I love something different with familiar tropes. Trying to make something look new and cool while maintaining gameplay staples that work. It’s why I dig farm sims, and to a lesser extent survival builders like Voidtrain. Voidtrain not only has those familiar mechanics like building and upgrading, but its look also makes it stand out. Being on an endless train rail, not sure what the next destination might be, feels cool. I jumped on trying this demo during the most recent Steam Next Fest because of what I saw in a trailer for the game. Voidtrain does fall back on familiar tropes of gathering and building games, but this one is prettier to look at than most. The sounds that accompany the action, and the humor of the narrator helps Voidtrain rank higher than most in this genre for me.
In Voidtrain, you play as an engineer who unexpectedly stumbles into a cabin during a snowstorm. Once you fix the electrical problem with the cabin you realize you’ve stumbled onto something more significant. A portal opens up and you find yourself in a strange void-like space. You’re on a train with a singular cart, and rails that seem to be endless. Physically you are alone for your journey, accompanied only by a witty narrator whose voice is soothing and welcoming. I found the narrator’s humor to be a bright spot in Voidtrain. Your singular railcar becomes your home and base. Your character has tethered themselves to the cart, so there is no fear of floating away from the cart.
I like the physics of Voidtrain. It’s a lot like a spaceship. People in the spaceship have gravity; they usually walk without aid. But once you’re in the void or space, you can float about as you please. It feels a lot like swimming, at least when it comes to swimming in other video games. I was free to go in whichever direction I wanted, and when I wanted to float back to my railcar I could either pull myself with the tethered rope, or swim back. After landing, gravity would take back over and movement felt normal.
You spend the majority of your time gathering material out in the void. Scrap, wood, or other resources; all of it is used in one recipe or another. You work to build one object, and then advance on to another. Each one allows you to create more, or better items. There is a lot of grinding with Voidtrain. Once you finish one project, you move on to the next one. Build a second railcar, then a third, and so forth. I did this all when playing with just myself. Voidtrain has online co-op, something I did not take advantage of, but something that I would love to do in the future. As a solo gatherer, it can feel as I am missing out on gathering everything I can see because of my moving train car. I found myself making my car move as slow as possible in order to gather everything I could; thankfully I was not punished by the game for doing so.
While the grind is real, I never felt put off by it. After getting my footing with the game, I was able to pop on a podcast and listen while I worked. While the narrator dialogue is funny it is not a constant thing in Voidtrain. When I would come upon something new and different, I was able to pause my podcast and play around with the new area. Voidtrain is mostly you and the abyss. The void doesn’t always look the same; as you travel the look and feel become different. When you come across a new depot, or a pit-stop on your trip there are simple puzzles to solve, upgrades to make, or some plot points to be given out. I enjoyed the puzzles, but they feel more like a slight distraction. Same can be said for the plot. Not much to see here, which is typical of survival games. The depot allows me to make upgrades to my train, make new cars, and eventually craft new engines.
At first, it’s just you and the material you’re searching for. Not much else is going on. I was fine with that in the beginning, as the look of Voidtrain is easy on the eyes. I feel like I’m in a void, unsure of the time of day, halfway between a place that feels real and imaginary at the same time. Eventually, rocks and boulders start to appear. Fish that mean you no harm show up, but eventually you run into shark-like creatures that can cause your character some problems if not dealt with quickly.
There is a lot of research to be done in Voidtrain. Luckily the game does a good job of feeding you new useful equipment. While getting to the point of being able to have these upgrades takes more time than I would have liked, once I had them I didn’t know how I was able to play without them for as long as I did. The amount of components needed to create these tools probably needs another look-through before being finalized, but the tools themselves were great. A wrist-mounted winch allows you to travel further into the void. A grappling hook makes gathering resources faster and much easier. Jumping from one floating object to the next is addicting.
When I first began my trip into the void, I was hurrying to get everything done. I wanted my train car to move as quickly as I could make it, gathering whatever I was able to while it sped down the track. I soon realized it’s about the journey, not the destination, when it comes to Voidtrain. I slowed my car down, making it easier to gather everything that came my way. There was no hurry, enjoy the ride, and take your time. I’m going to get there eventually, may as well gather as much as I can while I’m moving.
The atmosphere that Voidtrain creates feels more unique than most. The sense of not knowing where your train is heading, but the excitement to see what new nothingness of the void awaits was something I looked forward to. Being able to take my time while I play, and listening to music or podcasts is something I love to do when I can. Voidtrain isn’t heavy on story, more of a jump-in, gather, and build to my hearts content sort of thing.
Simply put this one feels different. Voidtrain is a survival builder, but feels like it has the potential to be more than just a new twist on the genre. The game looks and feels like I am in a void. Pretty to look at, and the humor helps with the slower pace. Upgrades are welcome, if a bit later than I would like, but they add to the overall enjoyment once I get there. Does Voidtrain feel like a fully fleshed-out game? Not quite yet. But I love a unique idea. I love it even more when a unique idea feels thoroughly thought out. Voidtrain might not be fully realized as a game, but it is getting there, and I’m excited to try it out again once it is.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).
While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).View Profile