First-person shooter games have become horribly stale in recent times. No game has surpassed what Crytek achieved more than a decade ago with Crysis. And no developer seems to be aiming to surpass that standard except for RSI with Star Citizen. Thankfully, some veteran developers who have formed an indie studio have at least taken it upon themselves to innovate the first-person shooter genre by finally doing something different and creating a cool 3D art-style that looks like a cartoon in motion.
One would think that after Gearbox plagiarized Codehunters for Borderlands, allowing the latter to become a multi-million selling franchise, we would see other studios attempt to ape that concept and evolve it, but instead the whole industry regressed into ashy-grays and sewage-browns, each one chasing after the awful uncanny valley-tier 3D art design that has become passe, boring, and uninteresting.
Thankfully, Blue Manchu decided to step outside the box… way outside the box with the upcoming first-person rogue-like, Void Bastards. A new trailer featuring actual gameplay was released, and if you’ve been interested in something that isn’t yet another drab, dry-walled, World War-shooter, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the game in action.
So first thing is first. The game is being headed up by former Irrational Games co-founder, Jonathan Chey, and the game itself is built on the inspiration of combining System Shock 2 with FTL.
You’ll need to lead a group of wacky prisoners through a nebula and have them investigate seemingly derelict ships, floating debris, and potential places of interests while trekking through the sector.
The rogue-like elements aren’t as harsh as some other games, though. While you might lose some supplies on that current prisoner while they’re navigating through a not-so-abandoned space vessel, any crafting supplies you unlock or levels you gain overall will carryover to the next prisoner in case the original one dies.
Much like System Shock, you’ll need to scavenge for supplies aboard the ships, taking as many bullets, staples, spikes, bushwhackers, bangers, zap chargers, toaster juices, clusterflaks, rifter nuclei, kittybots, rad spikes, rivets, nubula tubes, bouncer, goo, and scrambler eggs as possible. Crafting and supplying your prisoners with the right kind of equipment in order to survive the harsh and treachous nature of space.
You’ll also have to maintain your food supplies for the prisoners, your fuel supply in order to traverse through the sector, and enough torpedoes and warp keys to strategically fight (or fly) your way through encounters with other hostile races.
The full campaign will run anywhere between 12 and 15 hours. So it’s no simple walk through the park, and given that it’s being presented by Humble Bundle I imagine it’ll be fairly cheap when it does launch.
But before ending this article we have got to talk about the visuals for Void Bastards.
My goodness does this game look scrumptiously inviting.
While I know that not all elements of the shadowing and art designed around physically based rendering, but it doesn’t matter, the static shadow maps still look good, and the use of limited but eye-catching shading for the weapons and character designs are perfectly suited for the kind of off-the-wall, comic-book presentation they were going for.
You may have noticed, though, that while the hard shadows are inked in black to look like comic book shading and the lighter parts have a cel-shaded design, the stylized lighting on the player-view models isn’t dynamic. It’s okay, though, it still looks good.
It comes across to me as what a properly evolved version of an old Build Engine-style game should be like.
I think it definitely gives Void Bastards a visual identity all its own, and it’s something that isn’t all that difficult to do but it’s rarely ever used in 3D games for whatever reason. That’s not to mention that it marries the best of both worlds, giving gamers some of the quirky aesthetics of hand-drawn designs but with the cost effective scope that comes with 3D games.
You can see in several scenes that there’s a lot of inventive use of cel-shading and alpha maps so that each scene still looks good no matter what angle you view it from, but a lot of the environment and objects are designed in a way to limit the amount of resources required to build out the architecture and objects.
It’s a great looking game with a sense of style all its own. It truly is a shame we just don’t get more games like this. Not every game needs a $100 million dollar budget to look good.
I would also love to see more retro-inspired games similar to Ion Maiden take on this kind of design innovation, stepping outside the box of simply trying to recreate the 1990s for today.
Most of the commenters on the YouTube page were quite thrilled with what they saw, and many felt like it was a throwback to games like XIII. The cel-shading isn’t quite done in the same way, since the lighting and shading in XIII was based on a shader model, where-as a lot of it in Void Bastards is mapped directly to static meshes, but otherwise I can definitely see why people are drawing comparisons between the two.