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.