Review | Void Terrarium – Dungeon Crawler/Tamagotchi Hybrid

Review code graciously provided by Nipon Ichi Software America (NISA). This will have no bearing on my review, opinion or recommendation. Rest assured, integrity is what Games With Toasty is all about.

Of Mice And Robots

Void tRrLM();//Void Terrarium (Void T from now on) was always destined to be an incredibly divisive game. Ultimately, it boils down to being a mishmash of two bizarrely different genres and comes together to make an experience that will either keep you hooked, or completely bore the living daylights out of you. Lets dive right into the apocalypse and see if this game is worth a look.

You play as a mouse. A tiny little creature in a seemingly vast 2D plane. You stumble across a large (compared to you at least) robot who appears to be dead. You climb into its head and immediately die, reviving the robot. The mouse is never seen or heard from again. Turns out the real main character is actually the robot, and Void T is simply preparing you for what is to come – a world of sadness and perpetual death. This is of course made worse due to the adorable mouse that died to teach you that lesson.

Turns out the world has ended and all human life has been extinguished via a series of unfortunate apocalyptic events. Deadly mushrooms bagan to ravage the earth forcing mankind below the surface in an attempt to stave off their inevitable destruction. It was a futile attempt. As with any universe where robots exist, so does AI. This particular AI decided it was best to kill everyone in a manner that constitutes as a spoiler.

Accidental Genocide

Things get weird when you encounter the genocidal robot that killed everything. Many, many years have passed since his heinous actions and he has become incredibly regretful of his decision – one made in anger. He vows to protect the last of the human race – a small girl who somehow survived the last few centuries. It is up to you and your new companion to save the girls life and ensure she thrives in her glass terrarium.

I don’t typically dedicate such a large amount of time to a games story, however Void T is one worth getting into, as it is such a major part of the games appeal. It is a unique take on the generic ‘apocalypse’ theme found in many games, both old and new. It is an incredibly endearing tale told through very simple visual cues, comedy and a general sense of mystery. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the gameplay (more on that in a moment), the plot has serious pacing issues and you can go a quite a significant length of time before actually bumping into something new. A real shame.

Dungeon Crawler?

Gameplay wise, Void T is primarily a traditional Roguelike. This means dungeon crawling, procedurally generated levels, turn based combat and a lot of death. The goal of each of the many dungeons is to eventually get to the end, although you will be in receipt of missions that may require a slightly, or significantly, shorter dungeon run. Each dungeon consists of a number of floors, with each dungeon being longer than the last, with objectives typically requiring more floors to traverse to complete. Each floor escalates in size and difficulty forcing you to plan your moves carefully, level up effectively and pray to the dice gods that you can make it to whatever conclusion you desire.

This is where things get a bit freaky. Because levels are randomly generated, loot is equally random and leveling up is also random, you are forced to think on the fly. This can result in your being royally shafted when the numbers fall catastrophically in the wrong direction, however for the most part, this adds a fun sense of discovery and experimentation – which is key to the combat itself. When you move, attack, use a skill or even an item, all enemies take a turn simultaneously. Needless to say, you are frequently outnumbered and being surrounded by four enemies all taking a swing at you whilst a fourth is blasting you with a laser is not an ideal scenario. This is where careful planning and cunning tactics come into play. 

The Art Of Progression

For the most part, you little rabbit-squirrel-beaver(?)-robot-thing is limited to close range encounters and lacks the ability to attack multiple enemies in one turn. This makes funellin enemies into choke points, or carefully navigating rooms and manipulating enemy movements to allow you to get a swing in without serious repercussions. It keeps you mentall stimulated, even if you are mostly just pressing the attack button and moving. Items play a huge part in Void T’s combat and general progression, Sure you have your typical weapons and armour, but arguably the most important items are the consumables. These range from your typical potion-esque curatives to devastating throwing weapons that can incapacitate an entire room of enemies in an instant. Knowing when to use the tools you have on hand is essential and makes the act of exploring pivotal to your success – more so than simply leveling up.

But that’s not all, because the primary reason you are dungeon delving is for materials, and rather deliberately, every item you pick up will be turned into materials when you leave a dungeon – whether that be dying or simply reaching the end. This adds an additional layer of consideration, as throwing that grenade might kill the rapidly approaching enemy, but you are also sacrificing potential long term progress by doing so. It is a brilliant little system that interacts nicely with the core gameplay loop.

Give Me Some Space

The game doesn’t really want you to horde all your collectables however, and does encourage you to use them at every possible junction thanks to the inventory system, which is painfully limited. You start with the ability to carry basically nothing, which means you either have to drop, or use, everything you find in addition to considering how much each item is worth upon completion. Your inventory will increase as you play, giving you more options and opportunities to gain materials, but early on you get the feeling the game wants you to be bold. 

