We’ve all been busy here at RPS picking out our favourite demos in this spring’s Steam Next Fest. Looking at both the popular upcoming demo list and the most wishlisted list, survival crafting game Voidtrain sits comfortably in second place on both. I decided to download the demo and see what the fuss was about, and wow, is Voidtrain completely wild.
I thought Voidtrain might be relatively new, but it's actually been knocking around for a couple of years. It’s been in early access on the Epic Games Store since 2021, and after announcing a Steam release for October 2022, the game got indefinitely delayed. Voidtrain's Steam page currently has a vague release date of sometime in 2023, but the demo is a good reason enough to check it out while the team is still tightening some loose screws.
I’m a big fan of games that let me control giant, mechanical contraptions. I'm talking about games like Nauticrawl, Far: Changing Tides, and Iron Lung, so playing as an engineer in charge of a steam locomotive rushing through space is exactly my kind of shit. The demo plays around an hour long and although it doesn’t charge straight to the heart of Voidtrain’s space-train world it serves a great introduction to what we can expect from this, weird survival game.
In Voidtrain, you play as an engineer who gets lost in a snow blizzard and takes shelter in a nearby barn. After getting inside and flipping an inconspicuous switch, a giant triangular portal opens up and sucks them in. Finding their bearings, they realise they've been transported to a strange interdimensional area called the Void, an expanse of gravity-less space that has a curious singular train track running through it. A Stanely Parable-esque narrator is your only travel buddy, but instead of dialogue dripping in sass and irony, the tone here is more in-line with a golden age action film narrator, all pomp and banter.
Your base in this strange new world is an old-timey minecart, complete with brakes, a horn, and a lever that you can pump to move the cart. Gravity is enforced when you’re standing but you can jump off the side and swim about to grab crafting materials to upgrade your cart. The expanse around you is strange. There’s a hazy bright light that's almost blinding, and hundreds of mechanical parts drifting about almost like they're the debris of a giant explosion. There's a strange beauty about it, only made weirder with the flock of bird-like fish creatures flying past.
Voidtrain has the typical survival game crafting tree for cart upgrades, starting off with a smelter to make iron and copper, a research table to unblock new tech, and so on. I quickly settled into a nice rhythm: I would move the cart along until I saw some nice building materials, put the brakes on to dive off the side and grab all the junk, then swim back and start up the cart again as I crafted. Swimming around in the void isn't awkward at all, and getting to and from the cart is as easy-peasy thanks to a rope tether so you can pull yourself back.
I was happily milling about smelting iron bars to upgrade my workbench, when two giant chains emerged from the mist and something colossal loomed in the distance. As my little cart got closer it appeared to be a giant metallic door, which was totally awesome but also utterly terrifying. The door lit up and opened into what appeared to be an abandoned station where I could stop my cart to hop off to explore. In the maze of corridors, I found an old revolver and some mechanical parts that added extra space to my cart. It feels like these stations are meant to act as hubs where you can get bigger upgrades to your train and where Voidtrain’s wider story will develop. There wasn’t much to be found in the demo story-wise, but it’s interesting to know that there is something bigger going on in the Void than just a big open expanse of nothing.
In the final part of the demo, I left the station and continued on crafting and upgrading - but this time I had to defend my cart from hostile aliens - huge, ugly fishy creatures with sharp teeth. Thankfully they weren’t interested in snacking on me, just in munching the sides of my immense train-to-be. A couple of bullets were enough to scare them off. but it just made me wonder what other aliens Voidtrain will throw at you in its full release. There’s a nice surprise at the end of the demo, but I’ll leave that for folks who’d like to play spoiler free.
The demo is only a short snippet of what’s to come but Voidtrain looks to be a totally wild twist on crafting survival games. I like the idea of slowly building my little rusty cart into a giant, steaming locomotive and battling whatever alien thinks they can have a chomp. The trailer and screenshots also show high-speed shootouts with other trains, explorable alien worlds, co-op capabilities, and a grappling hook too. Fingers crossed that these will all be implemented in the final game as it looks like we’ll have to wait until sometime this year to find out.