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Voin is a dark fantasy hack-and-slash that handles a little like Doom Eternal

Steam playtest coming on 8th March 2024

An enchanted sword being brandished against a crowd of attacking red-tinted enemies
Image credit: tinyBuild

If you dislike getting stabbed in the back in first-person games, you might not like Voin. If you like ravaged Gothic masonry and dramatic evening skies, you might like Voin. If you dislike fighting fireball-lobbing demons with a sword, you might not like Voin. If you like open-ended, changeable levels full of loot and secrets, you might like Voin. If you are confused about whether you'll like or dislike Voin, you might want to try it for yourself during the first public Steam playtest on Friday, March 8th.

Having spent all of 30 minutes with an early playtest build, I'm cautiously impressed. I suspect there are cooler, less-known inspirations at work, but this feels like a Demon's Souls-ified Doom Eternal that doesn't quite have Doom Eternal's swagger and precision, probably because it is the work of just one developer, Nikita Sozidar, rather than hundreds.

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In Voin, you are an elemental warrior conjured by a mage to cleanse the realm of an undead plague. This involves setting out from an extra-dimensional hub dungeon to explore and purge a series of compact open worlds, including an expanse of collapsing mountainside castles that put me in mind of Undead Asylum.

The fights are furious, with just four health hearts available to you in the playtest - rather than charging through mobs, you'll need to dodge, counter and make adept use of chargeable special moves that include throwing your sword like Thor's hammer, and jumping backward in slow-mo before diving forward with blade extended. It's easy to become surrounded, and harder to outrun enemies than you might think - I could have done with more audio cues for incoming attacks, and default movement with the sword out feels more sluggish than it should.

Monstrous creatures approaching the view in a cave system with blue light
A view of tiered arched stone walls with a blue sky behind them and a big sword on the right
Image credit: tinyBuild

Still, it's possible all this reflects the fact that I am terrible at games that require any serious level of dexterity, so let's move swiftly on to the set dressing. Voin is surprisingly restful outside of combat. The zombies and ghouls I met didn't move around or give pursuit across elevations, leaving plenty of time to experiment with routes or perch on broken fortifications eyeing the horizon.

It's definitely a looker, with a well-tuned retro aesthetic all of its own, not quite putting its foot in any particular era. Certain cavernous interiors have a desaturated appearance that reminds me of Yedoma Globula, while enemies (whose power thresholds are randomly generated, according to the press release) are pixellated, twitchy marionettes that feel only a couple of years younger than id Software. I also really like the lurid blues and reds of the HUD art and certain in-world effects, which make me feel like my character is wearing a pair of old-school anaglyph 3D glasses.

Voin's overarching flow is about venturing back and forth between Hubs and worlds, gathering new gear and enhancing skills. Once you've completed enough missions, you'll unlock boss arenas. The landscape also evolves as the story goes on, with new missions and enemy distributions to wrangle with in cleared areas. There's also mention of destructible scenery and secret chambers, though I didn't stumble on any during my demo.

Voin is being published by tinyBuild, whose other works include Hello Neighbor and Potion Craft, and launches on Steam in late 2024. If you want to play a different kind of dark fantasy sword-based game with equally arresting art, I do recommend Nix Umbra.

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