaced the stairs up and down with warp gates. I wanted something a lot more open world.

  6. Premium User Badge Biscuitry says:

    I have been waiting for years for a worthwhile successor to Escape Velocity: Nova. Sadly, this does not appear to be it.