Saturday Morning Gaming: Silly Fun Procedural Shooting
Remember Doom? Not the 2016 video game, but the 1993 video game. Remember how cheerfully dumb it was? Hey, there’s a dimensional portal and demons are coming through it. You’re the only one who can stop them. Here is a gun. Heck, here are a LOT of guns. The biggest gun? It’s called the BFG. That’s right: We know EXACTLY why you’re here.
And you ran around shooting demons in the face with various guns. Did it make sense? Eh, not really? Did it have to? Heck NO. You were running around in surprisingly good graphics (for 1993) and hearing surprisingly good sound files in response to surprisingly good mechanics. It wasn’t just fun: It was DUMB fun.
Well, I found a game recently that reminds me of that.
In a world where various criminals are tried, desiccated, and powdered, Void Bastards has you play the part of a military-grade backpack on the back of a rehydrated criminal (don’t worry, if the criminal dies, we’ll rehydrate another one and you can drive that one around). It’s your job to navigate through a nebula filled with derelict ships containing food, fuel, artifacts, and (most importantly) bullets. So in order to do the stuff you’ll need to do, you’ll need to find the proper artifacts. In order to find the (scarce) (rare) proper artifacts, you’ll need to make your way through the nebula. Your rehydrated host will need to eat occasionally, your ship will need fuel to travel from spot to spot, your various weapons will need artifacts to upgrade them from “AUGH I AM GOING TO DIE” to “okay, I am only probably going to die”, and it is your job to find food, fuel, and artifacts to help keep you alive and moving until you can find the (scarce) (rare) proper artifacts that will help you reach a Standard Game Victory Condition. (If you don’t have fuel, you can’t jump from ship to ship and you’re stuck just drifting in space until you run out of food. If you run out of food, you take hit point damage every turn you don’t eat. (So, ideally, don’t run out of either.))
It’s a rogue-like. In this case, this means that you’ll have “permadeath” for any given host your backpack rides on, but you’ll be able to keep any upgrades you make between deaths. So if you upgrade your staplegun? Hurray! All future rehydrated criminals will be able to carry this rehydrated staplegun! (But, if you die, you go back to a procedurally generated starting place inconveniently far from whatever you were trying to get next).
This game is fun. You have to make your way through different procedurally generated ships that have different personalities (the luxury cruise ships have a different feel than the hospital ships, for example) and you have to get the stuff you need to make your way home. And if you die? No big deal! We’ll just rehydrate a new criminal for you from the vault full of these bags full of criminal powder. Hop on the back of one of them and you’ll be good to get back to exploring the nebula (though you may be further from your goals than you were the second before you died).
You’ll only have but so much oxygen on any given ship… so each ship is on a timer. Can you get what you need in 4 minutes and get out? Well, some ships have an oxygen tank for you to tap into and you can reset your timer back from the start. (In any case, you may want to search for parts for your rebreather and give yourself an oxygen bonus for each ship.)
As you’re doing stuff, your assistant AI will give you procedurally generated encouragement (such as “of all of reconstituted agents, you’re my favorite”) and so even though the whole “reconstituted criminals” thing is kinda dark, the game treats it light-heartedly enough that the humor is even darker. (If you enjoy that sort of humor, you will laugh a LOT during the game.)
Now, I might have ONE criticism: You will always feel like you’re short on ammo. While Doom might have made you feel like you’re going to run out of shotgun shells, you pretty much always had enough other bullets to shoot. Well, here, you’re going to want to manage your ammo. You’re going to want to sneak past enemies rather than blow them up. Instead of running into the ship and killing everything, you’re going to have to ask whether any given ship is too tough for you to defeat entirely (so you will want to zoom in on what you’re looking for and then GET OUT). If you see ammo management as part of the game playing you rather than as a flaw in itself, you’ll probably not even notice. (But if you’re hoping for something like Doom where you are an Invincible And Incorrigible Space Marine Of Death… yeah, you’ll be disappointed.)
But if you don’t mind knowing that you’re going to die as likely as not when you start playing, you’ll quickly get the hang of it. There’s shooting, there’s sneaking, there’s loot. It’s pure dumb fun. If you don’t like FPSes, this ain’t gonna change your mind… but if you do? Oh, you’re in for a treat. (I might say that it’s a hair pricey at $30. I had a 40% off coupon given me by the Steam angels and this put the price right in the sweet spot so you’ll probably want to just wishlist it and pick it up on sale.)
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is Void Bastards promotional art.)