Void Bastards, the strategic roguelike-ish shooter from Blue Manchu now has a release date, broadcast to us through the uncaring depths of the internet: May 29th. Inspired by System Shock 2 and Bioshock (and from the design director on both), it’s a darkly humoured stealthy FPS designed to force hard strategic decisions as you make your way across an FTL-esque star-map full of hazards. Resources of all kinds are limited, and every shot fired on a mission is one that you might need later. All of this wrapped up in a nifty comic-book aesthetic. See the announcement trailer below.
For those late to the party, Void Bastards has you playing as a procession of convicts used as expendable away-team fodder on an AI-run spaceship. Survive the mission and maybe there’s freedom on the other side. Survival means scavenging resources from an assortment of spacecraft, and every bullet seems precious. You only have a few inventory slots to fill, so sometimes you’ll have a gun wildly unsuited to a particular fight, prompting evasion or improvised tactics. If all else fails, you can just seal doors shut and lock off areas of a ship you consider too harmful to risk entering.
And as that was a far-too-brief look at the game, here’s an eighteen minute developer walkthrough, courtesy of IGN.
While I cannot scientifically confirm it, it does seem like the RPS treehouse has been buzzing with anticipation for Void Bastards for a while now. Alex Wiltshire had a chat about the game with Blue Manchu founder Jon Chey here, and it’s pretty high on my list even though longer clips of the game feel wildly stressful. One thing that Blue Manchu have made clear is that sometimes a situation is just unfair, or you don’t have the equipment to handle it. In most cases, you can back out of a mission, but sometimes even that comes with its own resource costs.
The combat in Void Bastards looks different from genre standard, too. While there’s a handful of standard guns to go in your primary, your big damage-dealer in the secondary slot tends to be more specific. Some of these barely even count as guns, with the Clusterflak best used by just firing it into a room, slamming the door shut and waiting a few seconds for the explosions to stop. Of course, ammo of that power level is rare, too. I’m hopeful that Blue Manchu have managed to hit that balance of constant pressure, learnability and chaos that only the best roguelikes have.
Disclosure: Cara Ellison, formerly of the RPS treehouse, is narrative designer on Void Bastards, among other projects like Vampire: Bloodlines 2. If she ends up working on many more games we’ll just figure out some kind of list of ‘what she ISN’T working on’ to save on disclosure space.