The final little tidbit that keeps things interesting is your health and energy meters. Naturally, running out of health kills you, so avoiding that is pretty important. The energy system however is a stroke of genius. Every few turns your energy will deplete, essentially putting you on the clock. You are forced to explore, loot, level up and delve deeper as quickly as efficiently as possible or risk running out energy, which is quite literally a death sentence. Batteries can be found which refill your energy, but hoarding them is incredibly inefficient due to the relatively low rewards they grant when they are broken down. Finally, your powerful special abilities/skills drain your energy terrifyingly fast in some instances. Do you expend a tenth of your energy to kill an enemy quickly, or do you save energy and take more health damage? It is a decision you will make constantly when playing, and ties in perfectly with the other systems the game has to offer.

It’s A Tamagotchi?!

But what is the point of all of this grinding? Well it is because it feeds into Void T’s most interesting, or at the very least unique, system – being a tamagotchi simulator. A strange thing to strap onto a roguelike to be sure, but one that does a lot to enhance the gameplay and add to the intricate puzzle that is Void T’s gameplay. Your little human girl, affectionately, and temporarily named, ID Redacted, is basically a lifeless potato who you have to feed, clean and nurture. To do this, you need to craft things to fill her terrarium, feed her food that you find on your travels, and clean up her poop, and make sure she doesn’t get sick.

How this plays into the core dungeon crawling experience is by adding what amounts to an additional timer. Not only are you balancing your health, resources and energy, but you are trying to do this before she starves to death or rolls around in her own poop. It adds a tangible sense of urgency to a game already pushing you to be swift. But that is not all, because you have access to some limited caring abilities when you are exploring. The trade off? A massive hit to your energy, adding yet another thing to your list of concerns. 

The Art Of Progression Part 2

One of the more interesting aspects of Void T is its progression system, which is not necessarily tied to you leveling up in dungeons. This is due to the fact once you leave a dungeon, your level is reset to one. In order to grow in power, you need to craft items. Each item you craft can be added to ID Redacted’s terrarium, and when you craft an item for the first time, gives you significant stat boosts. Naturally this means as you craft more things, you ‘level one’ state could be the equivalent of being level ten. Even better, if you don’t want to engage in decoration, you don’t have to as simply crafting the item is enough to reap the benefits.

The last little gameplay feature is once again tied to its progression, because apparently every system in Void T is connected in an incredibly efficient manner. As you get further into the game you will unlock the ability to assign new starting skills as well as classes. Starting skills allow you to start a dungeon with a skill of your choice, and classes not only alter your starting stats and growth, but influence the frequency specific skills and abilities will appear during a dungeon run. You can even remove skills from the pool entirely, further allowing you to tailor a run to your specifications and reduce the randomness involved. 

Skills themselves are broken into two categories – passive and active. Passives can provide minor stat boosts, increases in general efficiency, or fundamentally change how the game is played, like removing your ability to attack and replacing it with an explosive charge turning you into a rampaging bull. Actives are comparatively less interesting, but are incredibly powerful tools giving you mobility options, additional damage etc. 

The Negatives

Unfortunately this is where things start to take a turn for the worse, at least for some people. Void T, as you can see, is quite an in depth game with lots of systems under the hood. However that doesn’t change the fact the game boils down to generally repetitive combat, against recycled enemies that are introduced incredibly slowly in dungeons that visually look similar. These are all common in dungeon crawlers, but that doesn’t change the fact they are obvious negatives that will turn some people away. Heck, that is not even including the grind, which based on how quickly you grasp the games mechanics, could be quite significant and detrimental to the games pacing across the board.

At least the game looks great, albeit very samey when you get to the dungeons themselves. The world you are exploring is genuinely beautiful to look at, especially in the 2D sections when you are exploring the terrarium and its surroundings before a dungeon. Animations in these sections are also fantastic, and adorable when your lil’ robot interacts with the characters around you. Character models are also great, having an almost hand drawn or painted look to them, at least in terms of the main cast, as enemies are not incredibly varied in terms of visuals. This is backed up by a soundtrack that is to die for. Whether you are listening to the calm, ambient jingles at home, or the action packed jams in the dungeons, it perfectly sets the tone for each area of the game.

Worth Checking Out?

Void T is a game that I almost immediately fell in love with. It is a surprisingly deep and often touching experience that kept me hooked for hours on end. But it is undeniable that it is a game targeted at a specific audience and does very little to convince detractors to give it a go. That being said, the laid back nature and slow introduction of mechanics makes it an ideal entry point for those interested in dungeon crawlers, but don’t know where to start. If you are a fan of the genre, then this is mostly certainly a game I can recommend.

Toast Seal Of Approval

Void T is a great little title, however if you want to check out some other games like it, then you can’t go wrong with Darkest Dungeon. Not quite the same genre, but it is rocking turn based combat, a variety of dungeons and an awful lot of dungeon delving.

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